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Article

Heads and Tails: An Analysis of Visual Signals in Cats, Felis catus

Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d’Alfort, 7 Avenue du Général de Gaulle, 94704 Maisons-Alfort, France
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Academic Editor: Charles Snowdon
Animals 2021, 11(9), 2752; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092752
Received: 1 August 2021 / Revised: 16 September 2021 / Accepted: 17 September 2021 / Published: 21 September 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Expression of Emotions: Communication and Welfare Issues)
Communication between individuals of the same species is essential in their interactions to regulate their proximities and distances. Communication includes exchanges of more or less complex visual signals. We attempt to decipher the most significant features of a visual configuration involving the combination of tail and ear positions in interactions between cats. Although the tail is a conspicuous feature for human observers, we demonstrate that ear positions of the cats in dyadic interactions with other cats are the best predictor of the outcomes of these interactions. However, in cat–human interactions, the cat most often approached with its tail up prior to rubbing itself against the human. The results are important for a better understanding of cats’ perceptions of humans, and will help to promote cat welfare.
Visual communication involves specific signals. These include the different positions of mobile body elements. We analyzed visual configurations in cats that involve ears and the tail. We aimed at deciphering which features of these configurations were the most important in cats’ interactions with other cats and with humans. We observed a total of 254 cat–cat interactions within a sample of 29 cats, during a total of 100 h of observation scheduled with the “Behavioral dependent onset of sampling” method and using the “All occurences” sampling method. In addition, we sampled 10 interactions between cats and humans. In cat–cat interactions, we noted the positions of ears and tail of both protagonists, as well as the outcome of the interaction, which was either positive/neutral or negative. In a great majority of the 254 interactions sampled, both cats held their tail down. On the contrary, ear position was a critical element in predicting the outcome. When both partners held their ears erect, the outcome was significantly positive, such as rubbing or close proximity. In all other cases of the position of ears in both cats, the outcome was negative, with increased distance of the partners. Although the tail did not seem to play a significant role in visual configurations in cat interactions, the “tail-up” display was important when a cat approached a human being. In the vast majority of cases the cat rubbed itself on a human’s leg(s). Thus, we may conclude that the presence of a human has a specific meaning in the cat’s world, probably as the result of a long period of commensalism. It is important for pet owners to understand the signals that cats use with other cats and with humans in order to promote the welfare of cats. View Full-Text
Keywords: visual communication; cats; Felis catus; cat–cat interactions; cat–human interactions; welfare visual communication; cats; Felis catus; cat–cat interactions; cat–human interactions; welfare
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MDPI and ACS Style

Deputte, B.L.; Jumelet, E.; Gilbert, C.; Titeux, E. Heads and Tails: An Analysis of Visual Signals in Cats, Felis catus. Animals 2021, 11, 2752. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092752

AMA Style

Deputte BL, Jumelet E, Gilbert C, Titeux E. Heads and Tails: An Analysis of Visual Signals in Cats, Felis catus. Animals. 2021; 11(9):2752. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092752

Chicago/Turabian Style

Deputte, Bertrand L., Estelle Jumelet, Caroline Gilbert, and Emmanuelle Titeux. 2021. "Heads and Tails: An Analysis of Visual Signals in Cats, Felis catus" Animals 11, no. 9: 2752. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092752

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