Cat Lovers, Take Heart: Your Feline Really Does Care

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Cats and dogs, as stereotypes would cast them, live in opposite worlds - pooches always bubbling over with excitement, cats always aloof in an emotionless void.

But like most stereotypes, those are bunk - the feline one, anyway. Your cat, as it turns out, is an empathic mammal who senses swings in your mood. At NPR, anthropologist Barbara King busts the myth of the emotionally vacant cat by way of a recent study in the journal Animal Cognition.

Italian researchers asked 24 cat owners to react neutrally, positively or negatively to a fan festooned with ribbons. (The idea, according to the scientists, was to create a completely new and unfamiliar object.)

When cat owners acted neutrally to the fan, the majority of their felines - nearly 80 percent - looked at the fan or the owner. But when the owners shifted to a more negative stance, cats appeared to shy away from the fan. The point, the study authors wrote, is that cats "changed their behavior in line with the emotional message given by the owner."

If we're inclined to think that dogs are more affectionate that cats, it could be that dogs are simply better adapted to show their emotions in ways that humans recognize - think playful barks, wagging tails and slobber.

But, as this study demonstrates, just because cats keep their distance (and their drool inside their mouths), it doesn't mean they're any less receptive to your feelings.