The ability of dogs being sensitive to human emotional expressions is well known, but what about feline friends? A recent study conducted by Moriah Galvan and Jennifer Vonk of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, suggests that domestic cats do in fact discriminate human emotion cues, but only "modestly."
So, our domestic feline friends definitely do pay attention to people's feelings, especially those of their owners, but their attentiveness is only to a certain extent, says the study.
Galvan and Vonk studied 12 cats and their owners for their research, and found out that the animals gave different reactions depending on if their owners smiled or not. They behaved differently when exposed to facial and postural cues of happiness than the circumstance when their owners pretended as if they were angry.
But, the results were only subtle, leading Galvan and Vonk to conclude that "a history of human interaction alone may not be sufficient" for cats to differentiate between different human emotions.
Galvan and Vonk's finding, however, does not necessarily suggest that cats do not pick up nuanced human gestures; maybe our feline friends are simply ignoring them, leaving us in an eternal uncertainty as to if they in fact understand us or not.
So, the real question is, do the cats' reputation for being careless result from their inability to perceive human emotional expression or their simply being not interested in them? We might never know the answer though.