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Behavior Science Blog

My webinar notes are written out and sketched on my ipad Pro using the notability app. I welcome feedback, questions, discussion, corrections. Some of these notes may be reworked into infographics in the future.


Shimmy's ears

Updated: Apr 8, 2022

According to all the cat body language literature, if a cat's ears flatten, this usually means that the cat is not feeling comfortable, that something in the environment is stressing them out. A confident happy and relaxed cat's ears tend to stay upright and face forward. Like any behavior, the meaning is related to CONTEXT. This post is about topography.

Shimmy's ears are CONSTANTLY MOVING. Usually to the side (rotated), or down, or back. She alerts to the tiniest sounds and even the most commonplace sounds like one of us picking up an object and putting it down on the table, or the shuffle of a slipper. (And so I can tell more about how she is feeling by looking at her entire face & body/movements in response to what I think is happening for her, and never simply by her ears.)

I have been looking at Shimmy's ears in a new light, through a new lens. You could say I am studying the topography of Shimmy's ear movements using the catFACS coding system. (I learned recently that Dreamworks and Disney animators have also studied the catFACS manual to animate their cat characters - how cool is this! An application that the creators of catFACS did not anticipate)

Cat ears are amazing. They can move in all directions. Depending on the viewing angle, it may be hard to distinguish between a EAD103 (Ears Flattener) and a EAD105 (Ears Downward) and a EAD106 (Ears Backward). There can be more than one EAD happening at the same time too, to complicate things. I am still not sure what the difference is between a "EAD104 (Rotator) + 105 (Downward)" and a EAD103(Flattener).

Context: SHIMMY ON MY LAP. She is lying on my lap just hanging out.

Context: SHIMMY LOOKING OUT WINDOW, very interested in something outside.

The organizers of animalFACS are a wonderful team of people and I am so grateful for their help. If time permits, I would love to also study dogFACS and other animal species.

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