With cats, you’re probably the only person who can truly gauge their mental health, according to new research.
The results of a new study are a reminder that the animals we love have a unique way of telling us what they’re feeling.
The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, used feline-derived markers to look at how cats respond to different stimuli, including sounds, light and other stimuli.
“In many cases, these results are not easily interpretable in terms of their physiological responses,” lead author Dr. David A. Miller, a veterinarian at the University of Michigan, said in a statement.
“So when we look at them as a species, it’s important to understand what the responses are, because the underlying biological mechanisms are still not well understood,” Miller told Business Insider.
For this study, Miller and his colleagues at the Animal Behavior Laboratory at the U-M College of Veterinary Medicine used fMRI, which measures electrical activity in the brain.
They compared the fMRI activity of feline models to that of cats, and then to those of a control group of non-human primates.
In other words, the researchers compared the activity in fMRI to that in a mouse, a mouse to a human, and so on.
While there were a few notable differences between the two groups, the most striking differences came from the animals’ responses to light.
“When exposed to bright light, the feline model had significantly greater activity in response to the sound of a clicker,” Miller said.
In contrast, the mouse and human models showed little activity.
“These results suggest that the light stimuli were an important stimulus for the foveal responses in the cat model,” Miller added.
But why did the cat respond differently to the light?
The researchers believe the cats’ response to light is because the brain is sensitive to light changes, such as the amount of heat produced by a person walking through a room.
“Our understanding of the brain and the human brain is very different,” Miller explained.
“It’s hard to make a general statement, but the differences in the responses that we saw with the cats and humans seem to be related to the brain’s sensitivity to changes in light.”
It’s not clear if this particular response was specifically to sound.
For instance, the cats also seemed to be more likely to respond to loud noises such as car horns, according the study.
It’s also possible that the cats may have learned to respond differently in response when they were exposed to sounds that didn’t cause the same effects on their bodies.
But there are some other ways that cats may react to sounds.
They may also be more sensitive to certain types of vibration, which might lead them to seek out and touch certain types the researchers tested.
In addition, there may be other ways cats respond, like the way they learn to navigate.
“They are very intelligent animals, and we need to understand their ability to learn,” Miller pointed out.
“We may be learning something about how cats learn by looking at the way that they learn.”
In the future, Miller said, the team hopes to look more closely at the neural correlates of how the animals perceive sounds, and see if there’s anything we can learn from them.