The Cat Facial Action Coding System (CatFACS) is a scientific observational tool for identifying and coding facial movements in cats. The system is based on the facial anatomy of cats and has been adapted from the original FACS system used for humans created by Ekman and Friesen (1978). The CatFACS manual details how to use the system and code the facial movements of cats objectively. The manual is freely available to the scientific community.
Since the original version was created for use with humans (Ekman and Friesen, 1978; Ekman et al., 2002) FACS has been successfully adapted for several other species, such as chimpanzees (Vick et al., 2007), macaques, (Parr et al., 2010), gibbons (Waller et al., 2012) and dogs (Waller et al., 2013). See publications page for details.
CatFACS is not an ethogram of cat facial expressions and does not detect emotions per se. Instead, the system allows the user to code the unitary facial movements of cats in detail, with no a priori assumptions about what represents a facial expression in this species. Since the coding is based on individual muscle movements and not on the perception of a composed facial expression, it avoids any emotional context biases.
Department of Psychology
University of Portsmouth