This app can finally help us decode “resting cat face”

Ginger cat lying on a bed, looking happy.
Image by Chris Winsor/Moment/Getty Images
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The biggest questions in life tend to be impossible to answer. We may never know whether God exists or whether we're actually living in an elaborate alien petting zoo. But there may finally be an answer to the age old conundrum: “Does my cat hate me or does her face just look like that?” There's now an app out that can help decipher whether your cat is happy or not.

Tably, a new app released by pet health company, uses your smartphone’s camera to analyze your cat's facial features to hypothesize about whether they’re happy or in pain, Reuters reported. You might be wondering how this brand kind of witchcraft works. Tably’s technology does seem like magic, but it’s actually based on science. Tably’s AI uses what veterinary scientists call the Feline Grimace Scale (FGS) to figure out how your cat is feeling. Yes, that’s right, scientists have unlocked the enigma of resting cat face and have gifted it with a worthy moniker.

Quip-worthy as it is, the Feline Grimace Scale is actually a scientifically respected matrix used to assess pain in cats by analyzing their facial expressions. The development of FGS is generally credited to Paulo Steagall, a professor of veterinary anaesthesia and pain management at the University of Montreal, who published his team's findings on FGS in Nature in 2019. The idea is that the way a cat holds themselves can tell us how they’re feeling. “Depending on the cats’ muzzle, eyes, ears, whiskers, or head position, you can determine whether or not a cat is in pain,” Steagall told Wired.

The scale was initially developed to help veterinarians, techs, and anyone involved in feline health care decode cats' famously unreadable expressions, but obviously we all want in. The scale itself is public domain and can be used by anyone, but honestly, it’s almost as difficult for civilians to decipher as cat faces themselves. So, teamed up with AltaML and The Bar G, two tech companies, to develop machine learning that would do the work of cat face decoding using AI.

Tably was in Beta testing for a while, but now the fully functional app is available to the public. This is how it works: You take a picture of your cat, upload it to Tably, the app maps out your cat's expression, analyzes it using FGS, and then gives you a reading. I decided to test it out to see if the magic is real. “Don’t be alarmed,” the app told me after I chased my cat, Rainbow Dash, around the house — followed by two dogs — for five minutes trying to get her in the frame. “A discontented cat could mean a lot of things,” it read after it analyzed Rainbow Dash’s expression. Well, that’s not exactly the epiphany I was looking for, but at least it didn’t say she hates me?