Why Is the Face of the Pallas' Cat So Expressive?

Photos of Pallas' cats often look like they're begging for creative captions. Tambako The Jaguar [CC by 2.0]/flickr

Pallas’ cats have risen to Internet fame much like other cats, but it’s not their love of boxes, impressive keyboard skills or charmingly incorrect speech that’s helped them rise to the ranks of kitty celebrity. It’s their ridiculously expressive faces.

Photos of the cats’ countless expressions have been shared across the Web, but what is it about their appearance that we find so intriguing?

What Are Pallas' Cats?

Pallas’ cats, which often go by the name manul cats, were named for Peter Pallas, who first described the felines in 1776, classifying them as Felis manul.

The cats, which are native to Asia, are downright adorable with their furry faces and big ears, but while they may appear rather large in size, in reality, the animals are about the same size as domestic cats — very fluffy domestic cats.

In fact, the average Pallas’ cat is only about 26 inches long and weighs 10 pounds. Its deceiving size comes from all that fur, which is the longest and densest of any cat. It helps keep it warm in cold climates and altitudes of 15,000 feet.

What Makes Their Facial Expressions So Unique?

Part of the animal’s appeal to us is no doubt its stocky build and considerable fluff, but the reason we find its expressions so appealing could be that Pallas’ cats’ faces look more human — and therefore more expressive — than other cats’ faces.

The felines have shorter faces than most cats, making the face look more like ours, and the animal’s ears are lower and farther apart than you see in most cats.

With its lower ears and fur coloring, the cats can flatten their bodies close to the ground to hide from predators.

But, most importantly, Pallas’ cats have unusual pupils. Unlike other felines, the Pallas’ cat’s pupils contract into smaller circles, just like ours do. Other cats’ pupils contract into vertical slits.

In fact, when people first see these cats’ faces, they often mistake the animals for primates, an order of animals that have complex facial expressions that are physically and functionally similar to humans.

Gallery of Facial Expressions

Check out some of the Pallas' cats incredible expressions below.

expressive Pallas cat
expressive Pallas cat. Tambako The Jaguar/flickr
smiling pallas' cat
snarling pallas' cat. Tambako The Jaguar/flickr
angry Pallas' cat
angry Pallas' cat. Tambako The Jaguar/flickr
calm pallas' cat
calm pallas' cat. Tambako The Jaguar/flickr
snarling Pallas' cat
snarling Pallas' cat. Tambako The Jaguar/flickr
Pallas' cat lying down
Pallas' cat lying down. Tambako The Jaguar/flickr

Watch the video below to see another truly expressive Pallas' cat face.