Here we provide top tips on learning a little bit about how cats communicate using their eyes!
Cats slowly blink their eyes in situations where they appear relaxed with our presence. We don’t know for sure what the blink means (although researchers are currently working on this) but common thoughts vary from it simply being the cat’s way of acknowledging us to their way of telling us they are not a threat and that they trust us. A cat with wide-open staring eyes is usually a cat that is feeling threatened or is threatening another. Blinking could show another that they do not perceive them as threatening. It takes a lot of trust to close your eyes when faced with someone, particularly if you do not know that individual. Some even believe that the cat’s slow blink is an invitation for further interaction – let’s wait to see what the research says on that one! We will cover how to approach cats in another top tip.
So, should we slowly blink when we see cats? Absolutely! Cats find direct staring threatening so by slowly blinking, we can convey we are not a threat. The slow blink should be nice and subtle, ideally with your glance directed slightly past the cat rather than directly at it.
Have a go next time you encounter your cat or another, did your cat blink back or were they first to blink?
Finally, we should be aware that not all blinking in cats appears to be related to positive feelings. Blink rate is our key to understanding! Cats that rapidly blink their eyes and bring their eyelids closely shut in a scrunched-up manner are likely to be feeling fearful and may be feeling threatened by your presence. In these situations, increase the distance between you and the cat and see what effect this has on the blinking behaviour.
Who would have thought a simple movement of the eyelids could tell us so much about cats?!
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I am the feline behaviour specialist at feline charity ‘International Cat Care’. We are about engaging, educating and empowering people throughout the world to improve the health and welfare of cats by sharing advice, training and passion.