Whenever I go to my sister’s house for a visit, her two cats are always warily sitting by her doorsteps. As I get out of my car and begin walking toward them, I notice they are eyeing me cautiously. I guess they fancy themselves as guard cats.
I pick them up, one at a time, gently cuddling them. After a little purring and some kneading, they are out of my arms, back on the ground, seeming quite content. And that’s when I notice an odd little thing — a slow blink, almost a wink. Then, of course, I can’t help wondering: Why do cats blink slowly at you?
Why Do Cats Blink Slowly at You?
Slow blinking by a cat (sort of an eyes-almost-closed look, almost trance-like) is a good sign — one that says, “You’re my buddy, and I feel comfortable hanging out with you.” My sister’s cats certainly must like me, as they have never jumped at me, hissed at me or run from me.
I did a little research on this topic, and it turns out that cats tend to do a lot of talking with their eyes; the eyes are part of a feline’s communication system. If you are directly staring a cat down, you’ll only make that cat nervous. They see a stare-down like this as a threat.
Here is a quick two-minute video from Carolyn Quagliata, DVM, CVA, on how to read your cat’s body language:
Giving You a ‘Cat Kiss’
Slowly blinking at you, meanwhile, is a sign of pure love, and it’s often even referred to as a “cat kiss.”
When other cats are around, you may see your kitty slow blinking a lot. This is to let the other cats know that everything is cool. In the wild, where cats battle for territory, this blinking message is really important, as all the other cats will realize they are no threat to one another. They’re signaling that there’s no need for fighting.
Try Blinking Back!
At times, our own facial expressions can get a response from a feline. If you’re in a comfortable setting (and you don’t feel too ridiculous doing so), try tossing a slow blink to your cat. Chances are, she’ll send one back your way. A mutual friendship may develop from this batting of eyes! Your cat may even come over and jump in your lap, giving you an open invitation to pet her.
All felines (yes, even feral cats) tend to have the “slow blinking eyes” thing going on. If you’re a brave person, take the plunge: Next time you’re at the zoo, blink slowly at a tiger, rather than staring directly into its eyes, and see if you gain a new feline friend.
Understanding your cat’s body language will make bonding with your pet a little easier. Through this “eye talk” you can learn your cat’s likes and dislikes.
Next time I go to my sister’s, I won’t be asking myself, “Why does a cat blink slowly at you?” — instead, I’ll take that endearing blinky thing as a simple “Eye love you”!
- Cats International: Your cat’s tail, ear and eye signals
- Messy Beast: Cat communication, body language
- Christianne Schelling, DVM: Cat slow blink
Photo: worthless key/Flickr