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Cat Eye Meaning: Reading Your Cat's Eyes

Stephanie Dube Dwilson
Learn the meaning behind your cat's eyes.

Did you know your cat is trying to communicate with you just by the shape of his eyes? Cats' eyes communicate unique messages that reflect their mood and e-meow-tional state with every blink. By observing your cat's pupils and body language, you can translate these silent messages. Learning the meaning hidden in your cat's eyes can open a world of communication opportunities for the two of you.

Cat Pupils Are Shaped Differently than a Human's

Have you ever wondered why a cat's eye is shaped the way it is? While humans have round pupils, cats have pupils that compress into vertical slits.1 Cat pupils open wider when it's dark and contract when it's bright—just like human pupils do. However, because cat pupils are vertical slits rather than circles, they have a greater variation in pupil size, which helps them see even better in the dark. Vertical slits may also give cats improved depth perception.2

The Six "Words" Cats Can Say with Their Eyes

Your cat's unique eyes can convey six messages to you, but the exact interpretation may vary slightly based on the context. First observe your cat's eyes, then read her corresponding body language, and you'll soon understand your cat at an entirely deeper level than ever before.

1. "Relaxed" Smiling Eyes

If your cat's feeling extra happy, he may half-close his eyes in a way that looks very relaxed and peaceful. His eyelids might even appear to droop.

You may notice this when your cat is cuddled up in your lap. As you gently pet his soft fur, he half-closes his eyes. This is your cat's way of smiling at you.

2. "Good Vibes" Slow Blink

As your cat makes eye contact with you, whether she's in your lap or across the room, she'll slowly close and open her eyes in a slow blink.

Slow blinking is your cat's way of saying there's nothing to be alarmed about, and she loves you very much. The slow blink is how your cat sends good vibes your way. With many cats, if you slow blink first, they'll respond with a slow blink.3

3. "Check Yourself" Stare

Another method of communication is a long, steady stare.4 For cats, if a slow blink doesn't accompany it, the stare is a dominating move. This can be a cat's way of asserting control over another cat, indicating who "owns" what, or telling another cat: "Don't do that."

This is also why cats tend to gravitate toward people who aren't actively staring at them. Someone who isn't staring is communicating a friendlier vibe.

4. "Alert" Wide Eyes

When your cat's eyes are wide with dilated pupils, this can be from excitement. For example, cats widen their pupils when they're focusing on prey. Who hasn't seen the GIF of the cat wiggling his bum right before striking, with his pupils wide with excitement? In situations like this, your cat is super excited about pouncing on his prey or chasing that feather wand toy.

Wide eyes can mean your cat has some pent-up energy he's about to get out, whether by play or mischief. Did he just knock something off a shelf to get your attention, and now he's staring at you with big eyes, watching for your reaction? He's getting ready to flee or play, which gives him a pupil-dilating thrill.

5. "Danger's Afoot" Saucer Eyes

Wide eyes with a tense body mean your kitten senses danger, whether she's suddenly startled or prepping for a confrontation. Look for a puffy or lowered tail or sideways ears. If she's overstimulated while you're petting her, look for rippling fur and an assertively twitching tail.

6. "Bring It On!" Narrowed Eyes

A cat may narrow his eyes when he's angry and about to fight another cat, whether his pupils themselves are constricted or wide. The key here is to observe his body language. Are his ears laid back? Is his fur standing straight up? Is his body's tense, or is he growling? Cats can go from wide to narrow eyes in seconds when fighting.

Eyes Can Be Windows to Health Issues

Your cat's eyes can also give you clues about any health issues your kitty may have. If she's squinting, particularly in one eye, or if the eye is watering a lot or has discharge, it's time to take your cat to the veterinarian for an evaluation.

If Your Cat Is Stressed, Comfort Zone Products Can Help

If you think your cat is stressed, Comfort Zone products can do wonders for his e-meow-tional health. They mimic your cat's natural pheromones, helping promote relaxation.

Plug in the Comfort Zone Cat Calming Diffuser with Opticalm Diffuser in the rooms where your cat spends the most time. If you have more than one cat, use the Comfort Zone Multi-Cat Diffuser with Opticalm Diffuser.

You may choose to give your cat a Comfort Zone Calming Pheromone Collar instead, so the calming signals are with him wherever he goes. Last but not least, use the Comfort Zone Spray & Scratch Control Spray on areas the cat is attracted to, like that coffee table he keeps scratching, that he may take his stress out on.

They say eyes are the windows to the soul, and that's true for your cat too. By learning to read the meaning in your cat's eyes, you can know when he's relaxed and wants to snuggle or when he's stressed and may need a little help calming down.

1. Calderone, Julia. "Science Has Figured Out Why Cats Have Weird Slitted eyes." Business Insider, 10 August 2015, https://www.businessinsider.com/why-cat-eye-pupils-are-vertical-2015-8.

2. Banks, Martin S. et. al. "Why Do Animal Eyes Have Pupils of Different Shapes?" Science Advances, 7 August 2015, https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/7/e1500391.full.

3. Starr, Michelle. "Study Confirms 'Slow Blinks' Really Do Work to Communicate with Your Cat." ScienceAlert, 25 January 2021, https://www.sciencealert.com/you-can-build-a-rapport-with-your-cat-by-blinking-real-slow.

4. Bishko, Adriane. "What Your Cat's Body Language Is Saying." Pets.WebMD.com, https://pets.webmd.com/cats/features/cat-body-language#1.

 

Category: Cat Behavior | Comfort Zone