BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

What Does It Mean When a Cat Winks at You: What are Your Cat’s Eyes Telling You?

cat winking
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

While we spend our lives letting our needs and desires be known vocally, our cats rely mostly on body language and their eyes to communicate with felines and humans alike. Unlike dogs, cats don’t jump around when they are happy or vocalize extensively; instead, they rely on subtle body language that can be hard to pick up on. Hence it comes as no surprise that many wonder: what does it mean when a cat winks at you?

Most owners simply dismiss a slow blink as a simple eye reflex or their cat’s attempt to get rid of something from her eye. However, a slow blink means a lot in the cat language, and you should definitely pay attention to what your cat is trying to express.

With their secretive attitude and poker faces, it may seem difficult to figure out what a cat is trying to say, but if you pay attention, your cat’s eyes will let you see through the depths of her soul.

In this article, we will discuss the hidden meanings behind a cat’s slow wink and help you understand what your kitty is trying to tell you. You will also learn a bit more about feline daily communication and be one step closer to understanding and building a deeper bond with your cat.

How Do Cats Communicate?

Cats use a complex system that involves body language, sound, smell, touch, scent, and vocalization to communicate with each other and us. To truly understand a cat, you should observe her entire body language and not rely on a single aspect of it.

Cats constantly use these subtle signs to help us understand them better; it is up to us to try to decipher them.

#1: Body Language

cat with his tail up

Cats use facial expressions, tail movement, and body posture to let us know how they are feeling and you should observe them as a whole.

For example, a happy and content cat will purr, have a slightly curled tail, half-closed eyes, and ears pointed forward. On the other hand, a nervous cat will have flattened ears, dilated pupils, and she may or may not have her teeth exposed.

You should be aware that every cat is an individual and they can rely on different body cues to convey their emotional state and moods. The way your cat is going to convey her feelings will depend on her personality and your willingness to understand her.

See Also: What Does It Mean When Cats Wag Their Tail

#2: Vocalization

cat meowing

Felines use many distinctive sounds to communicate with other felines and people, and scientists are still trying to identify and decipher all of them. The meow has many variations and can be high or low-pitched depending on the situation.

What many people don’t know is that cats use meows only in their communication with us, and you will hardly ever heard adult cats meowing at each other.

The purr is definitely the most popular of all cat sounds since it is most often associated with happiness and contentedness. However, cats can also purr when they are in pain, and that’s why it is important to look at the entire body language in order to see the entire picture.

Generally, cats use aggressive sounds like hissing, spitting, growling, and screaming when they are fighting over territory or females, but you should be aware that any of these sounds combined with a hunched posture and slit pupils is a sign that a cat is going to attack.

See Also: How Many Sounds Can a Cat Make

#3: With Their Eyes

cat eyes

Compared to us, cats have far superior eyes in every way, and besides being able to see in the dark thanks to them, they can also use their eyes to convey an array of emotions that will help you relate to your cat on a deeper emotional level.

Understanding What Your Cat is Trying to Tell You with Her Eyes

A lot of cat owners think that they understand their cat really well, but once you pay close attention to your cat’s eyes, you will be able to understand her on a whole new level. It is true that the eyes are the window to the soul, especially for cats that often communicate with their eyes rather than vocalizations.

#1: Winking

orange cat winking

Usually, people think that a slow and sleepy blink is their cat’s way of telling them that she is ready for a nap, or that she is trying to expel a dirt particle from her eye. However, you should be very honored when a cat blinks at you since this is considered to be a cat kiss and her way of telling you that she loves and appreciate you.

The wink is the uttermost sign of affection one cat can give to another or to her human companion. By slowly blinking in your presence, your kitty is showing you that you are trustworthy and that she feels safe closing her eyes just for a second in your presence. People wink at people who they find interesting and appealing, and your cat is no different in that way.

If you notice that your cat is slowly blinking at you, it means that she is likely ready to deepen the bond between the two of you and want to bring it to the next level. You can try to slowly extend a finger towards your kitty and let her come to you to sniff it. If she does not feel threatened, she will approach you and allow you to pet her, or she will rub her head against your extended hand.

Once you are sure that your kitty isn’t simply sleepy and blinking because she is ready to take a nap, you can try to wink back at her, and send her a kiss of your own. Observe your cat, and once she slowly winks at you, brace yourself to do the same. Gaze at your cat and slowly lower your eyelids and slowly open them, mimicking your cat’s behavior. If you send the blink-kiss correctly, chances are your kitty will send another one right back at you.

If your cat is contently curled in her favorite chair and you notice that she is lazily blinking at you, she might be ready to take a nap. Even though your kitty isn’t sending you kisses, you shouldn’t be disappointed since the fact that she is willing to sleep in your presence is a sign that she trusts you.

By doing this, your cat is telling you that she feels protected in the comfort of your home and that she is willing to let her guard down. Let your kitty sleep and offer her cuddles and treats once she wakes up. Maybe she will treat you with a wink afterward.

However, if your cat is blinking more than usual, and she is also pawing at her eye, or her eye is watery and inflamed, it is time to visit a vet. Some cats present with the additional symptoms that include eye discharge, changes in the eye color, tear-stained fur, a visible third eyelid, and crusty matter in the corners of eyes.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to schedule a vet appointment right away, since the infection can spread and jeopardize your cat’s eyesight. If noticed in time, these types of eye infections are usually treated with antibiotics.

See Also: How to Treat Conjunctivitis in Cats

#2: The Direct Stare

cat staring directly

While a direct stare is socially appropriate and preferred in the human culture, cats interpret staring as signs of rivalry and intimidation.

You have probably noticed that every time you have guests, when they stare at your cat and try their best to lure and pet her, she starts acting unusually shy. This happens mainly because the cat feels threatened and will instead gravitate toward people who didn’t show any type of interest in her.

Cats also use the direct stare when they communicate with other cats—especially the ones that are their rivals. In that occasion, cats will have a staring match until the weaker one averts her gaze.

The averted gaze signifies weakness; however, if the staring competition continues for a while, it is usually concluded with a fight. Some cats will attack people if they are faced with a direct stare, so you should inform your friends and family to avert their gazes if they want to be treated to a head rub.

#3: Narrow Pupils

cat with narrow pupils

Narrow pupils are a sign of arousal that can stem from different things—a few of them being fear, pleasure, and anger. To get a better understanding of your cat’s mood, it is best to observe her body language and try to figure out what caused her pupils to become narrow slits.

All cats adore catnip, and you will notice how your kitty’s pupils become narrower while she is playing with her favorite catnip mice. This means that the cat enjoys the smell of catnip so much that she gets content and joyous—stalking and pouncing on the toy.

Moreover, narrow pupils can also be a sign of pleasure if they are combined with purrs. You may notice that your cat’s pupils become narrower when she is lying in your lap and purring in delight while you are stroking her in all the right places.

You can also tell when a cat is angry by observing her pupils, and she will let her wrath be known by producing growling and hissing sounds.

The telltale signs of aggression are narrower pupils and halfway closed eyelids. A cat will squint when she is facing other cats to prevent claw injury to the eye. However, a cat will exhibit the same type of behavior towards people if she feels threatened or mistreated.

#4: Wide Pupils

cat with wide pupils

Just as narrow pupils have several meanings, wide pupils also indicate several emotional states, so it is best to look for other body signs that will tell you for sure what your cat is trying to communicate. A cat will have wide pupils when she is in a state of excitement, for example, when you are getting all of her favorite toys and getting ready to play with her.

On the other hand, a tense-looking cat that is just sitting in one spot and shows signs of anxiety will also have wide pupils. You will also notice that when a cat is really intimidated, like when she realizes that a trip to the vet is in order, she will also have dilated pupils.

#5: Different Sized Pupils

cat with different pupils

If you notice that your kitty’s pupils aren’t the same size, it is time to visit the vet, since this may be a symptom of several health conditions. In some cases, this is the result of brain trauma, eye injury, glaucoma, a problem with the nerves, and other conditions that if left untreated can cause permanent damage to the eye.

Wrap Up

tabby cat winking

Cats use various subtle signs to show us how they are feeling and what they desire, and since their faces aren’t so expressive, people often struggle to understand their language.

It’s not surprising that most people interpret a cat’s blinking as a sign of an upcoming nap break, but that isn’t all that it is. You may be surprised when you find out what does it mean when a cat winks at you—it is a cat kiss.

When a cat winks at you, it shows that she has deep love and appreciation towards you. A lazy, slow blink is your cat’s way of showing that she feels comfortable in your presence enough that she will let her guard down and close her eyes for a few seconds. Once you notice that your kitty is winking at you and sending kisses your way, don’t just stand there; blow a slow wink back at her.

Did your cat ever wink at you? Did you try to wink back? Tell us how many kisses your kitty blinked your way in the comment section below. Also, check out our related article on what do cats think when we kiss them.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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