BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

Why Do Cats Stare at Walls: Understanding the Spooky Wall Show

cat staring at wall
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Living with cats can be very gratifying. Your fur baby will faithfully wait by your side when you open your eyes in the morning, and she is by the door to welcome you when you come from work. This sounds all good and fun until you realize that you are not the only source of intrigue for your cat. You may find yourself asking this question: why do cats stare at walls? Is there a spectral presence that your cat sees but you don’t?

Staring at walls is a habit which is observed in cats of all ages. Your furry friend will lie down or just stand on all fours looking at the wall with a strong resolve. She may appear so engrossed to the extent that she cannot hear you calling, touching, or petting her. This can be worrying and may sometimes freak you out.

Cat owners and animal behaviorists have been trying to understand the meaning behind the curious habit. We also joined the bandwagon in a bid to get shed some light on this matter.

Several theories have been put forward to explain this habit. They range from seeing ghosts, watching shadows, to enjoying some insect show! It would be easier to understand all this if you can look at it from a cat’s perspective. That is why we will explain exactly how your kitty sees things before we tell you what she sees.

How a Cat’s Eyesight Works

cat's eyes

Human imagination can run wild when presented with anything that defies logic. It’s human nature to try and explain everything depending on how you interact with your surroundings.

That is why you expect your cat to admire your wall décor the same way you do. The moment she stares a little longer, your mind gets on overdrive, and you start beating yourself up trying to understand why. Can your cat see ghosts? Do cats see the world differently than we do?

#1: Superior Eyesight

Felines have superior eyesight that can rival most members of the animal kingdom. Their eyesight is six times more acute than yours.

This means that they can detect the slightest movements around the house that would be unseen to your eyes. They can see tiny inconsistencies in the wall that your eyes can’t see.

#2: Binocular Vision

They also have binocular vision, which means they can form three dimensional images of things in their field of view. This is because their eyes are at the front of the head.

A single image is viewed from each eye, and the two resulting images are superimposed to give a 3D form. This goes to add to their beyond excellent vision, which means they can see the wall in greater detail.

#3: No Need to Blink Often

cat not blinking

One thing that freaks people out about the wall staring behavior in cats is that it can be too intense. There are reported cases where a cat stares at the wall for long without blinking. This continues even when you move your hand over her view, trying to disrupt her line of sight.

If your cat behaves the same way, fear not; she is not possessed. It’s just part of his unique anatomy.

Blinking is one way of keeping debris and other foreign material from harming the eye. But even without any dirt finding its way into the eye, blinking still takes place. The reason behind this is that the eyes need to be constantly lubricated.

When your cat blinks, the movement of the eyelids helps to spread tears across the cornea. This keeps the eyes from drying out.

In humans, blinking is constant while in felines it can seem somewhat delayed. The reason behind this is that apart from the lower and upper eyelids, your cat has an extra eyelid. It’s known as the nictitating membrane.

It’s a translucent thin film that can be drawn across the eye to lubricate it without losing vision. This unique anatomy of the eye allows your cat to stare at the wall for a long time without blinking.

#4: Depth Perception

Perception of images is made easier due to depth perception. A cat’s vision may be excellent, but it’s inadequate when it comes to depth perception. This is the ability to see in 3D and tell the distance of an object. For animals, the ability is known as depth sensation.

Cats need to stare longer at things for them to see better. The long exposure allows more light to get into the eye, making an object clearer. So next time you see your cat staring at the wall longer than you would deem necessary, just know that she is just trying to make an image register more clearly.

Depth sensation is also what makes your cat stare a little longer at visitors. This could be the reason why most felines’ eyes seem to spook people. They will hold their gaze trying to form the outline of your face.

All they are trying to do is to take in a person’s features so that they can tell whether the person is familiar. Once familiarity is established, the cat will be more comfortable approaching the guest and allowing herself to be petted; if not, she will shy away and hide or maintain a good ‘safe’ distance.

Why Do Cats Stare at Walls?

With the above information, you can appreciate that a cat sees things a bit different than you do. That said, it’s still disconcerting why they would spend so much time staring at a wall like it’s an expensive piece of art. What is it that they see on the walls that fascinates them so much?

#1: Stains and Patterns

Remember that spilled coffee which ended up staining the wall? You brushed it off and promised yourself to clean it up later. Weeks pass, and it’s still there. Maybe you even got around to cleaning it and with your ‘perfect eyes’ decided that it’s fully gone. Well, you could be wrong.

The stain could still be visible to your cat with his more than average vision. He may be spending time staring at the wall trying to understand the beauty that the stain exudes. Or could he be criticizing your house cleaning technique?

The wall is also full of imperfections that could amount to beautiful patterns. He could be staring at the fine lines trying to decipher the patterns that they make. To your cat, the wall could be one giant jigsaw puzzle that he can’t get enough of. This would explain why he watches intensely as the patterns come to life in his imagination.

#2: Shadows and Reflections

cat playing with shadow

With the different position of lights in your house, there is bound to be shadows on the wall. These are things that you probably don’t pay much attention to. Your cat, on the other hand, is a curious creature. She will want to inspect and understand why the wall is changing shades every now and then.

Some shadows are too faint for you to notice, but make no mistake—your cat will see them. Her sight is superior enough that even in the dim light, she can see clearly. This is what is popularly known as night vision in cats. It makes it possible for cats to perceive faint shadows on the wall.

Bugs in the house crawling near light bulbs could be making shadows that rouse your cat’s curiosity. Walls that are smooth and reflective can also grab the attention of your kitty.

With many electronic gadgets in your house, some screens will undoubtedly be reflected on the walls. These include phones, computers, and TV screens. While you are busy watching your favorite Garfield film and wondering why your cat is not enjoying it, he could be equally engrossed in the same movie, only that he is watching the screen’s reflection on the wall!

#3: Ghosts

Staring without blinking has been associated with cats seeing ghosts. The idea being that they are transfixed at things in a dimension that is invisible to you. Although not rooted in science, the belief that cats are vessels of spirits and ghosts has persisted for long.

The Ancient Egyptians held cats in high regard. They even had cat gods who were protectors of both man and beast. They believed cats to be opponents or rivals to bad spirits.

This belief has merit even in today’s Wiccan societies. Some theories credit Egyptians with the domestication of cats; this makes it even more believable that felines could be mediums.

See Also: How Long Have Cats Been Domesticated

To this day cats are the most prominent animals closely associated with magic and the unknown. From being witches’ familiars to being good luck charms on ships, it’s possible there is much more to cats than meets the eye.

With this is in mind, it’s not farfetched to imagine that your fur baby uses the wall as a crystal ball. He could be communicating with the souls of the departed. Maybe he is the one keeping your house from being haunted by souls with a grudge on your house. This sounds a bit creepy, but you have to admit wall staring is way out of the ordinary.

#4: Noise Inside or on the Other Side of the Wall

cat hearing something

When was the last time you inspected your walls or the floorboards? Could there be termites eating through your house? Cats could be facing the wall trying to listen to the noise made by these creepy crawlies. But why would a cat need to face the wall just to hear? To understand this, you need to understand how a cat’s hearing works.

When listening, their ears swivel in the direction of the sound. This is because their hearing is similar to that of humans and is not one of their strongest senses. They can, however, hear much higher pitched sounds which are a little above what you can hear.

If the unwanted guests inside the wall are making such sounds, it’s possible that your cat is bothered and he will pay attention to the direction of the sound. Your fur baby will sit with ear flaps facing the wall as he tries to figure out what is happening inside the wall.

Their ears can also hear different sounds at the same time. When your cat is staring at the wall, it’s possible that he is listening to your neighbor’s music. It could be that beyond the wall there is a more pleasant sound that he is trying to enjoy. He could be communicating that the music you are playing is so boring and that he would rather be at your neighbor’s.

#5: Maybe They are Bored

If you have lived long enough with a cat, then you know how short their attention span is. They tire easily from activities that strain their body. A play session of 15-30 minutes will last them for a whole day. They would rather spend a big chunk of their day between short naps and deep sleep.

This kind of preference for inactivity can drive them to boredom every now and then. This could be the reason why cats would rather just stare blankly at the walls. While there may not be so much on the wall in terms of images, the behavior could be calming to your feline. This kind of wall staring will probably be followed by drowsy eyes and a nap thereafter.

#6: Deep Thought

cat in deep thoughts

When in deep thought, it’s possible to adopt some behaviors that can seem weird to an observer. This is true for most beings, humans included. Biting on your nails while trying to figure out a serious problem is just one kind of these behaviors. You may also find yourself staring at the wall unknowingly with your mind elsewhere.

With that in mind, is it possible that your fur baby stares at the wall when he is trying to solve life’s problems?

It may be hard to picture a cat being weighed down by problems. It is, however, good to remember that even cats face some difficulties in their lives.

It could be that your four-legged friend is so deep in thought that he ends up staring endlessly at the wall. He could be wondering why his meals are so far apart, why his playtime has been forgotten, or even what happened to the rat that he had gifted to you earlier.

See Also: Why Do Cats Bring Home Dead Animals

However absurd the reason may be, it’s good to remind yourself that a cat’s brain is very complex. Her brain is firing thoughts and instructions the whole day. The ins and outs of a cat’s brain are still being investigated by scientists; the best we can do is speculate on what the deep thought is all about.

#7: Bugs or Other Pesky Insects

It’s possible that your cat is just watching bugs on the wall. Small cracks can hide pesky insects that might escape your eye. The eyesight of a cat is, however, sharp enough to see these little crawlies. With a cat’s life not being burdened by much, these bugs could be providing enough amusement for him to be staring transfixed at the wall.

A bug’s life is interesting and can be attention-worthy even for you. Ants will carry heavy loads on their backs, make tidy trails on the wall, and glimmer in the backdrop of your house lights. This can be very fascinating to watch and is probably why your kitty will spend hours on end glued to the wall.

#8: Initiating Play

cat playing with wall

There are reported cases of cats who stare at walls when they want to play. Depending on how close you are with your kitty, it will be possible to decipher the meaning. Your cat is probably waiting for you to place your hand on the wall so that he can jump on it.

It’s also no secret that cats enjoy chasing laser lights. Your cat will enjoy scratching or batting at the wall as she tries to catch the tiny light. If she is used to this games, she will stare at the wall waiting for the light to appear.

See Also: How to Play with Your Cat

Wrap Up

cat in the wall

Cats are intrigued by walls. That is why they spend lots of time staring at them. Their superior sense of sight enables them to see walls from a different perspective. The fact that they can stare for long without blinking makes it even weirder and more interesting.

A cat’s perception of depth is inferior to yours. She needs to stare longer to see things clearly and in 3D. Also, your cat could be staring at stains and patterns, shadows and reflections, and ghosts. It also possible that she could be listening to some noise, having a moment of reflection, or just plainly bored and inviting you to either play or grab some popcorn and enjoy the show with her.

Try getting down to her level and you may end up getting hooked on the spooky show.

What else do you associate your cat’s wall staring with? Are you able to relate your cat to any of the above reasons? Let us know all about this plus any other feedback that you may have in the section below and don’t forget to check out our article on why do cats scratch walls.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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