Cats communicate in a variety of ways. Sometimes they meow non-stop for us to fill their food bowls and other times their body language is so subtle that it’s really easy to miss altogether. Non-cat people might find it hard to believe, but even the seemingly simple act of blinking contains so much meaning and emotion when you’re a cat.
Perhaps you may have noticed that sometimes your cat blinks at you or at other cats in a slow, almost methodical way, while other times they stare wide-eyed at you without blinking at all. Cats are very visually-oriented and a cat’s eyes can actually tell you a lot about their mood and mindset. The slow blink is no exception. Most cats will exhibit this behavior at some point or another so it is something that many cat owners are curious about. A cat’s body language can be difficult to read if you don’t know what to look for, so let’s delve into what exactly this blinking behavior trying to tell us.
What Slow Blinking Means
Often referred to as “cat eyes”, the slow blinking is a sign of trust in cats. It really expresses a beautiful message because of its significance coming from an animal that is both predator and prey. You see, in the wild cats rely heavily on their sense of sight – both to keep themselves safe from predators and while hunting for their next meal. Closing their eyes around another animal, even for a brief moment, could mean that they might lose sight of a potential snack or even find themselves on the receiving end of a sharp pair of teeth.
The fact that they’re willing to close their eyes around you shows a high level of trust and attachment. They’re pretty much letting you know that not only do they not see you as potential prey or a threat to their well-being, but they also want to make sure you know that they know, you know? The slow blink is a deliberate message that cats are trying to convey: Hey! You’re neither food nor foe. Let’s be friends!
The slow blink is one of the first signs of affection that you can experience with a cat. Unlike what that dog person down the street may have told you, cats are very friendly animals. You may even catch cats who have never met slow blinking at each other as a way to break the ice and let the other know they come in peace. Which is great because one of the best things about the slow blink is that it’s something you can do with cats that aren’t even yours.
Cat Eyes – You Can Do It Too!
Now that you know what the slow blink means, you may become more aware of this behavior in your cat. Even if you don’t see it right away, don’t despair! That doesn’t necessarily mean that the cat in question doesn’t trust you. But if you want to be sure, you can do a little trust check with your cat. Just start the slow blink yourself and watch for a reaction.
To do this, always get down to their level first. Making sure to present yourself in a non-threatening manner is the only way to guarantee a good reaction from a cat. Never stare at the cat when doing this, either. Staring is intimidating to cats and is seen as a hunting or challenging behavior. For increased chances of success, try tilting your head, looking slightly off to the side and softening your gaze.
Once you are on their level, slowly close your eyes and leave them closed for a few seconds before slowly opening them again. You may have to repeat a few times before the cat mirrors the behavior. You may even have to back off and try again later if it is a new cat or one that is otherwise unfamiliar with you. Some cats are very trusting and friendly and will return the slow blink quickly, while others will take some time to warm up before showing this level of affection.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, though. Whether you are spending time with your cat, just got a new kitten, are visiting a cat-loving friend or simply spot a cat while walking down the street, go ahead and slow blink at them! This behavior is one that you can try on most any cat. Don’t expect them all to respond to you though, but if they do, then you know you may be able to cross one more cat off your “To Hug” list.
Not All Cats Engage In The Slow Blink
While it is uncommon to find a cat that won’t return cat eyes, there are a variety of reasons that a cat may not exhibit this behavior. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the cat doesn’t trust you. Like many other cat behaviors, the slow blink is partly instinct and partly passed down during a cat’s crucial development period. Some cats simply never learn about the slow blink. One of the most common reasons this happens is early abandonment where the animal is not socialized with other cats during an important developmental time.
Shadow from The Cultured Cat was abandoned at a young age and gets confused when we try to slow blink at him. He just stares back at us with a face of “what are those weird humans doing now”. However, other similar ways to know that your cat trusts you is if they’re willing to fall sleep around you or expose their midline by rolling over. These actions express the same message that they don’t view you as a threat. If your cat is unwilling to do any of these things in your presence, it is likely time to ask yourself what you can do to make your cat feel more comfortable in your shared home environment.
Slow blinking is a simple behavior that you can share with your cat to strengthen the bond of trust that exists between the two of you. It also allows you to be able to communicate with your furry friend in their own language. Now you can venture out into the world with the ability to establish trust and friendship with all of the cats you meet along your journey.