Much like humans, variations of eye contact and eye movements have different meanings among cats.
It’s important to remember that cats approach eye contact in a way that is unique to their species and the individual cat.
Despite the differences, the implications of eye contact in both cats and humans have some similarities that make them easier to understand.
Keep reading to decode what eye contact means to cats and why some cats are more likely to avoid it.
What Does Eye Contact Mean to Cats
Just like humans, each cat comes with their own unique qualities and personality.
This means that there is a wide range of what is considered “normal”.
There are some generalizations that can be made about eye contact among cats, but keep in mind that these generalizations may not necessarily apply to your cat.
Eye Contact in Happy Cats
Some cats perceive direct eye contact as threatening, therefore a cat’s willingness to make fixed eye contact suggests that they trust the human or animal in question.
Prolonged eye contact with slow blinking is the equivalent of a “kitty kiss”.
This means that the cat feels comfortable and secure enough to feel relaxed in their human’s company.
According to this study, slow blinking is a positive form of communication for cats.
In fact, another study found that shelter cats who demonstrate slow blinking toward humans get adopted faster.
Many cat owners report that returning the fixed eye contact and slow blinking is a friendly gesture that helps them bond with their cats.
It’s safe to assume that direct eye contact paired with relaxed body language means you have a happy cat on your hands.
Eye Contact in Aggravated Cats
It’s very difficult to determine what a cat’s eye contact means without also assessing their body language and posture.
Aggravated cats will rotate their ears, quickly swish their tails from side to side, and appear stiff.
This is often paired with dilated pupils, darting eye movements, and twitching.
It’s not unusual for your cat to avoid eye contact in this instance.
In the event your cat maintains eye contact, it’d be best to avert your gaze elsewhere to diffuse tension.
If your cat is signaling that they need space, direct direct eye contact might make them feel intimated or aggravate them further.
It goes without saying that you should also avoid petting your cat while it’s signaling aggravation.
Eye Contact in Scared Cats
When frightened, some cats will keep an eye on their source of their fear while others will avoid eye contact and rely on other senses to gather information.
If the cat hides, has its tails tucked away, and crouches to appear smaller, there’s a good chance they’re scared.
Other signs of a scared cat are dilated pupils, flat whiskers, and lowered ears.
This reaction is common when there’s sudden movement or a loud sound that startles them.
Cats observe their owner’s behavior to determine how to react.
You’ve probably noticed that your cat tenses up or hides when they see you startled.
To avoid instances where your cat feels scared, be mindful of your movements and reactions to communicate that there is nothing to be scared of.
Eye Contact in Anxious Cats
Much like humans, trauma can cause cats to undergo behavioral changes.
Anxious people that lack confidence will shy away from eye contact; anxious cats demonstrate similar behavior.
Cats who have undergone abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences may develop an aversion to eye contact.
Making eye contact can trigger these cats to feel anxious if they associate it with an unpleasant past experience.
For some cats, the aversion to eye contact is temporary and resolves itself once the cat establishes trust with its owner or feels more comfortable in its environment.
Other cats may avoid eye contact with people as a sign of submission.
However, each cat is different. Avoiding eye contact doesn’t always mean the cat is anxious.
Know Your Cat Well
Determining the meaning of your cat’s eye contact habits ultimately comes down to knowing your cat well.
Some cats are naturally more skittish and avoid eye contact whereas others make eye contact with everyone, including strangers.
The implications of eye contact vary depending on the individual cat.
Take your cat’s personality, preferences, and body language into account before making any assumptions about what their eye contact habits mean.
As long as you’re confident that your cat feels comfortable, safe, and secure in their home, there isn’t any reason for concern.