All cat owners are familiar with this scene: you’re sitting on the couch, watching TV and minding your own business, when you get an eerie feeling that someone, or something, is watching you. You turn around, feeling a little anxious, only to realize that it’s not your imagination.
Your cat is making total, unbreaking, eye contact with you.
Cats are well known for staring. Whether it’s while you’re preparing their dinner or when you’re not expecting it, it’s not unusual for a cat to stare at you.
But why do they do it? Why do cats stare at you?
In this article, we’ll cover the following;
Humans communicate with their mouths and cats communicate almost entirely with their body language. This is true for their communication with their fellow felines, other animals, and their human companions.
While they will vocalize at times, cat primarily rely on their tails, ears, bodies, and eyes to send and recieve information with those around them.
Cats rely quite a bit on their vision, both for hunting and daily life, so it’s no surprise that they use their eyes to communicate, as well.
Starting in cats can mean a lot of things. Sometimes it’s a loving, affectionate gesture while other times it’s a warning or even a threat. Learning to differentiate between the different stares is important when trying to understand what your cat is trying to tell you.
Cats stare for a variety of reasons, and a lot of it depends on context. Who are they starting at? What’s going on around them?
In the cat world, staring is usually territorial. Cats stare at each other as an act of defiance or rivalry, or to protect their territory.
Two cats intently staring at one another, especially if they get really close to one another’s faces, is rarely a positive sign and is a good indication that trouble is brewing.
In fact, a lack of eye contact, the opposite of a stare, is equally telling. If one cat is staring at another and the second cat is adamantly avoiding making eye contact, they are communicating that they are submissive and not looking for trouble.
Cat fights often ensue when both cats stare and neither of them will back down. This is actually a good way to differentiate between play-fighting and actual fighting. Play-fighting rarely begins with a staring contest.
Cats also stare when they are hunting. They’re visual hunters and rely primarily on their well-developed sense of sight to find, track, and catch prey. While cats don’t have great color vision or see details very well, they have exceptional night vision.
If your cat is staring intently at something, take a look at their eyes. Are their pupils dilated? Are they making any unusual vocalizations? Do they look ready to pounce? If so, it’s likely your cat is on the hunt.
Another reason your cat may stare is simply because they are interested in something. If your cat stares at you while you’re preparing a meal for them, cooking, or doing something around the house, chances are your cat is just observing you.
It’s easy to mistake cats simply looking at something for staring because cats blink infrequently.
This cat is staring because he wants food. Message received, right?
If you’re convinced your cat isn’t watching you just to see what you’re up to, you’re probably right. Cats do sometimes stare at their owners, but don’t worry. A territorial kitty stare is very different from the look your cat is giving you.
While domestic cats stare at one another as a form of aggression and dominance, they don’t really do this with people. If a feral cat is staring at you intently, it’s likely because they are frightened and may be trying to tell you to back off.
But it’s different with cats that are pets. In fact, if your cat is making prolonged eye contact with you, it’s likely a sign of affection. A lazy, steady gaze in your direction is a sign that your cat feels safe.
One of the nicest gestures of affection that your cat can show is prolonged eye contact with a slow blink. This is often referred to as a “kitty kiss” and is a sign that your cat feels comfortable with you and is enjoying spending time together.
If you want to try and reciprocate, try slow blinking back at your cat. Chances are, they’ll understand what you mean!
To be even more obvious about your feelings, try offering your cat a treat during these moments of eye contact. Giving them a tasty and healthy treat, such as Wellness Kittles, is a great way to show them that you love them.
This cute black cat looks like he loves his owner and is staring at him for attention:
Cats use body language to communicate all sorts of things, both to other cats and to their human owners.
If your cat is staring at you lazily, blinking slowly, and making direct eye contact, it’s likely they’re telling you how much they trust and love you. You can try mimicking their eye contact to tell them you love them back, or you can be a little more overt and offer them a healthy cat treat, such as Wellness Kittles.
Other times, you may be mistaking simple observation for staring, as cats don’t blink as frequently or as obviously as human beings do.
If a cat that you don’t know is staring you down, it’s likely they are frightened, trying to assert their territorial dominance, or trying to scare you away.
What about you? Do you have any stories about your cat staring at you? If so, share in the comments below as we’d love to hear from you!
After moving to New York City from Rome, Italy, I began working in the nonprofit world. Despite my day job, my passion has always been animals, especially dogs and cats, and writing. What better way to combine the two? I’ve been a pet owner for 15 years, and my menagerie includes dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional hermit crab. My beloved cat, Mozart, who I found as a newborn kitten, sparked my love for felines and is now nearly 15 years old. I am an enthusiastic volunteer at the local ASPCA, where I enjoy spending time with the cats and cleaning up after the dogs. I’ve been writing about pet ownership and care for the past five years.