You've got questions, we've got answers. We're taking some of the most commonly asked questions about feline behavior and chatting with Dr. Mikel Delgado, certified applied animal behaviorist, to give you the answers you need.
Your cat is gazing into your eyes -- is she zoning out, trying to send you a message, or something else?
In most animal encounters, staring is a sign of impending aggression; a way to say, I’m not afraid of you and (as Tom Petty said) “I won’t back down.” These messages can actually be a way to AVOID aggression. If one cat stares at another, the recipient of the stare will often back away, avoiding eye contact, in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. However, if neither cat will break away from the locked-in eye contact, a fight could happen.
So what if your cat is staring at you? There might be a few reasons for this behavior, and not all of them are a sign of danger! Here are some common reasons your cat might be keeping a close eye on you.
Information: First of all, I like to refer to cats as “human psychologists” -- they spend a lot of time studying their human’s every move. They know when you might be headed to the treat cabinet, or when you might be in the mood for a little playtime. So sometimes that staring is just taking information in about what you’re up to. If you ARE headed to the treat cabinet, they are going to be prepared!!
Time to play: Your cat might be staring because they feel playful. Staring and watching are part of the natural predatory (and play) sequence for cats. You might notice dilated pupils and the classic “butt-wiggle” if your cat is eyeing you like prey. This is a message that your kitty might need some additional playtime with interactive toys added to your routine.
Love: Finally, your cat might just be saying I love you. Rather than stare back, try a soft, slow blink back at your cat. Turn your head away slightly. You might see that your cat soon blinks back, yawns, or settles down for a snooze. Looking away and blinking shows trust. Rather than being alert and watchful, you are giving off a vibe of being relaxed, and your cat may pick up on that and feel more relaxed in kind.
In general, I don’t recommend staring at your cat. We are much bigger than our kitties and we don’t want them to feel like we are threatening them. It’s okay to look into their eyes lovingly, just keep your gaze soft and divert your eyes away from time to time so they know you trust them too.
[#BeginTLDR#] Your cat is studying your every move, trying to be prepared for what you could be doing next. [#SplitTLDR#] If their pupils are dilated, they’re ready to play. [#SplitTLDR#] If your cat is staring at you, but blinks slowly, it means that they love, and trust you. Try blinking slowly back, then looking away, to say “I love you too”. [#EndTLDR#]