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Cat’s eyes: What is a cat telling you with their eyes

A cat with wide, open eyes looks out from beneath a blanket

Find out what your cat is telling you with their eyes.

© Krystian Tambur - Unsplash

What can your cat’s eyes tell you about their mood? Here, we delve deep into what your cat’s eyes can show you about their mood and overall health.

By Natasha James

Published on the 25/05/2021, 17:00

They say that the eyes are a window to the soul and this is most certainly true with cats. Felines are known for their beautiful almond-shaped eyes and distinctive pupils but can you learn much about your kitty from how they look?

The answer is a resounding yes. From the mood they're in, to infection and injury, your cat's eyes can tell you a whole lot about how they're feeling.

Here are five ways to spot the mood your cat is in by reading their eyes.

1. Slit pupils can signify anger or excitement

Cats' eyes with slit pupils ©Beatrice Sirinuntananon - Shutterstock

Cat’s pupils are so striking because of how much they differ from our own. Rather than being spherical, cat’s pupils are vertical slits. When the pupils narrow this can be a sure sign of a change in the mood of your cat.

Biologically speaking, a narrow pupil lets less light into the eye and is your cat’s way of honing in on a particular object. 

For you, you can know that your cat is in a heightened state and probably isn’t in the mood for tummy rubs! If you want to engage with your cat, consider playing a hunting game for them to let off some of that energy.

2. Wide pupils can show fear or anticipation

Cats eyes with wide pupils can show fear or anticipation ©Mary Swift - Shutterstock

Wide pupils are another common expression that you may notice on your moggy. If the pupils have expanded this is to allow in extra light so your cat can take in a wider field of vision.

So, what does that mean for you as the cat’s owner? Well, it can mean one of two things; either your cat is scared or they’re anticipating something exciting (such as their next meal or the movement of tasty prey).

How do you tell the difference? You should take into consideration the rest of your cat’s body language. Does your cat seem alert and friendly or are they hiding away in a timid ball? If it’s the latter then they're probably frightened, offer a soothing word or two but allow them to hide away if they wish.

3. Unblinking stare

Cat who's looking at you without blinking ©asadykov - Shutterstock

Is your moggy staring, with wide, unblinking eyes? Then they’re probably trying to assert their dominance over a situation. This look is common in multi-cat households and while you may not notice it, a more submissive cat certainly will.

4. Eyes wide open and relaxed

Cat feeling relaxed ©Claire Adams - Shutterstock

When you cat’s eyes are wide open, it shows that the muscles around the eyes have relaxed, which is indicative of their general state. If you approach your moggy and they have wide open eyes, you can almost guarantee that they’ll be receptive to a snuggle or two.

When your cat is sitting on your lap, try to get a look at their eyes. If your cat’s eyes are wide open and relaxed then you can be sure that your moggy is happy and relaxed in your presence.

5. Droopy or sleepy eyelids

Someone is getting sleepy ©Unsplash

It may not take a cat biologist to work this one out but if your cat’s eyes are half closed and droopy, then they’re relaxed and content. Some animal behaviorists describe this as a “kitty kiss”. So, if your relaxed kitty looks at you with sleepy eyes and purrs happily, you have one friendly cat on your hands!

What do cats’ eyes tell you? 

There are a number of things you can learn from looking into a cat’s eye, not only their mood but also the state of their health. Look out for the following warning signs and be prepared to pay your visit if you spot them:

  • A change in the size of one pupil can indicate a number of health disorders
  • If the third eyelid is partically closed, this could indicate illness or infection
  • If your cat’s eyes are red and sore looking they could have a condition that requires treatment
Does my cat have conjunctivitis? Here's how to spot the infection.

What do cats’ eyes look like when they are happy?

A sudden dilation of the eyes can show happiness and contentment. Relaxed pupils and wide, open eyes can show that your cat is happy and relaxed!

The eyes have it...

So, there you have it, your cat's eyes can tell you a number of different things about your furry friend. If you've just got a new cat and you're trying to decipher the type of mood they're in, pay attention to their eyes!

Frequently asked questions

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