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My cat winks at me: why do they do it?

A ginger tabby winks at the camera

When a cat winks at you, it's a form of communication

© Vickich - Shutterstock

If you’re a proud cat parent, then you may have noticed your feline friend closing one eye in an expressive wink. But why do they do it? Here we look into why your cat winks at you!

By Natasha James

Published on the 26/06/2021, 18:00

Cats are unique creatures, aren’t they? And, despite their sometimes seemingly aloof natures, they have little quirks designed to make us melt on cue. Namely, the cat wink!

Ever gazed lovingly at your kitty only for them to blink slowly at you in return? It feels affectionate but is it? What does a cat wink or blink really mean?

Does my cat blinking at me mean they love me?

You’ll be delighted to hear that a slow blink from a kitty is a form of communication. Also known as “the kitty kiss”, this slow blink or one-eyed wink is a sign of love and affection and, if your cat is bestowing one on you, you can feel very happy indeed.

Why does my cat blink at me and then look away?

The simple gesture of a little kitty wink is thought to signify a cat’s trust. According to a study on feline behaviour from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of California, the gesture of temporarily closing the eyes shows tranquillity and confidence in the owner.

Why is my cat winking so much?

It’s true that the main reason a cat slowly blinks at you is to show affection but, that’s not the only reason. Take a look at the other possible reasons why your cat blinks at you.

1. It’s a form of communication

Cats are sociable animals and while they don’t have the endless enthusiasm and desire to be constantly by your side that a dog has, that doesn’t mean they don’t have loyalty and affection towards you. If you’ve noticed your cat wink or blink at you lazily then you can count yourself lucky, the little kitty is letting you know that they’re happy, comfortable and feel safe when you’re around.

Interestingly, cats use this same eye language with other cats when they live out in the wild. It’s thought to be a kitty kiss.

2. It’s their nictitating membrane at work

Did you know that cats have a third eyelid? Yep, the nictitating membrane as it’s officially known moves diagonally from the inner corner to the outer eye and helps your cat’s eyes to stay nice and moist. We don’t usually notice this as it moves pretty quickly but if your cat has something in their eye or their eyes are feeling drier than usual, it could be that your cat is winking to clear their eye.

3. It could be an eye infection

The occasional cat wink is a harmless and really rather lovely little show of affection but if your cat is winking continually and one eye seems red or sore then it’s possible that your kitty has an infection. If you notice discharge from the eye or if your cat is rubbing or scratching its eye a lot then it’s time to pay your vet a visit to rule out infection.

Are there other ways that cats communicate with their eyes?

Yes, absolutely. Cats’ soulful eyes are a major way of communicating with both their humans and other cats when out and about. Take a look at the common eye language that cats use and see what it means.

  • Eyes fully open – if your cat is wide-eyed then it probably means they’re awake, alert and devoting their attention to something or someone.
  • Eyes half-closed – your cat is so relaxed in your present that they don’t need to stay alert and on guard and instead, they feel that they can let you watch out for danger while they relax!
  • Dilated pupils – your cat is on edge. They could be excited (if you’ve just got their favourite toy out for example) or they could be feeling a little nervous. 
  • Direct eye contact – staring directly into a cat’s eyes feels very confrontational to them. If they’re staring back then soften your gaze to let your kitty know you’re a friend not a foe!
  • Avoiding eye contact – in the human world avoiding eye contact feels a little rude but in the feline world, they’re actually letting other cats know that they have friendly intentions!
Learn how to decipher your cat's facial expressions and body language

The final word on cats’ winks

When you reflect that an extended stare is considered confrontational and aggressive in the animal kingdom, the slow blink makes a lot of sense. It’s your kitty’s way of showing that they’re happy, relaxed and comfortable in your presence. In short, whatever you’re doing to make your cat slow blink at you – keep doing it!

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