Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Eyes Have It

Wouldn't you love to know what your cat is thinking? Although stereotyped as being distant and uncommunicative because of their solitary nature and independence, cats communicate very effectively. Look into your cat's eyes and you can tell a lot about his state of mind.

The degree of opening of the eyelids tells a tale. Wide-open eyes correlate with alertness and increased levels of mental activity – ready for action, if you will. Semi-closed or fluttering eyes mean that the cat is in a more dozy, complacent mood or may be in the mood for a nap. So if your cat's eyelids flutter and periodically close while he is looking at you, it is a sign of faith or trust. Even if he is on the brink of falling asleep at the time, squinting at you is still a compliment because your pet is showing that he is comfortable and trusting enough to take a nap in your presence.

Sometimes your cat will slowly, almost, but usually not quite, close her eyes and reopen them while looking at you. When almost closed, the eyes are held at the lowest point for a second. You can return the sentiment by gently squinting back, mimicking the cat's pattern. This is called ’blink kissing’ and uses the cat’s own language to say "I am not threatening you, you can relax". The cat often blinks in response and then acts in a self conscious way, perhaps fluffing itself up or grooming.

Humans love eye contact - it is friendly. For a cat, prolonged eye contact is an assertive, or even threatening, signal. The classic case is when several people are in a room for a social occasion and the host's cat walks in. It unerringly goes towards the person who doesn't like cats. Is it simply being perverse? The answer is in eye contact. Cat lovers will be watching the cat, hoping it goes to greet them. Those who don't particularly like cats will ignore it, hoping it will leave them alone. For the cat, the eye contact made by the cat lovers is somewhat threatening. It avoids them. The people who don't particularly like cats are not making eye contact - to the cat, they are signaling that they pose no threat. They are being polite in cat terms, so, ironically, it goes to socialize with them :)

Alice England


HappyDapperDogs said...

Very helpful & informative!! I never knew this about cats. I work for a lady who has a semi- ferral cat and it's the meanest darn cat housecat I've ever met. I'm always very alert to where he's at, because he will attack me. I think I will try some of this non verbal communication.

Mary said...

Very interesting post! I never knew about the eye "kissing." I will have to try that. I guess my kitties trust me; I've got one napping on either side of me right now. :)

Giupetto and Gianna Tails said...

Well, I am the type that often imitates animals. Never knew we may have been kissing. LOL
This was a great post. That is so ironic about the eye contact, basically doing the oposite of what the human intends. LOL
Alice, you also taught me about the eyes and what they mean with my bird, and this has helped me so much - to know when he is overly excited - ready to bite - ready to jump - or how much he loves what I just gave him to eat - I can actually now tell by the eyes.

Art and Sew Forth said...

Next time I go to the rescue, I won't look at any cats! Does that mean they will all follow me down the hall??! Great article...especially the last video!

AngelPups said...

We don't have cats, but good info for when we go visiting and if we happen into the cat area of the shelter!! ;-) Love the karate kitty ;-()

doodypops said...

yes! Kiss eyes! I do it all the time with my cats, its fun!