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 :)