Do You Know All About Cats’ Eyes?

small black cat with glasses reading bookHave you looked into your kitty’s round, beautiful eyes and wondered what the cat was trying to tell you? Have you observed the changes in his expressions, which are definitely enhanced by those luminous eyes? Read on, and learn all about cats’ eyes and how they can talk to you.

Cats Communicate With Their Whole Body

Cats may not have a spoken language, but they use many parts of their body to try to communicate their messages to you. To learn to decode all the messages being given by the cat’s various body parts, we have to understand how each message is conveyed.

Note the tail, whiskers, fur, voices, and of course, the eyes. Have you witnessed your cat trying to talk to you with his eyes? Look in the direction of his gaze and you can see what has his attention.

Various Meanings of the Cat’s Gaze

white long-haired cat head, green eyes, slitted
slit eyes — fear or aggression

The cat’s gaze will have different meanings. When he stares at you without blinking, does he want something or is he angry? It could be either. Sometimes, if the cat has a fixed gaze and a rigid posture, it could mean hostility. At other times, it could be a request for petting or for some other kind of attention.

Look at the position of the eyelids and dilation of the pupil. A slit pupil could mean fear, anger, pleasure, or excitement. Wide open eyes signify trust. An unblinking stare at another cat could signify control, dominance, or aggression. Droopy eyelids mean that you have just received a kitty kiss.

Eye talk can be reinforced by what the rest of the cat’s body is telling you. Observe ear and whisker position, the tail movement, or fluffed fur.

Any strong emotion on the part of your cat can cause the eye to contract into a slit. It could be happiness or aggression. Watch your cat next time you give him his favorite food, or a catnip mouse. Look at the shape of the eyes and how far they are open. Are those pupils dilated?

If your cat suddenly has a surprise meeting with a new cat, this contracting of the pupils may occur.

face of grey cat with blue eyes
Slit pupil — fear, anger, pleasure, or excitement

When your cat is alert, his eyes will open wide. Because wide eyes expose the eyes to injury, this opening can be a sign of great trust.

Do you have more than one cat in your family? One may stare at the others without blinking from a distance. This stare can be a sign of control, dominance, or even aggression. By using this unblinking stare at another cat, your cat keeps other felines from his territory. This applies to food bowls, litter box, or other territory that is important to the cat.

The slit-eyed look can be an indication of fear or aggression. If the cat squints, he may do so as a protective measure. In case of a disagreement, he doesn’t want to get his eyes scratched. Don’t lock eyes with a cat you do not know. You might cause him to attack.

Receiving a “Kitty Kiss”

When your cat is relaxed and trusting, look at those eyes. He will have droopy, sleepy-looking eyelids. Try this: Meet the kitty’s gaze with one of your own that is also relaxed. Then slowly blink. If your cat blinks back, you have been sent a sign of the deepest affection.

When you are trying to make friends with a new cat you met outdoors, don’t stare at him. You will either intimidate him and he will leave, or he may react with some aggressive behavior. You will not make friends with him that way.

head and shoulders of orange kitty; wide pupils
wide-open eyes

Wide-open kitty eyes don’t just indicate trust. They also mean friendliness, curiosity, or even playfulness. Watch kittens who have not yet learned to fear. They show innocent pleasure when meeting one another — a charming thing to watch.

Cats use the slow eye-blink “kitty kiss” with other cats as well as humans. Kitty psychology is at work here. Cats who use that non-

threatening signal are better able to enjoy smooth relationships with other cats. Thus, they maintain good social interaction.

Jackson Galaxy, in his book, Cat Daddy, describes his use of this technique at his new job as the front desk supervisor at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.

One morning during a thunder and lightening storm, he was faced with 45 cats in cages screaming in terror. Jackson went to each cat and gave each one a slow blink. After several hours, all the cats had stopped screaming and were

Orange cat head, looking up; eyelids drooping
Droopy eyelids — a kitty kiss

back to a state of confidence and stillness.

Try it on your cat. Next time you are sitting in the room and your cat is across the room gazing at you, look back, and with great exaggeration, slowly shut and then open your eyes. Chances are, your cat will send a kitty-kiss eye blink back to you.

Cats Have a Nictating Membrane

Did you know that cats have an inner, third eyelid This is called a “nictating membrane.” This third eyelid helps protect the eye from dryness and/or damage.

Your cat’s moods are reflected by his eyes. You can look at the pupil size for a clue. If angry, the cat will have narrowed pupils. An

Drawing of cat head; large eyes; mouth open
Unblinking stare: control, dominance, agression, when directed at other cats

excited or frightened cat will have his eyes wide open, with large pupils. If your cat is mellow and happy, the eye shade may appear to be a bit darker than normal.

A cat’s night vision is much superior to ours. They can see with only 1/6 of the light that we need to see. The muscles in the iris are constricted to allow the eyes to narrow to a vertical slit in bright light, or to open fully in dim light, allowing maximum illumination.

What Causes a Cat’s Eyes to Glow At Night?

Do you recall the shiny green orbs you see in the cat’s eyes at night when a small amount of light hits them? This phenomenon is caused by a reflective layer behind the cat’s retina. This layer is known as the tapetum lucidum. This reflective layer reflects incoming light, then bounces it back off the cones, thus using more of the existing light.

The tapetum causes the eyes to glow at night when a small amount of light hits them. Since cats are nocturnal in the wild, these special features have probably developed for survival purposes.

Now you can be more aware of the messages your kitty is giving you with those wonderful eyes. Your kitty conversations should be enhanced by this new knowledge.

If you would like to read the article that was the source of this information, go to Here is the link. pictures in this story will show you the various ways in which kitty’s eyes can reflect his mood.

12 thoughts on “Do You Know All About Cats’ Eyes?”

  1. I’m a lover of cats. I love cats so much that it’s what I use as my wallpaper. I come from a place where cats are seen to be evil, so I’m not usually allowed to keep one around, but I always explain to people that cats are the best pets one can have. Once I move in to my own place, I’m sure to have my own cat. 

    • That is so sad, that some people think cats are evil.  There was a time when cats were killed in large numbers because people thought they were evil.  Then the Black Plague hit, because the rats had multiplied so much with no cats to kill them.  I agree with you.  I think a cat is the best pet to have.  They are amazing creatures.

  2. Dear Fran,

    Nice article. I really enjoyed the content and in the manner that you presented. This was a highly informative article and I learned a lot of new things.

    The timing of this post is awesome because I am planning to have kittens shortly and this post means a lot to me and I am unaware of all these information on cat eyes and Kitty kiss is an eye-opener.

    I am going to implement what I learned from this post with my kittens and also going to share your post with my best friend who is having great love for cats, actually from him only I am going to get 2 kittens for free Lol.

    Thanks again for this post.

    Much Success!


    • I am so glad you liked the article, and find it useful.  Since you are getting kittens, you might read the two stories I have about kitten care.  There’s information on there you would most likely find valuable.  Enjoy your new family!

  3. This article was very informative on Cats eyes, as I personally do not have a cat, but am surrounded my friends and family ones, I have a much better understanding what they could be possibly saying.

    I noticed you mentioned not to lock eyes with a cat you don’t know, are we able to speak to cats through eye contact? (if that makes sense) for example; if a cat we know is looking at us, are we able to give them a look that may show them that we are excepting of them or is that better through body language?

    Thank you

    • Thanks for your comment.  As to your question, if a cat is looking at you, why not send it a slow blink?  Then it will see you as non-aggressive.  That might work.  I’d love to know the results if you try it.

  4. Thank you for sharing with us this great article on cats eyes.I always wonder how God has created animals?They are very intelligent and can speak even if most of the humans can’t understand their language.

    My cat talks to me when she needs food showing her eyes and I understand that too what people have is to be friends with their cats because none can understand them without giving them time.

    I got some other new body languages in this post that’s why I am going to check if my cat’s means the same.

    • What I find amazing is that God created so many variations of animals, each with their own characteristics and skills.  They are all equipped with what they need to survive.  

      The cat’s eyes are one way of expressing herself, but she uses her whole body to get the message across.  I’ll be doing an article next on the tail, which is another of the cat’s communication tools.  Interesting uses for their bodies!  

  5. You’re totally right, a cat’s eyes are tools of communication for sure. I had never analysed it in as much detail as you covered here but I have always been aware of  my cat’s varying eye shape, color, tone and depth. 

    In fact there are times where I catch my cat staring at me in a way that makes me feel quite self conscious, almost as if he knows what I am thinking. There is no judgment though just aware knowing. I always find these moments quite unnerving at first. 

    I  love that idea of a slow blink which I’m definitely going to try as my cat hates thunderstorms and  and always gets spooked with the noise of the thunder and lightning streaking across the sky.

    Thank you this was a most enjoyable read!


    • So glad you enjoyed it.  It’s fascinating, all the different techniques cats use to communicate.  We just need to learn to interpret better.  I’m doing a post soon on the language of the kitty tail.  Another method of communication!

  6. You have shared intriguing information on how cats communicate, more so with their gaze. I am well enlightened now thanks. My favourite part of your article is about ‘Receiving the Kitty Kiss’. I am going to try to meet my cat’s relaxed gaze with my own relaxed gaze and slowly blink as you have suggested and see how it goes.

    • I’m glad you liked the article.  Yes, I think it would be a fun thing for many cat folks to try.  How sweet, to get a kitty kiss!


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