Although cats can’t speak to us, they can communicate in different ways. Vocalizations are a common way of getting a human’s attention or showing contentment, but the slow blink is another form of communication that can easily go unnoticed.
It took me ages to figure out what my cat was doing when she blinked slowly. Eventually, I discovered she wasn’t blinking slowly because she was tired; she was trying to tell me she felt safe and content. When you slowly blink at a cat, they understand you’re expressing your love for them.
However, that doesn’t mean your cat will always reciprocate the gesture. You definitely aren’t alone in wondering, “Why does my cat look away when I slow blink?” Your kitty probably looks away for one of three reasons: (1) you aren’t slow blinking properly, (2) they trust you completely, and (3) they don’t fully trust you yet.
In this article, I go through each of these reasons, explaining why they mean your cat isn’t responding to you. I also cover what the slow blink is, whether your cat understands when you do it (the scientific research says yes!), and how to stop your feline from looking away.
Why Does My Cat Blink Slowly?
You’re not alone if you’ve only just heard about the slow blink.
I was a cat mom for years before I came across the phrase, and I had no idea what it meant. Thankfully, the concept of the slow blink is pretty simple (it’s exactly what it sounds like), so you should be able to pick up the basics in no time!
To the untrained eye, the slow blink probably seems like any other blink. It may be slightly slower than usual, but it’s basically just the opening and closing of the eyes. Cats blink slowly as a sign of trust. It is their way of showing that they feel safe and comfortable with you, and some people have described the slow blink as the feline version of a welcoming smile.
Slow blinking has also been compared to laughing. As we all know, cats don’t laugh, but that doesn’t mean they don’t find amusement in things. Cats have a different sense of humor from humans, and slow blinking could be a way for you to determine what makes them happy!
However, ensure you don’t confuse slow blinking with an eye problem. For example, if my cat is keeping one eye closed, I know it is probably conjunctivitis rather than a form of slow blink. Redness or discharge from the eyes are other signs that your kitty might need to visit the vet.
Do Cats Understand When You Slow Blink at Them?
One of the few things many owners, myself included, would change about cats is their ability to communicate with us. Imagine if you could tell your feline friend how much you loved and cared for them, and it would understand. Well, now you can!
Sort of, at least. One of the most amazing things about the slow blink is that it is one of the few ways you can communicate with your cat in its own language! Research from a few years ago has shown that felines understand when you slowly blink at them.
The study had two parts: (1) where the cats interacted with their owners and (2) where they were observed with strangers. In both parts of the study, the results were the same. Felines are more likely to slow blink at you if you slow blink at them first. They were also more likely to approach a human for petting after receiving a slow blink.
This suggests that slow blinking is a positive form of communication that can improve our relationship with our furry friends. To them, the slow blinking action signifies that you’re not a threat, meaning they are more likely to approach you.
Why Does My Cat Look Away When I Slow Blink?
Now that I’ve established that your cat understands when you slow blink at them, let us discuss why it may look away from you rather than return the favor. It can be confusing when your feline refuses to reciprocate your sign of love, but it usually doesn’t indicate anything bad.
Below I go through each possible reason, so read on for all you need to know.
1. You Don’t Know How to Slow Blink
First up is perhaps the most obvious explanation: you don’t know how to slow blink. Blinking slowly sounds simple enough, but many people have to practice before they get the action down and their feline understands what they are trying to say.
Try to narrow your eyes as if you were warmly smiling at your cat, and then close them for a few seconds. Up to five seconds closed is around the optimal length of time initially. After a bit of practice, you should have perfected the slow blink and have your kitty responding in no time!
2. It’s a Sign of Ultimate Trust
Cats are constantly on the lookout for potential dangers when in the wild. This is why we are sure that slow blinking indicates trust! When blinking slowly, your cat breaks your eye contact for longer than they need to, which it would only ever do if they’re 100% certain nothing bad will happen while its gaze is averted.
Some cats like to take things one step further. This means your kitty may look away from you as a sign of ultimate trust! By breaking eye contact altogether, your cat could be showing you that you aren’t a threat to them. After all, anything could happen when your feline isn’t looking your way. All cats are different; this might be your cat’s way of showing it trusts you.
For confirmation, try looking for other signs that your cat trusts you. If your cat reaches his paw out or regularly sleeps in the cat loaf position, your cat likely trusts you completely. My cat nibbles my fingers as a sign of affection as well. Exposing their bellies is another sign of trust; this is where all cats’ vital organs are located, and they wouldn’t risk exposing their weakest point if they didn’t trust you!
3. Your Cat Doesn’t Trust You Yet
If your cat has never slow blinked at you, there may be a slightly more upsetting reason: they don’t trust you enough to return the favor. In this case, your slow blinking probably makes them feel anxious rather than assured, and many cats choose to ignore the things that cause them stress.
Your feline’s lack of trust could stem from past trauma, and slow blinking is rarely seen in rescue kittens with traumatic pasts. It may also occur if you have recently stepped on its tail or shouted at your cat. My cat won’t cuddle after she has been accidentally stepped on, so perhaps look out for this if you think a lack of trust is the reason your kitty doesn’t reciprocate your signs of love.
What to Do If My Cat Looks Away When I Slow Blink?
I know it can be upsetting when your furry friend repeatedly looks away when you slowly blink, but the best thing you can do is be patient and keep trying. When I first tried communicating with my kitty, she always looked away. I knew she trusted me from her body language and behavior, but she refused to slow blink back!
In the end, it took me 20 slow blinks to merely get my cat to keep watching me, and then at least another 20 before she started to blink back! So don’t give up. The most important thing is that you ensure you’re not blinking too fast and keep trying.
Unfortunately, some cats will never reciprocate your slow blink. This is especially true of rescue kittens or other cats with traumatic pasts, as they are likely to have trouble trusting humans. In this case, your kitty will need more space, but there are other ways you can show your love, such as by playing with them.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
So, there we have it! A cat slowly blinks at you to show they feel happy, safe, and comfortable. By breaking eye contact, they communicate that they trust you and know you’re not a threat. On the converse, when my cat stares at me all the time, I know she’s stressed or untrusting of me.
Amazingly, slow blinking is also one of the few ways you can communicate your love to your feline friend and strengthen the trust between you. In fact, research has shown that cats are much more likely to slow blink if you do so to them first! This being said, it is not uncommon for a cat to look away when you slow blink at them.
So, why does my cat look away when I slow blink? Three main things could be behind this: you don’t know how to slow blink, your cat trusts you, or your cat doesn’t trust you. The best thing you can do in these situations is to practice your slow blink and be patient. As long as you don’t give up, you should see results in the end.