Have you ever noticed your cat staring at you? I catch my kitty glancing my way all the time! Her gorgeous yellow eyes are hard not to notice, and I always feel loved when I see her staring my way.
But then I got thinking: Why does my cat stare at me? I assumed it was a sign of love and affection, but could it be the opposite? Perhaps my cat needs something from me? Or could it be that something is wrong?
As it turns out, all of these are possible explanations! In this article, I look at each reason in more detail and help you determine which applies. By the end of this article, you’ll have a much better picture of what is going on in your cat’s head and whether your cat’s stares are a sign of love or a warning!
What Do Cats Tell Us With the Way They Stare?
Changes in each part of your cat’s body – from the nose to the tail, the way she moves, the inconsistencies of her purring, and her magnificent gaze – give invaluable insight into how our cats feel. Your cat masterfully uses each one of these signifiers to express what she wants to tell us, to show happiness or to complain, to display excitement, or to report her wish list.
As a cat owner, in the early years, I could not stop myself from thinking, “Why is my cat staring at me like this?”. It was hard to figure out what those beautiful eyes said, so small at one moment and inexplicably gigantic at the next. It wasn’t just me that my cat was staring at intently either. The thin space between two cabinets, the gap under your seat, the door at your house’s entrance, a spot unclear for you from the windowsill…
So where is my cat looking? Why is she looking there? And what is she trying to tell me? What does it mean when her eyes are wide open? What does it mean when a cat squints? Knowing the difference between wide-open and half-closed eyes is a great first step, so let’s take a close look.
Why Do Cats Stare with Eyes Wide Open?
Cats are among a group of animals with the largest eyes in proportion to the size of their bodies. But some cats stare with extremely wide eyes, even for them!
Often this is due to curiosity… Cats are immensely interested in the outside world. Her eyes grow wide with interest when dealing with you or a toy. It doesn’t have to be a designated cat toy either; anything that can be thrown, hugged, and kicked with the small strokes of her paws could spark your cat’s interest. Likewise, almost any hard surface (sorry, furniture!) can be used as a scratching board for nail care.
However, your cat’s eyes get bigger in different emotional states besides curiosity. Examples include pleasure, anger, and rage. You’ll also notice your cat’s eye widen when her hunting instincts kick in or when she demands food. These situations all fire up the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “fight or flight” response. In turn, this causes the pupils to dilate.
Why Do Cats Stare with Half-Closed Eyes?
An adult cat – especially in a comfortable domestic environment where all her needs are met – could sleep up to 18 hours during the day. That’s how our little friend gathers her high energy in the remaining hours of the day.
If your cat is sitting with her eyes half-closed or lying down, it is time to take a break from playing and eating. This is a sign of exhaustion! It is only a matter of time before the eyelids close completely, and she is ready for a nap.
Why Does My Cat Stare at Me?
To understand why cats stare at their owners, we need to quickly mention one thing: hunting. Cats are master hunters! Their wild ancestors have passed on this skill through years of evolution.
While hunting, cats use their excellent vision to watch and observe what is happening in their surroundings with all their attention. Their eyes are open and alert – they’re trying to get as much insight into their prey’s movement and position as possible to increase their chances of success. Her attention is focused on a specific point.
But of course, this interest is not just for hunting… When a cat’s eyes are wide open and rarely blink, she is paying attention to a specific thing in her environment. If your cat stares at you, you know she’s got all her attention turned toward you. Why? Here are five possible reasons.
1. Love & Affection
Cats often stare at their owners as a sign of love. They want to know what you’re up to, so they fixate all their attention on you. They’re not asking for anything but rather showing interest in you.
You’ll know if your cat stares out of love as she watches you with compassion. She stares at you with wide eyes from where she is sitting or perhaps spreading and lying comfortably. She blinks very rarely and slowly. This is when she tells you: ‘‘I’m listening to you; you have my attention. I trust you, and I love you.’’ These slow blinks are a kind of flirtation. That’s why this stare is referred to as a kitty kiss.
If you return this look of your cat with a soft and caring glance or even loving words, she will be over the moon! Since their night vision is very sharp, sometimes they can enjoy watching you at your feet or right next to your pillow while you sleep. Don’t be surprised if you wake up to two bright spots watching you! Everything’s alright.
On the converse, don’t feel upset if your cat doesn’t stare at you often. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you! Cats show affection in their own ways. Some cats purr when you pet them, some make biscuits on their owners, or some follow them around.
Remember how I said a half-open stare is a sign of exhaustion? If your cat’s eyes are half-closed and blinking slowly, she is tired. Have you just finished playing together? She’s probably still peaceful and enjoying herself. She may even be trying to thank you for the toy mouse-catching game you just played.
But now, she is drained and ready to sleep. When can a cat say no to sleep anyway?! Ensure you let your cat catch up on its beauty sleep – you can play together again once she’s recovered.
3. Essential Needs Aren’t Met
Huge eyes can be accompanied by fast blinking or long shrill meows. Sometimes, I even see my cat reach his paw out to me. This is a blatant call for attention. Your cat wants something from you and has a demand that isn’t currently being met.
In many cases, cats will be meowing and staring as they want food. You can give your kitty some dinner if it’s that time of the day, but make sure you don’t overfeed. Alternatively, some cats might be trying to advise you that their litter box needs changing. Make sure you scoop out any waste from the litter tray daily so it remains clean and fresh.
Love and attention are other essential needs. Cats are often considered independent and aloof, but cats can get lonely! They need human contact and hate it when their owners are gone for too long. I always notice my cat’s so affectionate all of a sudden after returning from a few days away. Try giving your cat love and see if this helps.
4. Unfamiliar Behavior
Generally, if there is no unusual situation, your cat will not care much while you are walking around. But sometimes, even when all her needs are met, your cat follows you wherever you go!
This is usually brought on by unfamiliar behavior that your cat doesn’t expect, such as if your voice is louder than usual. This could happen in an argument, if you are very sad or cheerful, or even singing and dancing! Your cat wants to know what has caused this louder-than-normal sound.
When this curiosity is sparked, your cat is entirely focused on you and gives you all her attention with her gaze. It isn’t just voices that can spark this response – any noise does the trick. I often hear my cat meow when I sneeze as the change intrigues her. Coughing could have the same result.
On the other hand, don’t forget that the changes in your mood also affect your cat. If your mood changes positively, your cat’s happiness and curiosity increase. However, when it is the opposite, her curiosity is accompanied by anxiety. Huge eyes accompany her tense meows and stiff tail movements.
5. Anger & Fear
Here is one of the looks you should avoid! Cats stare at their owners when you’re angry. Thankfully, this staring is distinctive: your cat is staring at you with its big eyes and has lowered her straight tail with a downward angle. Your cat might also be hissing, or you could hear long and deep growls.
It is possible that she did not like the scolding she had just heard from you and is preparing to attack to establish her authority over you. However, this could also be the result of redirected aggression. Or perhaps you’re doing something your cat doesn’t like – such as running the vacuum around.
One of the first solutions I can think of to prevent such an attack is to not look directly into your cat’s eyes as she does. If possible, sit at the same level as her and speak softly. She will calm down in a short amount of time.
Also, never pet your cat when it’s angry! I had my cat bite me when I pet her once, and it was so painful! I know you’re only trying to calm your cat, but don’t! Leave her be – she’ll calm back down in her own time.
Why is My Cat Looking at an Empty Space?
Cats constantly surprise us with their crazy antics. They pursue a relentless chase of imaginary prey and make a mess of your house. Suddenly, your cat can decide that everything on the table is unnecessary and send it down one by one with a tiny paw action.
So, how can this energetic little hairball suddenly stop and fix her gaze at a point for several minutes? As mentioned, cats stare at their owners for several reasons. But let’s face it: we aren’t the only things our furry friends stare at. So, why do cats stare at empty spaces?
1. Sensing Change
You may think your cat is looking somewhere where there is nothing to see. For example, a ceiling or an empty wall may suddenly be of interest. However, cats are rarely staring at nothing! They may be following the slightest change, an unusual noise from upstairs, a fly that has just landed on a wall, or the minor changes in the air current.
If your cat sits staring at the street door, don’t assume that the only reason for this is that she wants to go out of the house. Perhaps an activity is happening right outside you’re not yet aware of. Maybe a guest is coming to visit your neighbor, or your housemate is nearing your front door. They’ve not yet rung the bell or used their key, but your cat knows they’re there!
This is because your cat’s senses and perception abilities are much sharper than yours. And when these senses are activated, your cat’s eyes are fixated in the direction of what she perceives.
2. Day Dreaming
On the other hand, we cannot claim that we can fully solve the mysterious world of cats, can we? It could be that none of these possibilities are occurring, and our cat may be watching an imaginary landscape in the mystery world she has created for herself.
Does your furry friend ever curl up in the cat loaf position, watching the world go by? My cat can spend hours watching the street on the cushion I prepared for her by the window of my house.
Apart from napping and the occasional visit to her food bowl, she spends almost half the day by the window, fixing her beautiful blue eyes periodically on a tree, a bird that takes off, children running, or cars passing by. It would not be right to compare your cat’s habits with that of a person.
Because there is rarely anything more tempting than observation for your cat who sits comfortably in a high place, carrying the legacy of her ancestors, who controlled the environment and scanned for potential prey, by taking a similar position. She’s likely daydreaming about what she’d be doing if she was exploring the outside world or remembering her fondest memories there.
Why is My Cat Looking Under the Seat or Behind the Closet?
Cats love enclosed and small hiding places. For this reason, they love to hide any small objects they bring from the street or find at home. This includes toys, “gifts” from the garden, pieces of food, and other small things.
Cats can easily collect their loot (a pencil, a hairpin, a coin, a grape she picked up from the table, a nut she found under the coffee table, etc.) for days or even months without anybody noticing. They love to hide any small objects they bring from the street or find at home. Occasionally, she pushes one of them out and plays with it for a while, sometimes eats it.
Sometimes you do not understand where it came from, but you are surprised to find out that the thing she is playing with is the lost button of your coat that you have been looking for days. This is quite a common occurrence in homes with cats.
Because she senses the presence of insects, mice, or even snakes that can be seen in houses with gardens in certain areas. On the other hand, if your cat has begun to inspect an invisible side of any item or under it by opening her eyes thoroughly and standing still, and if she is persistent in this position, it may be useful to take a look at what is there. Perhaps an unwanted guest may have come to visit you!
Cat’s Pupil: Perfect Design in Adaptation
A person’s pupil is circular while that of a cat has the shape of a vertical ellipse. Thanks to this elliptical pupil, she can adjust the amount of light coming into her eyes during the day, as well as control how much of it will reach the retina.
In the dark, a cat can see an average of 6 to 8 times better than a human. There is no scientific evidence that cats see better than humans in daylight. However, they are much better than people in seeing fast-moving objects.
You may have noticed that while your cat is drowsy or is slowly opening and closing the eyelids just before sleeping, a translucent thin tissue between the two eyelids covers the eye for a moment and then disappears behind the eyelids. This is your cat’s third eyelid. It acts as an extra protection shield between the cornea and eyelids. It also helps keep the eye moist.
However, this transparent layer should only be noticeable when your cat is getting ready to sleep or during sleep. If you see this layer when your cat’s eyes are completely open during the day, then there is a problem. I suggest you consult your vet.
At the center of her charming gaze are your cat’s pupils which are a marvel of design. They usually dilate and contract depending on the light intensity in the environment. Enlarging to a full circle to catch even the smallest light in the dark, the pupils are contracted by the light intensity in daylight.
Do not worry in case you are curious about the answer to the following question: My cat’s eyes were blue when he was a tiny kitten, now she is three years old and they are green, is that normal?
The eye colors of cats that vary from green to yellow to chestnut. They might even be a different color when they are only a few months old and then take a completely different color permanently during adulthood.
Cats have been subjected to various definitions since antiquity because of their looks and behavior, from being ascribed as a mysterious presence, to being a sign of sanctity and a sign of bad luck. Although they are still considered to be of mystical importance in some parts of the world today; cats may contain mysteries, especially when it comes to their eyes, that still puzzles some of us and deserve scientific answers.
Do Cats See in the Dark?
Compared to humans, cats see very well in low-light environments; only 15% of the light we need for seeing is sufficient for a cat. This is one of the most important reasons why they are known as master night hunters like the roots of their species, big cats. But, contrary to what many people think, they do not have a clear night vision in a completely light-free environment.
I assume that the most important reason why there is no night vision feature in the human eye is that we are primarily designed to see better in daylight. Thanks to its multifunctional eye muscles and receptor cells, the human eye has a strong, detailed and clear view with a strong distance perception and a wide range of colors in the daylight.
However, it can never match a cat at night. For more detailed information on cat sight, you can refer back to my earlier article called can cats see in the dark?
Why Do Cats’ Eyes Shine in the Dark?
This will sound familiar for those who have a cat: two bright green dots follow you closely in the hallway as you wake up thirsty at night and head towards the kitchen in the dark.
So, what’s the secret of the eyes of this hairy little creature in the dark? The characteristic of a cat’s eyes that allow her to see better at night also causes her eyes to glow in very dim lights.
A reflective layer is located just behind the retinas of cats. This special area, which increases the power of the light absorbed by the receptor cells of the eye (photoreceptors) is called tapetum lucidum. Thanks to this reflective layer which increases the vision and holds the light, even in low light levels, your cat’s eyes shine.
In nature, there is tapetum lucidum not only in cats, but also in dogs, horses, cows, deer, and the eyes of predators that hunt almost all night long.
Do Cats See in Black and White?
Contrary to common knowledge, cats can perceive color. But they see colors differently than the average human eye.
The receptors that perceive colors in the retina in a cat’s eye, choose between only blue and green. This color perception, which is not as diverse as the human eye, can at most be compared to that of a color-blind person who cannot perceive red.
In short, cats do not see the world around them in black and white, but still, they have a different color perception compared to humans.
Can Cats See Ultraviolet Rays?
In a study conducted by Biologist Professor Ron H. Douglas and his team at the City University of London in 2014, it was discovered that cats perceive ultraviolet rays that the human eye cannot detect. Just like dogs, fish, reptiles, and a bunch of other mammals, cats can see ultraviolet, just like all other superheroes!
Why Are My Cat’s Pupils Dilated?
Naturally, a cat with a great pair of eyes with so many characteristics doesn’t use her pupils only to adjust the light intensity. The narrowing and widening pupil is also a tool to communicate with you and other creatures.
Of course, if we can decipher it! Let’s take a look at the possible reasons for dilated pupils in cats:
1. Low Light Levels
By dilating her pupils, the cat can tour the house all night without hitting anything, climb to your bed and lie down at the place most comfortable and closest to you. She can even wait beside you and watch you all night. Who knows, maybe she can succumb to his sudden desire to play and plan a paw attack on your feet hanging out from the edge of the duvet!
2. Stress or Fear
Regardless of the light, it might be worrying for your cat if there is an unusual change in her environment that she won’t like or is not used to. It might be stressful for your cat if there is a threat from another animal, if she stays hungry and thirsty for a long time, or if the house is empty for a long time and therefore, she cannot communicate with anybody. At such times, adverse changes in the body and health are accompanied by a dilated pupil due to an increase in her perception of danger.
3. Playing or Hunting
Another example where you can notice that your cat’s pupils are dilated is playtime. While hunting; during an attack or an ambush her excitement increases by nature, so her eyes will open wide and the pupils will dilate to become a full circular shape. No problem. If you accompany her in the game, this delightful excitement will be good for her and it will be an activity that will entertain both of you and strengthen the bond you have with her.
4. Eye-Related Illness
If no change in the environment is visible to you, there may be a problem with your cat’s eyes (one or both). Be careful if your cat’s pupils remain enlarged for more than a day! This may be a sign of disease.
Besides her dilated pupils, paying attention to your cat’s eating/drinking routine, changes in the duration of her toilet times, and the content will help your vet to diagnose correctly and efficiently, and arrange an appropriate treatment if there is a problem.
Why Are My Cat’s Pupils Constricted?
The light level in the environment may be above average for your cat. For example, the pupils of a cat sitting by the window or walking on the street on a very sunny day contract as much as possible to balance the light intensity.
There’s no problem with the amount of light, but your cat’s pupils still seem contracted. Pay attention to environmental factors. Another cat, animal, human, or maybe yourself may have angered your cat! I advise you to check if you have been playing with him enough lately, the cleanliness of the sandbox or whether there is tension between another cat coming by the edge of the window and your cat.
As soon as the problem is resolved, you will immediately notice the relaxation in your cat’s gaze.
Most Common Eye Problems in Cats
Self-commanded and cheerful, lazy, and lethargic… Regardless of her character, your furry friend’s eyes will shine in the face of all kinds of toys and food that attracts her attention if they’re healthy!
But, as all cat lovers know, those magnificent eyes get hazy, watery, reddened, or even shut one or both at a time. Often, this is caused by diseases of the eye. Eye issues can be serious, potentially leading to blindness or a partial loss of vision. Therefore, you need to visit your vet at the if in any doubt over your cat’s ocular health.
If you are one of those people who carefully monitor your cat’s health, I recommend you take her to the veterinarian at least once a year and have an eye examination.
Now let’s take a look at the eye problems your cat can face:
- Allergy and Irritation
- Corneal Ulcer
1. Allergy and Irritation
Why are my cat’s eyes squinted and watery?
The most likely answer to this question is often allergy or friction irritation. This is one of the most common problems in the eyes of cats.
Sometimes your cat can irritate one or both eyes with her paw while cleaning herself or while playing with another cat… Also, dust, strong odors, and smoke can cause allergies and irritation.
Some of the symptoms are:
- Your cat squints her eyes, the eyes stay squinted continuously.
- Her eyes are completely closed.
- Watering of eyes.
- Burrs caused by excessive watering around the eyes.
- Transparent discharge.
- Moisten the problematic eye by soaking a cotton ball in warm water and wiping it without causing much discomfort to your cat by applying too much pressure.
- Applying the same method with warm black tea or chamomile tea, repeating once or twice a day.
- If the problem persists for more than a day, consult your veterinarian and apply the appropriate eye drops at the suggested amount and time.
Usually, when we encounter such problems, eye drops that we use and are sold in pharmacies may also work in this situation. Your vet will tell you what is necessary.
The eye problem, which is sometimes caused by allergies and irritation, can be confused with the onset of a more serious infection. If the recommended drops don’t work, it is necessary to take your cat to the vet and start treatment with antibiotic drops and ointments if necessary.
The second most common problem after allergies and irritation in cats is infections caused by various reasons. It can especially be seen in cats who live on the street or spend time outside the house, get in contact with other cats or in house cats who are negatively affected by environmental conditions.
Some infections affect the nose as well as the eye, therefore the respiratory tract. The sooner the infections caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites are noticed, the easier it is to treat.
- Constant squinting in one or both eyes of the cat.
- Watering of the eyes.
- Discharge (mostly yellow).
- Crust around the eyes.
- The eye is completely closed.
- Itchy eyes.
- Sometimes accompanying bumps and/or wheezing in breathing.
Treatment of the infection depends on the underlying cause.
- First of all, moisten a piece of cotton wool with warm water and gently wipe your cat’s eyes and, if necessary, nose.
- To apply warm black tea or chamomile tea with the same method.
- To follow her rest and nutrition by checking that her food and water are sufficient and fresh.
- Applying appropriate eye drops by consulting your vet.
If within a few days there is no improvement in the situation or a worsening, you may need to take your cat to the vet and apply the recommended treatment methods with antibiotic drops and/or ointment, sometimes oral medication.
Sometimes in severe infections, your vet may order some tests to clarify the underlying cause.
Often the traumas experienced by stray cats and cats going out of the house are a nightmare for cat owners! Many causes such as a blow in the eye in a catfight, a foreign material stabbed in the eye, injuries caused by falling from a high place, and vehicle crashing cause various traumas from light to heavy.
Such injuries can be common, especially if you have a very active and overly curious cat!
- Watering of eyes.
- Significant discomfort in the cat.
- Significant damage to the eyes.
- Severe damage to the eye and surrounding tissues.
- Eye coming out of the eye socket (proptosis).
In mild traumas: The cat’s eyes are reddened and watered. It is also evident that she suffered in a way that is visible from her body movements and that she is in pain. If necessary, excess fluid in the eye is drained by taking her to the vet immediately. It is treated with drops containing antibiotics, ointments, and painkillers.
In severe or multiple traumas: Your cat’s eye and surrounding area may be seriously damaged. Generally, situations such as a foreign body adhered to the eye, a violent fight with another animal, an attack, or a car crash can lead to this type of trauma. Most of the time, surgical intervention or complete eye removal may be required if necessary.
4. Corneal Ulcer
The transparent corneal layer on the surface of the cat’s eyes also has a translucent texture. Sometimes this layer loses its transparency due to infection, injury, dry eyes, or a purely anatomical anomaly. There may be a decrease in vision. In severe cases, blindness may occur if necessary intervention is not performed.
- The eye surface (cornea) becomes a tissue that is cloudy with decreased permeability.
- Visible discomfort in the cat.
Light and initial ulcers can be controlled and even fully cured by using antibiotics taken orally, or with eye drops and painkillers prescribed by your veterinarian.
Advanced ulcers: Surgical operation may be required.
Blockage in your cat’s tear ducts or eye veins for various reasons raises her blood pressure. Glaucoma is a problem that needs to be taken very seriously and the underlying cause must be investigated and intervened by experts.
Early diagnosis and treatment often respond very well. In some cats, glaucoma can be genetic. If not timely intervened, it can lead to blindness and even a complete loss of the eye.
- Redness in the cat’s eyes.
- Formation of a cloudy layer in the eye.
- In some cases, shape and tissue changes in the pupil (probability of tumor is investigated).
- Discharging (drainage) the liquid from the eye and drug support.
- Surgical intervention if eye pressure does not drop (Sometimes an eye may need to be completely removed.)
- In the case of tissue deterioration in the pupil, a biopsy can be performed to eliminate tumor suspicion.
Sometimes a cloudy layer forms at the center of your cat’s eyes, known as a cataract. This new clouded tissue gets thicker over time and prevents light from reaching behind the eye. It can cause poor vision or blindness in the future. However, it is often confused with changes that occur with your cat’s advancing age.
The best method is to consult your vet when you encounter such a situation. If your cat’s age has not advanced much, cataract tissue can be removed by a surgical operation.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Cats stare at their owners for all kinds of reasons. Some stare as a sign of love, whereas others are demanding attention. Other cats are interested in something you’re doing or are annoyed and warning you to keep your distance! By assessing the situation, you can work out why your cat is staring at you relatively easily
But understanding cat stares is just the beginning! As I’ve touched on in this article, feline vision is a highly complex topic. From eye-related diseases to pupil dilation and constriction, night vision, perception of color, and the eyes’ reflective surface, we have a lot to learn!
And the more you understand your cat’s eyes, the better you can understand their perception of the world.