Although it may be frustrating that cats can’t speak our language, many people don’t realize or appreciate that we can speak theirs. There are many subtle signs that we can pick up on if we really want to be able to understand what they are trying to tell us.
How a cat looks at you and what they do when they are looking at you can provide us with a lot of information. For instance, have you noticed how a cat might blink slowly at you?
A cat blinks at you so you can recognize that it perceives you as not a threat. The cat is saying to you by doing this that it feels comfortable in your presence. If a cat performs a slow-blink at you, don’t forget to do one back!
Communicating with cats
We all want to communicate with our cats. Being a different species doesn’t stop us from chatting away to them in our mother tongue, and we like to think that they understand what we’re going on about.
Of course, they don’t – they may change their actions depending on perceived emotions from us and actually a study was performed that seems to suggest that indeed, cats have been shown to change their behavior based on actions performed by an owner towards an object.
So, we know that we can interact with them in some ways and we all have things we do that appear to achieve a response. For instance, when we’re sitting down and we tap our lap to encourage them to jump up onto it. Your cat isn’t perceiving this as, ‘Oh, my owner wants me to jump up in his lap.’ – but more directing their attention to your lap which may make them decide to jump up.
A cat gets a lot of information from your face and especially your eyes. You’ll note that when they look at you, they are looking at your eyes, not your nose or mouth – but like humans, when we are communicating with someone, we look into their eyes for signals. But what signals can a cat get from our eyes?
What does it mean when a cat blinks at you?
Much depends on how they blink at you. They may just be blinking like we all need to do. However, if you notice your cat blinking slowly, deliberately in your direction – it’s a big, big way of telling you something about your relationship with them.
When a cat blinks slowly at you it is a sign that they feel at ease within your presence. This is a complement indeed and a sure sign you are doing a lot of things right.
What the cat is doing is telling you that it doesn’t feel it has to keep its attention on you all the time as they feel you’re not a threat. It’s almost as if you’re part of their family and you have reached that level of trust. However, there is something you should do when your cat blinks slowly at you that is very important – read on to find out what this is below.
Watch cat’s eyes when they face off
If you look at two cats that are having a stand-off you will see that they never take their eyes off each other and what’s really noticeable is that they blink as little as possible and when they do, it’s as quick as possible.
They are not prepared to take their eyes off that other cat for even a second, until one of them eventually backs down. This behavior within a cat is typical for when they do not feel comfortable and they will also act this way with humans who they do not trust of feel wary of.
This is why you should not stare at a cat for a long period of time and actually you should do something quite different…
Should you blink at your cat?
Yes, you should blink at your cat and not just any blink but a slow, drawn-out blink. It should be deliberate and when looking at them you should slowly close your eyes and keep them shut for a second before opening them again slowly.
You will notice (well, you won’t when your eyes are closed) but your cat will find this most intriguing. They will stare at you intently, not in a way that suggests any kind of distrust, more of fascination.
Performing a slow-blink in front of a cat is one of the best things you can do to make any cat feel comfortable around you. In my collection of tricks that I use to make cats relax around me, it is my first weapon of choice. With particularly nervous cats, I typically use this in association with other things, which I shall show you below.
I am well known for being able to calm nervous cats and it isn’t brain surgery – it’s just a few simple techniques that I’ve learned over the many years of feline ownership!
How does it make a cat feel when you blink at them?
When you blink slowly at a cat, you are saying to them that you are not a threat to them and they needn’t be worried that you’re going suddenly attack them. What it actually says to them is that you don’t perceive them as a threat as you feel you don’t need to keep an eye on them all the time – which makes them feel relaxed.
You will notice that the cat will usually act in a certain way when you do this. First, they will keep their eyes locked on to you as you are slow-blinking but once you’ve done it (perhaps a couple of times) you will see their demeanor change. They may yawn (more on this below) or they may start looking around the room, comfortable that they can now look away.
But are there any other ways you can make them feel relaxed in your presence? Absolutely…
What are other ways you can make a cat feel comfortable?
There are a few tricks that you can use that have been absolutely successful for me over the years. They aren’t difficult to perform but they may make you look stupid! So, if you don’t mind looking stupid (I do it often, sometimes not even deliberately) then please try some of these out.
I’ve already mentioned the slow-blinking above and this can be one of the first things you try around a nervous cat. However, don’t do it standing 6 feet above them though as you will find you don’t always get the results you expect.
The first thing you can do is slow yourself down. Cats hate unpredictability and sudden movements, so whatever you do – do it slowly. Get yourself down, it doesn’t have to be to their level exactly but what you want to do is make yourself look less intimidating – and you do this by making yourself appear smaller than you actually are.
When you’re in this position, this is when you can try the slow-blinking trick – it will work. However, once you’ve finished a couple of blinks, yawn. Make it deliberate and slowly open your mouth (your eyes will shut automatically) and slowly close it again. I bet you really want to yawn now – it’s one of those things that as soon as you start to think about it, you feel you need to do it!
Don’t make a ‘yawn-noise’ though, you know what I mean – some people when they yawn always accompany it with a loud noise, this won’t help! Yawning is another thing you can do to help them relax – you’ll notice that cats when facing off certainly do not do this.
Right, you promised me you didn’t mind looking stupid. Well, you didn’t but it’s assumed, so here we go. Have you noticed that sometimes when you walk into a room where your cat is they may sometimes roll onto their back? This is 100%, not an invitation for you to tickle their bellies! If you attempt to do this, it will usually result in only one thing – this ‘thing’ involves many claws, your hand, and a loud screaming noise coming from your mouth!
What are they saying then when they roll onto their backs? Again, they are saying that they feel comfortable in your presence and that they perceive no threat from you. What you need to do is the same back to them! So, here’s what you should do. Lie down quite close to them, roll onto your back and lift your legs and arms up in the air, in a similar way to how they do it when they roll onto their backs.
Feel stupid yet? Good. You will notice that they will stare at you intently during this and what you’re telling them is that you perceive them to be no threat. You will also notice other members of your family staring at you in disbelief. I hope they love cats as much as you!
Another technique is to lick the back of your hand and stroke its forehead with it. This action shares some similarities with how their mother used to look after them when they were kittens and it will be familiar to them. Also, it will also include the scent of you so they will associate the familiarity and comfort of their mother – with you!
You will also notice that as they become more familiar with you they may even give you a ‘headbutt’ – where they literally bump their head into you. This is also something that you can (gently) do with them, however, it won’t work with a cat that is still wary of you!
There are also the more obvious things you can do with them, such as playing and interacting and not forgetting to be the person that provides them with their food every day!
Conclusion – why does my cat blink at me?
Hopefully, that’s shed a bit of light as to why cats might blink at you. It’s actually a really interesting subject and I’ve long been fascinated with how felines can communicate, not only with other cats but with us.
Once you understand why a cat might blink at you it’s easy to understand why you should blink back, albeit slowly!