How you can communicate with your cat by blinking slowly

Your cat looks up at you from the couch, then slowly blinks repeatedly, even squinting his eyes a little. It’s a behavior you’ve seen before, but why do cats blink slowly? The slow blink is an important element of feline body language, but it’s subtle and you can easily overlook it if you don’t know its significance. Grasping the reason behind this behavior can help you better understand your cat, and you can even use the slow blink to better communicate with your feline friend. The next time you see your cat blink slowly at you, you’ll know just how to respond.

Identifying the slow blink

Cats have different types of blinks, so you’ll need to be able to recognize when you’re getting the slow blink. A cat’s regular blink is a rapid movement that flushes dirt and debris out of the eyes. It also spreads out tears, keeping the eyes hydrated. If you sit and watch your cat for a while, you’ll notice his regular, typical blink.

The slow blink is another story. When your cat slow-blinks, his eyes will be relaxed and he may flutter his eyelids repeatedly. The movement is leisurely, and your cat may do repeated half-blinks before narrowing or even fully closing his eyes. Your cat may look like he’s squinting, but it’s important to note that he’s not avoiding anything, like your hand patting his head or a strong wind. You may see your cat suddenly come out of the slow blink, widening his eyes when something catches his attention, or he might repeat the slow-blink pattern.

Cat lying on its side with soft, sleepy eyes
Oldiefan / Pixabay

The meaning behind the slow blink

So, why do cats slow-blink? For years, cat behaviorists and scientists have believed that the slow blink is a cat’s way to show affection and trust. The slow blink requires your cat’s eyes to be almost fully closed for longer periods, and by performing this behavior, your cat is trusting that you will keep him safe while he’s vulnerable. It makes sense to assume that this behavior is a way for your cat to show you affection and to demonstrate his trust in you.

Now, a scientific study has confirmed that the slow blink is one of the methods your cat uses to communicate with you. The study observed that cats are more likely to slow-blink back at their humans after their humans initiate a slow blink to them. When cats were introduced to researchers who performed the slow-blink experiment, the cats were more likely to slow-blink back if a human had initiated the blink. These cats were also likelier to be accepting when a researcher outstretched their hand, even though the cats didn’t previously know the researchers. This implies that the slow blink is a valuable communication tool, and not only does your cat use it to communicate with you, but you can use the slow blink to communicate with your cat, too.

Sleepy brown and white kitten lying down
Ivabalk / Pixabay

Communicating with your cat

You can use the power of the slow blink to send your cat messages of comfort and trust. When your cat is relaxed, sit a few feet away and slowly blink your eyes closed before gradually reopening them. Repeat this several times and focus on keeping your gaze soft and loving. Visualizing that your eyes are deeply tired can help. Watch to see how your cat responds. He might slow-blink back, or you might notice that his gaze gets more relaxed — his eyes might even shut completely.

The more you watch your cat, the better you’ll be able to spot his slow blinks. You’ll also learn to read his other important body-language messages. Watching your cat interact with other cats or other members of your family can help you identify when he’s playful, content, or uncomfortable.

Cats might not speak words, but they frequently communicate to you using their bodies and vocalizations. The slow blink is one of your cat’s valuable body-language communications, but it’s also so subtle that you might overlook it unless you know what to look for. If you notice your cat slow-blinking at you, be flattered — and by all means, return the compliment! A slow blink indicates that your cat trusts you and is happy to be around you. Slow blinking back shows him you feel the same way about him and can help the two of you bond more closely.

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