Skip to main content

How you can communicate with your cat by blinking slowly

Why do cats blink? They're trying to tell you something

It happens almost daily — you’re binge-watching your favorite show with your cat on your lap, and she gazes up at you, blinking slowly. Maybe she even squints her eyes a little. While you’ve undoubtedly seen this behavior before, you may be wondering, “Why do cats blink slowly?” As it turns out, cats slowly blinking is a behavior you don’t want to overlook because of its significance. Not only will understanding the reason for your cat’s lazy blinks help you understand her, it will even help you learn how to speak her language.

A close-up shot of a gray Maine Coon cat with bright green eyes

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 her regular, typical blink.

Related Videos

The slow blink is another story. When your cat slow-blinks, her eyes will be relaxed, and she may flutter her eyelids repeatedly. The movement is leisurely, and your cat may do repeated half-blinks before narrowing or even fully closing her 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 her head or a strong wind. You may see your cat suddenly come out of the slow blink, widening her eyes when something catches her attention, or she might repeat the slow-blink pattern.

Cat lying on its side with soft, sleepy eyes

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 her 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 at 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

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 slow-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. She might slow-blink back, or you might notice her gaze gets more relaxed — her eyes might even shut completely.

The more you watch your cat, the better you’ll be able to spot her slow blinks. You’ll also learn to read her 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.

Grey Persian cat lying down

Other affection signs

Your cat is doing a lot to show you that it loves you. Here are a few other signs you can look for that show your cat trusts you and is bonding with you.

Displaying a tummy

This is one of the biggest things your cat can do to show affection. A tummy display is a highly vulnerable position. If your cat is comfortable enough to show its tummy, your cat has serious trust in you and its environment.

In the wild, showing a tummy could mean death. It means subservience. It’s not something that you’ll ever see an alert animal do, so take this time to show your cat how much you love it when it shows its tummy to you.

In some cases, this could be a defensive posture, however. Make sure your cat is relaxed entirely, or you could meet the claws. The trick is to check to see if your cat’s body is relaxed before you go in for petting.

Tail postures

The tail is also an excellent way to find out if your cat is feeling happy and affectionate. If your cat walks between your legs and curls its tail around them, this could be a sign of affection. Likewise, if your cat’s tail is high but relaxed, that’s also a sign of affection and confidence.

If your cat has an arched back and rigid tail, that’s a sign of distress, while a tail tucked between its legs is a sign of anxiousness. Keep your eyes peeled for her body language so that you can know what your cat is feeling.

Cats might not speak words, but they frequently communicate with 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 slowly 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.

Editors' Recommendations

The most common annoying cat behaviors, explained
Common cat behavior or bad cat behavior? Here's what to know and how to deal
A gray cat in foliage

Cats are a bit of a mystery. Unlike dogs, which have the reputation of being human’s best friend, our feline friends seem to view us as a necessary evil. We clean their boxes, fill their water dishes, and buy them trees to climb on so they can get away from us.

And also unlike dogs, cats are natural-born predators — known for being so bad for the ecosystem that it’s best to keep them inside. The arrangement can cause some friction, but we love our cats anyway. When a pet starts doing something out of the blue, we may worry it's not common cat behavior. Is a cat peeing outside of a litter box cause for concern? What about when your kitty starts scratching everything? Consider this cat behavior guide a decoder to your cat’s antics and what — if anything — you can do about them.

Read more
What you can do to help your cat after surgery and show your pet how much you love them
Here's how to keep your kitty feeling safe, comfy, and calm post-op
A cat at the vet

You love your kitty. Sometimes, that means agreeing to send them in for cat surgery. Whether it’s a standard spay or neuter procedure, necessary dental work, or something more worrisome like removing a cancerous tumor, you’ll want to ensure you give your furry friend some extra TLC post-operation.

Your feline friend may also need you to be patient with them. Cat behavior after surgery can vary from pet to pet, but they may be slightly shyer, lethargic, or easily irritated for a while. The good news is that your cat should go back to normal — and hopefully wind up as an even healthier version of themselves soon. Knowing what to prepare for can ensure your cat feels safe, loved, and comfortable after surgery.

Read more
Are urinary tract infections in cats possible? What cat parents should know about this condition
What to know about prevention and treatment of UTIs in cats
Gray cat in a cat bed

UTIs are a common and pesky condition in humans. It’s short for urinary tract infection. A UTI is an infection of a part of the urinary system, like the bladder, kidneys, or urethra, as the name implies. UTIs can involve painful burning sensations when peeing. They affect about 10 out of 25 women and 3 out of 25 men at least once, according to the Urology Care Foundation.

Cat parents may wonder: What is the rate of urinary tract infections in cats? Unfortunately, it’s not zero. Cats can get UTIs. The good news is that cat health experts don’t commonly see the issue when treating felines. However, it’s still good to think about the urinary tract when approaching your cat’s health.

Read more