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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.

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.

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