What Does It Mean When A Cat Winks At You?

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Despite the fact that our cats aren’t able to talk to us the way we talk to each other, they absolutely do have their own way of communicating with humans. There might not be an exchange of words, but cats have become very good at getting their message across.

Quick Overview

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Cats often wink and blink at people, sometimes intentionally and sometimes involuntarily.

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A cat's wink can mean many things, but most often it's a display of affection or a sign of a medical issue.

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If your cat is winking or blinking frequently and has other signs of illness, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Cat Winking

Cats sometimes wink deliberately at you holding eye contact, but they can also blink involuntarily.

No, you weren’t imagining it, your cat definitely does wink at you! A wink occurs when your cat shuts one eye and opens it again. If the wink is aimed at you, your cat will hold eye contact, too.

Cat winking can also be an involuntary action as cats often close their eyes as a reflex to protect their eyeballs just like we do.

A feline wink can be slow or fast. They might slowly close one eyelid and open it, or it might be more of a fast fluttering movement. If they do it slowly it’s more likely to be intentional, but if it’s a fluttering motion, the likely explanation is that they have an underlying issue with that eye.

Also Read: When Do Kittens Open Their Eyes?

Cat Blinking

Blinking is most often deliberate, and slow blinking can communicate love.

Slightly different but looking very similar is the cat blink. This is often confused or mistaken for a wink. It doesn’t help that the words rhyme, too!

Cats use blinking as a way of communicating to humans that they are fond of. Slow blinking means the cat feels safe and secure, and they like being in that human’s presence. Cat’s slow blinks are a sign of affection and it is a great honor if your cat does this! Cats that slow blink can close one eye or both of them—it is thought to mean the same thing.

There are two theories about where the slow blink is thought to have come from. One is that cats do it to break their stare since cats can interpret direct eye contact as a sign of aggression. Cats often use their stare as a threat to other animals, so if they blink, it breaks the stare and shows the other cat they come in peace and mean no harm. If they blink slowly, it gives a message that they aren’t on guard or about to attack.

The other reason might be that the behavior has been positively reinforced as when cats slow blink, humans simply react positively so cats keep on doing it. Cat winking and blinking can be interchangeable.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Blink?

What Does It Mean If My Cat Winks At Me?

Decoding your cat’s wink can tell you if it’s normal or something to be concerned about.

Cats wink for many different reasons. A cat’s wink might be deliberate or involuntary. Some common reasons cats wink include:

1. Showing Us Love And Affection

Winking and slow blinking can be a cat’s way of saying “I love you.”

Winking is often a sign of love or trust. As mentioned above, cats will do a slow blink at humans who make them feel safe and secure. In fact, the “slow blink” is also sometimes affectionately called a kitty kiss.

A cat wink or blink shows us that they are comfortable and relaxed. Cats also use this to communicate with each other. If two cats  that aren’t familiar with each other meet in the wild, they can slowly blink at each other to signal they do not pose a threat and can be trusted. It’s a way cat friendships are forged.

Also Read: 5 Ways To Build A Stronger Bond With Your Cat

2. Medical Problem

Involuntary winking is one of the first signs that a cat’s eye is uncomfortable or painful.

Cats might be winking or holding their eye shut if they have a health issue with the affected eye. Pay special attention—if your cat is doing it at specific times in the day, or if your cat is constantly winking, it’s a sign there’s something wrong.

Your cat may be harboring an eye infection or some other eye issue. There are many eye infections that can occur, caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi. They usually cause redness and swelling and make the eye itchy. Often there is excess discharge, too. They usually share a few common symptoms. The cat eye problems you will usually see include:

  • Conjunctivitis: This is a very common infection caused by bacteria or a virus. Your cat will have inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is where the nickname for this condition pink eye” comes from. You will often see bright green or yellow discharge. The lids of the eye might be swollen and puffy so that the eye is held closed or barely open. You might also see nasal discharge and sneezing as there is a duct called the nasolacrimal duct that connects the eye to the nose.
  • Allergic reaction: Your cat might have an allergy to something in their environment. This can often affect their eyes. They will have watery eyes, sometimes with discharge, and they might wink or blink frequently and rub their eyes.
  • Environmental irritant: If an irritating substance gets into your cat’s eye this might cause them to wink or blink. The usual things that cause such irritation are dust, debris, cleaning products, perfume or aftershave, and cigarette or cigar smoke.
  • Corneal ulcer: Sometimes your cat experiences damage to the surface of their eye, the cornea. This can cause a cloudy area, but there might not be anything visible to the naked eye. Your vet will use a special dye to assess the cornea for ulceration. Your cat might hold their eye shut or blink a lot as this can be a very painful condition.
  • Cataract: This is where a cloudy patch develops on the lens of the eye. They will eventually cause blind patches. This condition can be associated with other systemic illnesses such as diabetes. Your cat might wink or blink when they have cataracts.
  • Glaucoma: This is another reason your cat might wink or blink. Glaucoma is a serious medical condition where fluid is unable to drain effectively from the eye, so it builds up and eventually causes blindness. The eye may be very swollen, red, and sore.

Also Read: What To Do If Your Cat Is Sneezing Blood

The Third Eyelid

A visible third eyelid is often a sign that something is wrong with your cat’s eye.

Your cat has a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane, which can move across the eye from the inner corner diagonally. It is covered by conjunctiva. If your cat is healthy, the conjunctiva is not visible as the blood vessels are a normal size and not inflamed.

If conjunctivitis occurs the third eyelid will also become swollen and red. The third eyelid can protrude for different reasons and sometimes cats blink using their third eyelid, too. If the third eyelid is protruding, it can look like a half-closed eye. If you can see your cat’s third eyelid, it is best to seek advice from your vet.

Eye Positions In Cats And What They Mean

Classic orange tabby

Understanding your cat’s “eye language” can tell you how they’re feeling.

In addition to winking, cats adopt lots of different eye positions and they can mean a variety of different things. It’s basically a cat-eye language to learn! If you observe them closely you will find you can make predictions about their behavior from their eye position. Here are some of the common positions:

Dilated Pupils

Dilated pupils can mean many things, but if the cat is also hissing it’s likely related to fear.

Dilated pupils can mean quite a few different things. It could be that your cat is frightened or shocked, or they might be excited or anxious. They might have seen something they are happy about, such as their favorite person, their best toy, or a tasty snack.

Constricted Pupils

The pupils of relaxed cats usually look like small slits.

If your cat has their pupils narrowed, this can mean they are very content and cozy and in a heightened state of relaxation. However, it can also mean that they are annoyed or upset.

Semi-Closed Eyes

Semi-closed eyes are the sign of a relaxed, content, and possibly sleepy cat.

Semi-closed eyes indicate your cat is relaxed and comfortable. They are happy and feel secure, and might be on the brink of falling asleep. If a cat’s eyes are wide open it means your cat is alert and taking in their surroundings.

Holding Direct Eye Contact

Cats might use a direct, unblinking stare as a challenge.

This might mean that your cat is trying to intimidate you or exert their authority. Cats interpret eye contact without blinking as hostile and a threat. If a cat is avoiding eye contact, it can sometimes be an indication that your cat has friendly intentions toward you or another cat.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Ignore Me?

Cat Winking: Final Thoughts

If your cat is winking or blinking frequently or constantly, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

If your cat is giving you a wink, this usually means something positive. A happy cat dishes out winks when they are feeling content and secure in the presence of someone that they trust.

Cat’s eyes are an invaluable part of their body used for communication. Sometimes your cat might be winking because they have a problem with their eye. If you are at all concerned about your cat’s eye or eyes, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Also Read: Why Is My Cat Staring at the Wall?

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a cat’s winking mean?

Cats usually wink as a sign of affection toward someone they have strong feelings for. They could also be winking if they have a health issue, such as an injury, infection, irritation, or a bit of debris in their eye.

Why does my cat wink one eye at me?

Your cat may be winking one eye in your direction as a sign of trust and affection. However, if they are just closing one eye frequently, it might be because they have something in their eye, or that there is something wrong with that eye compared to the other eye.

How do you tell if a cat loves you?

There are many ways that cats express their love for their favorite humans. One of the most common ways is slowly blinking at us. They do say, after all, that the eyes are the windows into the soul!

Do cats wink intentionally?

They absolutely do! Cats use a wink or a blink to communicate various different things to other cats and also to humans. They might also wink if there is a medical issue with their eye, but they do wink intentionally, which is basically their unique way of saying they love us!

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About Emma Chandley MRCVS

Emma graduated from the Royal Vet College in London in 2011. She has a keen interest in surgery and went on to do a post graduate certificate in small animal surgery and was then awarded advanced practitioner status in the same discipline.

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