The Cat Stare – Would You Stare Back?

Big eyes are locked on you, wide and unblinking. Your cat is commanding your full attention.  It’s a little unnerving. You don’t know what he wants, but one thing is certain. If you look away, he’ll demand that you return to his mesmerizing gaze. He has an urgent message for you.

When your cat is sending telepathic signals like this, it helps to read his body language to interpret them. 

The adoring gaze:  If your cat is relaxed, with a tail at ease and perhaps a little purring, and you can see the intricate colors of his sparkling eyes, this is the look of love. Smile and send love back to him with your full attention. A few slow blinks will also convey that sentiment, kitty-style. 

But if your cat does not appear happy, there are four possibilities: 

Hungry eyes: His eyes have an intense, begging quality. He needs some hands – yours will do. He’s got to have something to eat and he’d like to lead you to the kitchen immediately. Kindly give him your attention. When a cat has a hyperthyroid condition, this truly is an urgent need. He’s really starving and may vomit if not fed quickly. If your cat is losing weight, it’s best to feed him when he asks, and have him checked out by your vet. If he’s a good weight and simply has the munchies, substituting a little TLC may cure his cravings for a snack. 

Alarmed: Your cat’s eyes may be big with worry. If he jumps in your lap, you’ll feel tense feet. He’s ready to run. Or he may paw at you. His ears will be somewhat flattened or nervously twitching. He’s letting you know that something isn’t right and you need to check it out. He may even guide you to what is upsetting him. Thank him for bringing it to your attention. 

Mad cat: This stare is more of a glare. It’s really intense, with very wide pupils, and the ears are turned back or flattened. Even if your cat is a little cuddle bug, when he’s this mad, don’t make it worse. He feels threatened. The tail will be raised high, bristling, swishing hard from side to side, or slapping the ground. Either you have done something horrible by his standards, like moving his litter box, or he feels that his personal space is being invaded. Trying to buddy up or make direct eye contact at this time would be a mistake. When a cat is this mad, he could attack you. Don’t look at him directly. Back away, toss something, or make noise to cause a distraction. The point is to break his focus to diffuse the situation, and to make some space between you two until he cools off. 

Cats are very expressive when they are happy and relaxed. Learning to interpret your cat’s moods and mannerisms during the easygoing times will go a long way toward helping when you have to bridge that stare gap. 

Heron’s Crossing provides end-of-life care for pets in the Metro Atlanta area. In-home appointments with compassionate vets are available. If you’d prefer a home-like setting away from your home, our Decatur office is also available by appointment.