As cat guardians, we know our cats use nonverbal and verbal communications to convey messages to us constantly. They seem to be most direct when our cats are demanding things. However, one of the most important sentiments they are trying to tell us is actually quite subtle. The cat slow blink is one message no cat parent wants to miss. So, what is the cat slow blink and what exactly does the cat slow blink mean? Let’s learn more about cat blinking from the experts.
Cats blink to spread tears over the surface of their eyes to remove dirt. This action is quick and is not the same as the cat slow blink. The cat slow blink is when your cat looks at you and slowly and intentionally closes and opens his eyes. To determine the difference between a regular blink and a slow blink, observe your cat’s body language from his ears to his tail. His body should read as chill because a true cat slow blink only comes from a comfortable kitty.
“The slow blink involves relaxed eyes; it shows your cat is not worried,” says Mikel Delgado, Ph.D., and Certified Cat Behavior Consultant at Feline Minds. “He is not avoiding any stressors or wincing.”
In addition, Dr. Delgado recommends looking at your cat’s pupils during the cat slow blink. Cats’ pupils dilate in response to light, but they also dilate when your cat is anxious. Depending on the lighting, a true cat slow blink includes normal pupils. This is key because the cat slow blink is sharing a very clear message with you .
“A cat blinking with soft eyes says, ‘I’m relaxed and happy,’” Delgado says. “While cats are typically thought of as predators, they are prey animals, too. To conceal their vulnerability, they may hide that they are in pain or stressed out. Cats are masters of subtle body language, but a cat blinking is a really solid indicator that he’s communicating his current state of contentment.”
Jackson Galaxy, cat behavior expert, says there are some pretty strong feelings behind the cat slow blink. He calls it the “I Love You Blink.” Galaxy says the cat slow blink is when cats and people are wholly opening up to one another in sharing affection because when the cat closes his eyes he is allowing himself to be vulnerable to his person.
Cats also greet their kitty cat friends with the cat slow blink, aka “cat kisses.” Cat blinking is one way for sure to know your cat loves and trusts you completely — which is what every cat parent wants to hear! So, your next question is: How do you get your cats to slow blink?
Most cat parents approach their kitties with overwhelming amounts of love and affection. Who wouldn’t? Cats look like wonderfully adorable cartoon characters that were created by Walt Disney himself! You just want to pick them up, hug them and stare deeply into their saucer eyes … which is the worst thing you can do to get your cat to slow blink.
“Staring directly into your cat’s eyes is perceived as confrontational and a threat by him,” Dr. Delgado says. “For humans, it’s normal for us to make a lot of eye contact, but that’s not polite feline etiquette!”
The best way to initiate a cat slow blink is to first have your cat come to you. Take a few deep breaths and feel relaxation over your whole body. Your cat picks up on your energy, so feeling as peaceful as possible is important. Don’t hover over your cat. Look in his general direction with languid, relaxed eyes and slowly blink. He should respond with a slow blink in turn. If your cat is less socialized, work on play therapy to get him to feel more confident in his environment.
The cat slow blink helped me once. I adopted an under-socialized 5-year-old Siamese after her elderly guardian passed away. We put Tivali in her own room, complete with tall cat trees and cat condos. She hid a lot. For a month, I slept in her room. The scared cat slowly started to come around. I never approached her or looked directly at her. But after the first week, she would come closer, until she was touching my face with her face. I started doing the sideways cat slow blink, to be sure I wasn’t staring at her. After four weeks, she was slowly blinking back at me and ready to explore the rest of the house.
Cat blinking is all about your cat feeling safe, secure and happy. It could take some time, so be patient. And, if you find your cat blinking at you, return the compliment by slowly mirroring his motions back at him!
Thumbnail: Photography ©Pshenichka | Thinkstock.
This piece was originally published in 2017.
Tell us: Does your cat slow blink? Do you return your kitty’s slow blinking?