A gray cat looking surprised or confused. Photography ©SensorSpot | E+ / Getty Images Plus.

Is Your Cat Staring at You? What It Means in Cat Language

Is your cat staring at you? Or, maybe you’ve noticed your cat staring at other cats in your household. What does cat staring mean in cat body language?
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Cats are total stare-masters. Have you ever tried to win a staring contest with a cat? “Tried” being the operative word — it’s impossible. And have you ever stopped to think about why cats stare? Is there a difference between why cats stare at humans vs. why they stare at other cats? Wonder no more — here’s some insight into cat staring.

Why Is Your Cat Staring at Another Cat?

Two aggressive cats staring each other down.
Cat staring between two cats is a sign of aggression. Photography ©kimberrywood | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Cats are territorial by nature and usually don’t take a liking to a rival cat moving in on their turf. Because cats primarily communicate using body language, a cat staring at another cat is a way for the dominant kitty to show aggression. When a cat notices another cat staring at him, they both stop everything they’re doing and visually connect. If this cat staring doesn’t sufficiently meet the dominant one’s objective, then swatting, wrestling and even perhaps an all-out cat fight are next.

Cats are visual hunters and their ability to stare without regular blinking helps them keep a close eye on their prey. Unlike we humans who must frequently blink to keep our eyes lubricated, cats can maintain a steady gaze for quite some time before a blink. This is why it’s impossible to win a cat staring contest.

How to Avoid Cat Staring in Your Home

A gray cat staring.
How can you stop cat-on-cat staring? Introduce your cats properly! Photography ©debibishop | E+ / Getty Images.

If you’re adding a new cat into your home, it’s important to take steps to avoid — or at least lessen — the aggression that could come from either kitty. Here are a few steps to take when introducing cats — and cut back on any potential aggressive cat staring:

  1. Introduce them gradually. Don’t simply place both cats in the same room together and expect them to become fast friends.
  2. Share scents between the two cats. This can be done by trading blankets or toys so each kitty can get used to the other one’s smell.
  3. Initially confine the new cat in a closed room with his own food, water and litter box.
  4. A good way to slowly introduce the cats is to feed them on either side of the door, with the food bowls moving closer and closer to the door. Soon, they’ll be eating with just a minor barrier between them.
  5. Make sure all initial contact is supervised.

Why Is Your Cat Staring at You?

A golden brown cat, staring, looking up.
Why is your cat staring at you? She might just be hungry! Photography ©Louno_M | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

The cats with whom we share our lives are innately interested in our activities — especially if said activities could result in something that benefits them. We’ve all been on the business end of cat staring when mealtime is near. Our cats impatiently watch our every move, and if we make the slightest move toward the kitchen — even if it’s to pour a cup of coffee — they’re all over us.

Dr. Kathryn Primm says, “Obviously cats are naturally attuned to non-verbal communication. Maybe she is using your appearance to help her choose how she should respond to something, and also sharing with you how she feels about it. Her eyes are reading your cues and her body language may be telling you something, too. She may want to be sure that you are watching her in return because you share a family group bond. Your shared look can reaffirm your bond and assure the social stability of your group. If you are calm, she is calm. If you look on edge, she will be, too.”

Our kitties love us and sometimes look at us with such affection in their eyes. If you notice your cat’s eyes meeting yours, give her the slow blink “I love you,” and enjoy the moments of bonding.

Thumbnail: Photography ©SensorSpot | E+ / Getty Images Plus.

This piece was originally published in 2018. 

About the author

Angie Bailey, an award-winning writer, podcaster, and humorist, is the author of Texts from Mittens and Whiskerslist: The Kitty Classifieds. She’s written cat humor for over a decade, and lives in Minneapolis with her fiancé and two cats — Phoebe, a sassy senior and Janet, a teenage kitty with tons of tortitude.

Read more about how to understand your cat on Catster.com:

53 thoughts on “Is Your Cat Staring at You? What It Means in Cat Language”

  1. My two, Fatboy and Miss kitty, both give “the look” often. Fatboy is regular as clockwork. He’ll jump up on my computer stand or table, whichever way I’m looking, and get in my direct line of sight. The cat can tell time! Miss Kitty lets him to the work but the meaning is ‘it’s time for our snacky-snack!” Even if I change the direction I’m looking, he’ll move to look me right in the eyes and stares until I get up and get their snack. These little buggers or sooo entertaining.

  2. I love cats, they are somehow stress reliever. My cat usually stares at me every time I’m cooking my meal. Until one time my cat jumped into the sink and start smelling that raw meat that I’m cooking. :)

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  4. Can cats see different colors? I know this is a stupid question. My cat was aggressive with me three times unprovoked last night charging and biting me. I was wearing a red shirt and that is the color of her favorite toy. Need answers on aggressiveness as I am always wearing teeth marks. She normally is very lovable.

  5. Pingback: Is Your Cat Staring at You? What It Means in Cat Language – Info Body

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  7. JOE ANTHONY MARTINEZ

    My fuzzy son loves art, he spends quality time admiring one particular painting of a landscape, does any of your fuzzy children do the same

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  9. I came here searching “cat staring clock” – our cat, a wild cat, comes inside frequently. Big fluffy white cat. And then sits down staring at the clock. Sometimes the wall clock in the kitchen, and then the wall clock upstairs. Why is the wall clock fascinating our cat?

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  11. Lol I’m looking at this article and getting a lot of good info!!
    But my cat stares at me while he’s trying to sleep and I don’t know why!! Like he just looks at me while his eyelids get heavy :p
    Does anyone know why he does this??

    1. Hi there,
      It’s probably a sign of affection!
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-cat-affection-signs
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/does-my-cat-love-me-signs-of-cat-love

    2. I think it’s what I’ll call “pack sleep”. The kitty says “you sleep so I’ll sleep” and keeps checking to see if you have fallen asleep yet; if I understand your question correctly. “We all have to bond” is what’s going on, like when they were young.

    3. Mildred Gonzalez

      Wow thats happend too me before i didnt know what too do at first and then i just stoped wearing the color and she was happy .

  12. I find it funny that if a cat is staring at another cat, it’s territorial and dominance, but if staring at human, … It Must Be Love.
    Or maybe the cat is thinking, “If you were only my size, I’d have tackled you to the floor by now, but meanwhile at least you are good for treats. BEND TO MY WILL HUMAN AND GET ME SOME TEMPTATIONS!”

  13. I was looking at this because if I make eye contact with my cat while he’s staring at me nothing happens but if I stare back , his pupils get big and he stars to lick my face. This is the only time he ever tries to lick my face. Does anybody know why ?

    1. Hi there Kerrie,

      Thanks for reaching out! Here is an article you might find helpful on how cats show affection:

      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-cat-affection-signs

    2. She / loves u very much !our mission in life is not to ask the whys when it comes to cats. My girl when she was kitten would climb on my chest and look at me like she was ready to pounce if I blinked, eventually she outgrew the bad habit (that and amazing what a little cat nip did her temperament,) May she always be in our hearts,

  14. When I call my cats name she looks me in the eyes, it doesn’t seem aggressive though cause she purrs. lol idk what it means but i think she’s just being polite and look at me when I speak to her.

  15. What about the stare that goes over the top of my head which is spooky or the intense stare like she as never seen me before, weird.

    1. It’s not just limited to my sister’s own cats that have been caught staring above her head. It’s not even limited to happening at only her house. The cats I have at my house will do the same thing, as will the cat(s) at her friend’s. We’ve even seen feral cats staring at that same place just above her head.

      It doesn’t happen every day. When it does happen, it can last for hours, or sometimes days. It’s not limited to any specific cat, cat breed, group of cats, house, town, or state. It’s not even limited to only my sister. I’ve Occasionally seen cat(s) staring above my head. More rarely I’ve seen it happen to one or two other people. I’ve also seen the cats switch from staring above my sister’s head to staring above my own head for a several minutes before turning their attention back to the space above my sister.

      If anyone can shed some light on this strange behavior, my sister and I would greatly appreciate hearing from you.

  16. “She may want to be sure that you are watching her in return because you share a family group bond…”

    This makes so much sense. I’ve also been stunned by the sheer power of kitty eye-contact (like Mamacat’s Death Glare that makes the Cub cry).

    When I give the Cub a tummy rub, he repeatedly turns his head and looks up to make sure Human Servant is fully focused on Himself. Mamacat will stand on my leg with her front paws, and treat me to her own searching gaze. Usually, it seems to mean “Scratch Our head now–& do it properly–while We cover your wrist with Magical Kitty Spit…”

  17. Dianna Wilson

    My cat Emma gives me the “stare” first thing in the morning. Usually when I get up I give her and my other cat Doodle their wet food to start the day. This is routine. When I’m not responsive she will usually give me a soft bat or two on my nose and continue the “stare.” One thing out of this is that I definitely do not need an alarm clock to wake up in the mornings.

  18. The cats I have had who stared at me, usually did so because I think they were trying to tell me to feed them. When I asked if they wanted “food “or to “eat”, or are they “hungry”, they’d respond to the que word. I’d feed them and they you were happy.

  19. My cat gives me daggers if I don’t give him some of my yoghurt breakfast. Similar to the first picture at the top, if looks could kill!

  20. Thomas Jon Harrison

    If I catch my cat staring at me, I stare her down every single time. It can be excruciating sometime but I win every time, because I know man has dominion over every single animal on the face of this earth. That is the way God created mankind. I find it too easy to distract my cat in a stare down from time to time, but I guarantee you I win the stare down every single time. I would not have it any other way. Maybe that is why she has a tendency to bite and claw at me and fight me when she tries to snuggle up next to me. She has that attitude she does not like being petted except on her own term. I think that is the Siamese in her. But I could almost swear that picture at the beginning of this article is my Princess Jasmine to a T except my Jazzy has green eyes.

    1. What your doing is sending her the wrong signals, hence why she tries to fight with you and I think your view on things is very skewed. Im pretty sure you wouldnt be saying that if a tiger, Lion or pantha had you by the throat. I would suggest not to stare your cat down as she was probably showing you love as my cat does this too and then cuddles me. We are very close

      1. I stare my cat down and were fine but when I do it to my dog he walks away and looks down. Like he stare at me first so what was he expecting. I’m weird though and I have aspergers so I feel uncomfortable when alot of animal look at me compared to my sister who don’t. My sister said it was because animal can feel negative vibes. So I learned I’ve gave off negative vibes but I must give off negative vibes to everyone. I a triplet, so me and my sister are all the same age.

    2. Just take out of context that we have dominion over animals. They were put on this earth for us to take care of not for abuse Captivity Exploration etc

      1. No they weren’t, they’ve been breed to be dependent. The purpose of animals or anything for that matter is not solely for our enjoyment or care. Smh

  21. I often nap in my recliner with my kitty, Annie, on my lap. When I awaken a couple of hours later, she’s usually still there, lying across my lap, staring at me intently! I don’t know what it means but it seems harmless and even endearing.

  22. Once I got away from home and went into the military and got a place of my own I have been owned by cats♡ Would’ve have it any other way. And they never cease to amaze and amuse me! Now going on 43 years I have a sanctuary that allows 48 older adult cats who have been abandoned to live our their lives. My family furbabies allow me to do this without fuss as they know these elders need a port in the storm, so to speak. Anyway, love this site and the articles and comments are both informative and interesting and at times humorous. Keep em’ coming♡ Everybody hug your cats right NOW♡♡♡♡

  23. Mary-Lou Mayfield

    I do think that when a cat is giving a nonthreatening stare, they are more likely to blink or turn their head before you do. If it is a threatening “face-off” between 2 cats, the first to flinch is giving in to the dominant one. Or the submissive one might give the slow blink which I think means, “I want to be your friend.” Cats express affection in other ways – the nose touch, the head bump or face (or leg) rub, etc. And of course, there’s the hungry stare – one of my cats stares at me when he hears the stove timer going off, because he knows I’m going to get up and go in the kitchen!

  24. i already knew this and i’ve won multiple staring contests with my cat the trick is to unfocus your eyes but i love the site!
    #catlover

  25. i already knew this and i’ve won multiple staring contests with my cat the trick is to unfocus your eyes
    #catlover

  26. She is! It’s cheaper than mailing you a Hallmark card saying, “Dad, I love you!”. As for the paw over the eyes, in my collective 30 years of being a cat Mom, I’d say it’s akin to us putting on a satin sleep mask to block out light and outside stimuli.

  27. Whenever my cat and I are cuddling, she has a habit of putting her paw over my mouth. I’m thinking it’s just her way of saying shut up. LOL

  28. Just a guess but I feel they are wanting to keep the light out. My cat does it when he doesn’t want to see tv or my table lamp.

  29. I’ve given my cat that”slow blink” several times. What is really cool is when I get a slow blink in return. Is she reciprocating and saying “I love you” in return? Also when cats drape their paw over their eyes, are they going or have gone into a deep sleep?

  30. I love your site it gives valuable information about cats and I love my cats so much and enjoy learning about them.

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