Catster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Do Cats Blink Like Humans Do? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat with squinted eye

Do Cats Blink Like Humans Do? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Cats are fascinating creatures to observe. We could watch them and ponder their various distinctly feline behaviors endlessly. Their fantastic array of eye movements is hugely expressive, making us certain of what they are communicating—either to you or to another cat or animal.

Cats’ eyes appear similar to ours, and it could be assumed that they perform the same functions. But is this actually the case? Is their eye morphology like ours? Yes, there are a few similarities. For example, cats do, in fact, blink. But a cat’s eye is significantly different from ours in many ways, aside from its characteristic pupil shape.

Read on to find out more!


Do Cats Actually Blink?

Cats certainly do blink. Their eye morphology and blinking mechanism are more complex than a human’s, however. While humans only have two eyelids, cats have three.

Same as a human, cats have upper and lower eyelids. They also have a third inner eyelid called the nictitating membrane. When a cat blinks, their upper and lower eyelids move toward each other but may seem as if they don’t actually meet. Rather, your cat may look like they’re squinting, much like we do in bright sunlight.

The nictitating membrane is located in the inner corner of your cat’s eyes and moves across each eyeball diagonally. All three of the eyelids have a protective and lubricating function.

close up cat with green eyes
Image Credit: M_Light, Shutterstock

Does a Cat Blink Serve the Same Function as a Human Blink?

Yes, a cat’s blink and a human’s blink serve the same functions. But the greater environmental demands on a cat result in their blinking having more functionality than a human’s blinking.

As mentioned, blinking provides a protective function and is involved in the lubrication of the eye. The nictitating membrane provides a unique protective function when the cat is moving through long grass or undergrowth. It will also extend over the eye when there’s a scratch or an injury to the eye as a response to pain.

In both humans and cats, blinking serves a communicative function. The manner, frequency, and timing of your kitty’s blinks convey information about what’s going on for them. Understanding their various eye expressions can be helpful.

cat paw divider

How Many “Kinds” of Blinks Do They Have?

We summarized here a few of the main kinds of blinks that you may observe your kitty performing.

1. Slow-Blinking

You may have guessed that when your cat blinks slowly that they are relaxed and happy. But these slow blinks are more than just a sign of feeling content. They are more like kitty kisses. If your cat slowly blinks in your direction, they are telling you unequivocally that they love and accept you as one of their own.

amber eyed cat glaring at camera
Image credit: Unsplash

2. Half-Open Eyes

Slow-blinking is often coupled with lazy, half-open eyes. When a cat’s eyes are half open, coupled with relaxed body language, they are signaling that they feel safe and secure in the situation or environment.

3. Half-Blinking

Half-blinking can be coupled with both slow-blinking and half-open eyes. It’s simply a more active expression of the kitty’s affection for you or another party. Think of this as you would a human’s eyebrow movements. If you have a chatty feline, the half-blinking will frequently be coupled with purring, chirruping, or moaning.

cat slowly blinking
Image Credit: Oldiefan, Pixabay

4. Rapid Blinking

Rapid blinking signals a more alert state. It can mean that the kitty has seen, heard, or smelled someone that requires their full attention. This can be something that is worth preying on or something that has made them start to feel scared, usually the latter. As this state progresses, staring will often follow.

It might also be in response to some kind of eye irritant or condition. The cat’s body language will enable you to distinguish between the two scenarios.

5. Wide Eyes, No Blinking

Cats don’t blink as often as humans, so not blinking doesn’t necessarily mean anything. If their eyes are open wide and unblinking, this most likely just be a default semi-alert state of normalness. It’s not to be confused with staring.

cat face divider 2

What Does It Mean When My Cat Stares at Me?

There are a few reasons your cat may stare at you. To correctly interpret the stare, you need to take into account the circumstances and your cat’s body language.

If their stance is neutral, their tail is down, and they’re otherwise composed while they stare at you, this probably just means they’re tuned into you. Your cat is waiting for your next move, and it better be to fill their food bowl! If your cat throws the odd slow blink in your direction while staring at you, this means that they’re also very relaxed and happy.

If a cat is staring at you with dilated pupils, a stiff posture, ears to the side (or even worse, flattened), and a swishing tail, you’re in trouble. You have been a bad human, and you had better remedy the situation fast. Usually, there’s not much more you can do other than give your cat some space to unwind. You could also try engaging them with some rough play so they can get their anger out of their system. Try not to stare back at a kitty when they’re in this kind of mood, as you’ll just enrage them further.

If your cat is staring at you in combination with a crouched-down position with their tail tucked in and maybe even trying to hide, they are most likely feeling scared. First, try to work out what has made your kitty scared—maybe the vacuum or the noisy kids—and remove the cause. Second, slowly approach your frightened cat, and reassure them with caresses and treats.

Chinchilla Persian Cat
Image Credit: Image Credit: IceEye, Pixabay

Do Cats Understand When We Blink?

We’ve established that the feline species has a wonderful array of different blinks. We know that they don’t only reserve communicative blinks for their own species. But how about when another species blinks at them? Specifically, do they understand it if humans blink at them?

The answer is, absolutely! They understand that you are a different species with unique human ways of communicating. In most loving cat-human relationships, each species learns the other’s cues. However, you are hard-wired to predominantly “speak” human, while cats are hard-wired to communicate in a feline manner. This hard-wiring is to such an extent that cats will even respond to humans adopting feline communication methods, including particular cat-like blinks.

Go ahead and engage in some slow-blinking or even staring if the situation calls for it. Your cat will get the hint.

What Is Abnormal Blinking and What Should I Do About It?

If your cat is blinking excessively and/or squeezing their eye shut with each blink, that is likely an indication that something is amiss. Other signs of eye distress are the partial protrusion of the nictitating membrane and reluctance or inability to open the eye. This may be accompanied by excessive tear production or a purulent discharge. If the discomfort is severe enough, your kitty may also be pawing at their eye or trying to clean it all the time.

Sometimes, the culprit may be a foreign body lodged in the eye. You may be able to remove this at home in much the same way that you would do for yourself or another person—that is, if your kitty will allow you to! If you do choose to attempt this yourself, ensure that you do so very carefully with clean hands and sterile equipment.

If you are unsure of the cause of the discomfort, it is always wise to seek immediate veterinary assistance. Eye conditions must, understandably, be taken seriously. More severe cases of eye problems include laceration, ulceration, uveitis, glaucoma, and growths.

Cream cat with blue eyes
Image Credit: Omar Ramadan, Pexels


In Conclusion

If you need any further proof that cats are indeed superior to humans, this is it! Jokes aside, whether you consider your kitty to be the pinnacle of intelligence or not, their eye structure and function are fascinating.

We hope that you found interesting bits of information in this article. If nothing else, the inclusion of ocular cues may help increase your feline communication repertoire.

Featured Image Credit: Adina Voicu, Pixabay

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Catster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.