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7 Feline Facial Expressions that Kill Me Every Time (With Pictures)

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on February 1, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

portrait of tabby white british shorthair cat with its tongue out doing a lick

7 Feline Facial Expressions that Kill Me Every Time (With Pictures)

According to a study on feline facial signals published in Behavioral Processes, cats can communicate using nearly 300 different facial expressions,1 and let’s be honest, some of them are simply golden.

Intentionally or unintentionally, cats’ expressions can give us the impression that they’re feeling silly, peaceful, happy, playful, shocked, grumpy, or downright appalled—an impressive repertoire for an animal so often perceived as aloof.

Nevertheless, the expression a cat makes doesn’t always mean what we think it does, as cats emote differently from how humans do. Without further ado, let’s get a closer look at some of the funniest feline facial expressions and the science behind them.

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The 7 Funniest Feline Expressions:

1. The Sleepy “Smile”

a cat sleeping with a sleepy smile
Image Credit: antibydni, Shutterstock

The sleepy “smile” is one of the most adorable cat facial expressions. When your cat is deep in the land of dreams, their facial muscles relax and their lips curl up at the sides, giving the impression that they’re smiling contentedly. That said, while your cat is certainly content if they’re snoozing away, this is just how they look when they’re relaxed.

Cats don’t smile to express happiness as humans do. Research has shown that cats instead express friendliness and contentment by slowly blinking at their humans and other cats, so this can be interpreted as the feline form of a “smile”.

2. The Stink-Face

close up of a cat snarling
Image Credit: Vlad Antonov, Shutterstock

As explained by PetMD, cats give the “stinky-face” because of the “flehmen response,” which occurs when a cat smells something and the scent particles go to the roof of the mouth, causing the Jacobson’s organ, a sensory receptor, to kick in.

In response, the cat opens their mouth and grimaces, which makes it look as though they’re disgusted by whatever they’re smelling or about to sneeze. This isn’t the case, though: they’re just processing smells (like pheromones left behind by other cats) to gather information about them. Science aside, the stink-face never fails to amuse cat parents everywhere.

3. The Tongue-Out

silly photo of a cat sticking its tongue out
Image By: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

It’s not uncommon for a cat’s tongue to suddenly pop out and stay there for a few moments (affectionately known as a “blep”) while they’re in the middle of a self-grooming session, which is sure to get a giggle from anyone in the vicinity. Don’t worry, this is just a brief pause in the session. Another innocent reason your cat’s tongue may flop out is that they’re super relaxed or snoozing.

However, sometimes, a cat’s tongue sticking out can signal that there’s something more serious going on, like periodontal disease. Look out for other signs like bad breath, drooling, and appetite loss, and see your vet if you spot any.

Respiratory infections, anxiety, overheating, blockages, motion sickness, and being a brachycephalic breed (Persians, Burmese, Himalayans, etc.) are other potential causes of a sticky-out tongue.

4. The “Judgemental” Look

close up of an angry cat facial expression
Image Credit: Jucadima, Shutterstock

This one has the best value when it’s delivered by a cat up high on a shelf or cat tree, appearing to look down on us mere mortals with scorn for daring to even exist. If you’re lucky, you may just get a look of mild disapproval.

The narrowed eyes and dignified pose are the hallmarks of the judgmental cat look, but according to experts, your cat is not judging you at all. Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant, explained to the New York Post that “People judge, that’s a human characteristic. Not a feline characteristic.”

Krieger mentions other animals being in proximity, “feeling cornered”, and “slight pain” as potential triggers for cold, hard stares. Sometimes, it just comes down to naturally grumpy facial features or simply how the cat’s face appears at a particular moment.

5. The Bird-Watching Face

a shocked cat with its eyes wide open
Image By: Cat Box, Shutterstock

When your cat is at the window watching birds, rodents, or creepy crawlies in the garden, their eyes widen, and they may chatter and chirp with pure excitement. Some go a step further and sit up on their hind legs while fixating on unattainable prey, which makes them resemble an otter or a meerkat.

6. “Laughing”

cat with eyes closed and tongue out
Image Credit: NUX Photography, Shutterstock

Okay, so there’s no evidence to suggest that cats really laugh, but when they’re mid-yawn, it certainly looks like they’re cracking up at something. If you manage to capture a photo at the crucial moment, it’s a great remedy to keep for whenever you need a bit of cheering up.

7. The Dignified Look

white maine coon cat in gray background
Image Credit: Kanashi, Pixabay

As we mentioned further up, cats don’t actually judge us, but if you periodically burst into song or dance around your living room in front of your cat, you may have noticed them gazing at you with a mix of curiosity, dumbfoundedness, and unflappable dignity. This makes it look as though they’re thinking “Why is my human so weird?”. Hopefully, their next thought is “But I love them anyway.”



A major bonus of parenting cats is all the joy and laughter they bring, which can be invaluable if your spirits require a lift. It’s a good idea to learn about how cats express themselves through facial expressions and body language to get to know them and how they communicate with you better.

Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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