Making Eye Contact with Your Cat

It is said that we should not stare at our cat. It will intimidate him. Our cat will perceive it as some sort of threat. Some people describe it as a “predator stare”. Other people think that if we stare at our cat, he might attack us! Some cat owners spend their entire life avoiding eye contact with their cat. That can’t be right.

Staring at a cat

Photo by torbakhopper

In this short post I provide my ideas about making eye contact with our cat. I don’t think there is much on the Internet in the way of useful information about staring at your cat. There is a lot of chatter about it (which I ignore) but I have never read anything in all the books that I have about the domestic cat which says that it is a bad thing to stare at your cat. I have lots of reference works and have read most of them – I can’t remember anything on the stare.

As a consequence, I think there is no problem about making eye contact with your cat and certainly judging by my own experiences I cannot agree that it is a bad thing to stare at your cat. I frequently have long eye to eye sessions with my cat, Charlie, when I’m talking to him.

When I look at him in the eye and talk to him gently he will blink slowly at me indicating that he is content and he likes it.

I think people’s ideas about staring at your cat probably it comes from discussions about wild cats. People say that you should not run away from a large wild cat because in doing so you give a strong indication to the cat that you are prey. The cat will chase you and pull you down.

Whereas if you stand your ground and make yourself as big as possible, create noise etc, it is said that you can see off the mountain lion in America. You can stare down a mountain lion and win the psychological battle about superiority.

It is interesting to note that in the Sunderban tiger reserve in Bangladesh where there is conflict between people and the tiger it has been found that if people wear a mask on the back of their heads the tiger will not attack indicating that when a person looks a tiger in the eye he is much less likely to attack than when walking or running away from a tiger.

There is, therefore, certainly a psychological effect when looking your cat in the eye. However, the domestic cat is domesticated and sociable. Your cat knows you well. You’re close to your cat and you are friends. There is nothing hostile or intimidating in your stare that is directed at your cat.

If while you are making eye contact with your cat you are speaking in a calm voice and showing all the signs of being friendly, I think it is a positive interaction with your cat. There is nothing bad about it but perhaps it does depend on the circumstances and how both cat and person are behaving at that particular moment in time.

I have a feeling that some people will disagree with me. It probably depends on the cat and the person. Some cats may find it intimidating. Perhaps these are more the timid and submissive cats. More confident cats are perhaps more likely to accept and enjoy it.

What do you think?

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Comments

Making Eye Contact with Your Cat — 19 Comments

  1. I think avoiding eye contact is a bit different to staring a cat in the eye, which they do see as a challenge.
    A cat who loves and trusts his caretaker still likes to be the one to initiate eye contact. Both our cats look up at us with love and trust but I would never go deliberately to stare in their eyes because I wouldn’t like someone staring into mine. Cats love the slow blinking exchange, Charlie obviously loves and trusts you Michael.
    I’d never look a strange cat in the eye until he/she trusted me, I’m thrilled that two of the four little ones in a bad home here are starting to trust me now, one looked me fully in the eyes yesterday! Such beautiful eyes she has too. She’s asking for help and we are working towards that.

    • Yea Ours are like that too Jasmin sometimes gives me lots of loving looks. I struggle myself looking at other peoples eyes for a long period of time. I tend to just look to the side it hurts sometimes to look directly.

    • Nice point. Perhaps there is a difference in staring at a cat and gently looking at your cat in a loving way speaking with a friendly voice. Perhaps it is also about attitude and there is the question as mentioned in my post about the circumstances under which it happens.

      Personally though I think the potential problems are overplayed somewhat. The bottom line is that if a cat does not like you looking into his or her eyes they simply avert their gaze and look somewhere else.

  2. I have always stared at my cats when i talk to them or pet them and never ever found them threatened by my stare.I don’t think that pet cats find their owners a threat to their dominance but might definitely not tolerate strangers.My tomcat “Matata” is mortally afraid of strangers and hides as soon as the door-bell is rung or a stranger enters the house.He is also one of the most ferocious cats i have come across having a “JAW-BITE” of a “Crocodile” !Never ever be afraid of your pet cat nor think that your cat is afraid of you as far as staring or eye to eye contact is concerned.

    • Love your comment about your crocodile cat! And I’m glad that you agree with me that it is perfectly okay to look into your cat’s eyes as I do. I look at my cat’s eyes for a long time and he looks right back at me for a long time as well. It is a great way to connect with your cat. I can look into my cat’s eyes very comfortably but I find it much harder to look into the eyes of a person.

  3. Yea the cats always seem to have no problems with eye contact. Sometimes they look straight at us with loving intent, Jasmine does this a lot she will stare at me with a cute loving look. She really is amazing. As are the others.

      • Yea its wonderful, its like I love you so much, or in my case thanks for looking after me. I get so much Joy from that.

      • It is one of the best things when you look into your cat’s eyes and you speak lovingly to him and he returns with that slow loving blink which you know means that you are communicating with him and him with you and the communication is: we are together, we are with each other and we are close friends and from our point of view is an expression of deep affection. I also believe that from the cat’s point of view it is also an expression of affection.

        • Exactly Michael its the best thing it sure gives me a feeling of total love. What also helps with me, especially if I’ve been sad or upset when they automatically come up and lick my eyelids and cuddle right in. I hope this is the same with everyone else. We get a lot of slow blinks, head bumps, etc.

      • Exactly its like they just really know deep inside how we feel, that’s why I get so annoyed and distressed when people say cats have no feelings. Even the shyist cat & Timid show their feelings.

  4. My cat has no problems at all with me looking her right in the eyes. She looks into mine too. She’s a feisty vocal little girl too. 😉

  5. It can be intimidating. Shy cats won’t look you in the eye. They need to watch our feet ad our faces to know what’s going on and thats not so easy. Some cats like Gigi will look you in the eye and speak to you. Others like Molly communicate by rubbing against you or leading you places. Molly used to never look anybody in the eye but now she does. Now she will look right back at me. It’s so nice to see her properly – not scuttling around looking at your feet the whole time.

    Of course there’s the slow blink. And also cats can’t point with their legs so they point with their eyes and nose. Mine do. If I want something from them I can also point to it by looking them in the eye and then looking right at the thing I am pointing towards and they follow where my eyes are pointing to get what I’m talking about. It works! Kind of blew my mind when I first discovered that.

    Also I was reading that aborigines in Australia and bush people in Africa point with their chins. When you think about pointing with your finger with a cat involved and you just know that right away the cat is going to look at your darn finger and not where it’s pointing. In my view the only thing they will follow as pointing towards something is your eyes. In that sense the eyes are useful to communicate and looking directly at a cat in the eyes does have a noticeable effect. However there will be some cats for whom it’s true that you shouldn’t look them in the eye because it would be aggressive.

    When Molly first came she was exactly a good example of that. I wouldn’t bother her with staring for a long time until she got better.

  6. I always make eye contact with my cats and they know when I am looking at them. With Barney my boy, all I have to do is look at him and he talks to me. I don’t even have to utter a sound. They say the eyes speak a million words and I believe 100% that cats can read our expression just like other humans can therefore I think it is a good way to communicate with a cat about how you feel.

  7. When I call out the name of one of my cats, they most always make eye contact with me.
    On the outside and between male cats, eye contact is always a challenge and a fight inevitable.
    It makes sense to me that big wild cats should be stared down, because that is what is recommended when confronted by a vicious dog. Never turn and run.

  8. Interesting article and I’ve never really thought about it with cats; dogs yes but not cats.
    I don’t seek my cats out to stare at them but when they look at me I don’t look away they seem to like me making eye contact especially when I talk to them 🙂

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