Cat Blink: When and Why

Domestic cat slow blink due to contentment
Domestic cat slow blink due to contentment. Photo in public domain
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Do cats blink? It is said that cats do not blink to spread tear fluid over their eyes as humans do to remove dust etc. but they do blink on two occasions which are (1) when responding contentedly to our interactions with them which is called a slow blink and (2) when the tufts of stiffened hairs just above the eyes trigger the blink reflex if the eyes are threatened.

That pretty well sums it up. The stiffened hairs that I refer to above the eyes are the same as cats’ whiskers.

Nearly all cat owners are familiar with the slow feline blink which you can elicit from the domestic cat by interacting with him or her in a warm manner. It is said that domestic cats don’t blink to spread tear fluid over their eyes because tears spread naturally over the eyes without being assisted by the eyelid. I can’t find any research to confirm that.

The tears are secreted by glands found in the eyelids, nictitating membrane and conjunctiva. Tear fluid has two functions. It cleanses and lubricates the suface of the eye and also nourishes the eye. Tears also contain chemicals which help to support the immune system in order to prevent bacteria from getting a foothold causing an eye infection.

As tear fluid accumulates on the surface of the eye it evaporates and excess tears pool out near the bottom of the eye at the eye’s inner corner where it is carried away through a drainage system (tear duct) to the nose. Where there is excess tearing there might be a foreign object in the eye or the cat may be suffering from an eye ailment. Alternatively there may be tear duct overflow due to a deformed tear duct (due to extreme breeding) which can be seen in the modern purebred Persian cat.

My Cat Doesn’t Blink

This video has a lot of hits but what we are seeing is nothing special:

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