Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
OK, this is probably a stupid question, but what does it mean when a cat winks? I read somewhere that it means something.
Siouxsie: Let us start by assuring you that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, Barb.
Thomas: In fact, we think it’s highly commendable that you want to learn more about the subtle language of cats.
Dahlia: We cats do a lot of talking with our eyes. When we confront another cat, we do so with our eyes wide open and our pupils narrow — engaging in a stare-down, if you will. When we want some petting, we’ll sit on the floor and look up at you with big eyes and somewhat dilated pupils to show love and adoration (and a desire for your attention).
Siouxsie: When we stare with narrowed eyes, that’s an expression of haughty disgust. And when we’re upset at humans, we stare with open eyes and our top eyelids almost flat and pointed down toward our nose.
Thomas: The expressions we use to express our love — to another cat or to a human — are the slow blink and the wink.
Dahlia: The wink signifies “I like you, you’re kind of fun” or “Thanks for the treat/snack/toy/etc.”
Siouxsie: But the ultimate expression of love is the slow blink. Some people call the slow blink a “cat kiss.”
Thomas: The slow blink is a gesture in which we gradually close both eyes, keep the eyes closed for a second, and then slowly reopen the eyes.
Dahlia: You can try giving your cat a kiss with your eyes and see how she responds. Usually if you give an eye-kiss and your cat is paying attention, she’ll give you one in return. I love it when Mama gives me eye-kisses. And lip-kisses. And petties in all the right places! And verbal acknowledgment of my beauty, grace, elegance, intelligence, lovely tail, perfectly maintained fur …
Siouxsie: All right, all right. That’s enough! We all appreciate it when Mama tells us she knows how wonderful we are, but it’s in really poor taste to brag about it.
Thomas: When you visit a home with a cat, you can try giving the resident cat an eye-kiss. You’ll probably see that the cat will be encouraged by your polite approach to making friends with him, and he may even condescend to sit on your lap and allow you to pet him.
Dahlia: We do recommend that you practice the eye-kiss in a relaxed environment. Most cats won’t respond to eye-kisses if there’s a lot of noise and chaos around them.
Siouxsie: When there’s a lot of activity, we cats have to be on guard to make sure we’re safe and we know everything that’s going on in our environment. Cat kisses require focused attention and, because we have to close our eyes to give kisses, we can’t be as aware of possible danger.
Thomas: So, Barb, you’re right. A cat’s wink does mean something. It means she likes you.
Dahlia: But sometimes, as Mama says, a cigar is just a cigar. We cats do wink or blink when we get something in our eye, too. But those winks and blinks are typically fast, and the cat that blinks because he’s got something in his eye generally isn’t looking at a person or another cat.
Siouxsie: We hope we’ve helped you to understand some of the subtleties of cat language, Barb.
Thomas: If you’re interested in learning more about other cat body language, we’ve got columns in our archives dealing with aggressive and defensive body language, as well as the language of ears, tails and whiskers.
Dahlia: Thank you for your question, Barb, and thank you for wanting to learn more about what your cat friends are saying to you.