42

When I was talking to my wife last night, it came up that blinking slowly at a cat is supposed to be a way to tell them that you love them. She said that when she tried it with her parent's cats, one cat slowly blinked back at her and the other cat started purring.

I tried it with our two cats and both ignored me, although I rescued the small one when she was still only a few weeks old, so she probably doesn't have the same behaviors / experiences as a normal cat.

Is it true that blinking slowly at cats is a way to communicate the message that you love them? My thoughts are that it's maybe more of a signal of trust, but I don't know for certain.

48

In the Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, Karen Overall describes the slow blinking motion of a cats eyes as a sign of a fully relaxed cat. If a human is mimicking that action, the message they're potentially sending to the cat is that they're, themselves, relaxed and so trusting in the presence the cat. That consequence of that, in turn, may be to further relax the cat which then causes a similar response as well as, possibly, a soft purr. Basically a whole lot of contentment all around.

If nothing else, the ability of any animal to be fully relaxed and comfortable in the presence of a human is a sign of trust and confidence and that's as much a sign of love as anything else we could choose to take. So, I think you're both right. :D

  • Does it work the same way for dogs? I had a funny blinking experience this weekend. – Machado May 11 '15 at 12:11
  • @Machado - I can't say that I've particularly noticed that with dogs. Dogs tend to be more overt in their affections, so while I wouldn't dismiss it, I tend to think of this being more of a feline thing. – John Cavan May 11 '15 at 12:38
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+50

Roger Tabor described several behaviours that are considered to indicate friendly or neutral intentions:

  1. Grooming

  2. Looking away

  3. Yawning

  4. Slow blinking

In his very first book on cat behaviour, The Wildlife of the Domestic Cat Tabor includes anecdotes doing field work observing roaming domestic cats in the street where he would mimic this behaviour to put the cats at ease. (In some cases it had an inverse effect on people in the neighbourhood, who thought he might be after their cars.)

This would also explain the paradox of cats being attracted to people who are afraid of cats and avoid their gaze. ;-)

  • 4
    +1 for the interesting point about cats being attracted to people who aren't attracted to them. – Carey Gregory Feb 22 '14 at 3:04
9

While I don't often do this with cats, I do use this technique to calm down scared puppies when I am grooming them for the first time. Not only does blinking slowly communicate relaxation, but your own facial expression as a whole shows you are relaxed. That in turn causes the puppy, or cat, to relax more. I groom cats, but don't usually look them in the eye while I'm working as they are typically stressed beyond blinking-help anyway. Cats and dogs are very receptive to the minute changes in our facial expressions and our body postures. I wouldn't necessarily say that blinking at your cat tells them you love them, but it will convey a sense of calm and happiness, which could be seen as 'love'.

6

I often do the slow blink to my "grrrls" but they don't seem to register the gesture. They blink at me, but seem to feel that since I'm not a cat it doesn't mean anything coming from me.

Some other cat gestures I can mirror back at them and get a response, such as the trill, or the flop over onto one's side with a goofy playful look.

I view the blink as "I trust you / I love you" basically the cat is saying "I'm taking my visual targeting system off line right now because I trust you"

  • I get better results when I hold my eyes open just a slit. Otherwise they look at me like I'm doing it wrong. – Mazura Aug 6 '15 at 12:04

protected by John Cavan Jan 12 '17 at 2:00

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