Cats are total stare-masters. Have you ever tried to win a staring contest with a cat? “Tried” being the operative word — it’s impossible. And have you ever stopped to think about why cats stare? Is there a difference between why cats stare at humans vs. why they stare at other cats? Wonder no more — here’s some insight into cat staring.
Why Is Your Cat Staring at Another Cat?
Cats are territorial by nature and usually don’t take a liking to a rival cat moving in on their turf. Because cats primarily communicate using body language, a cat staring at another cat is a way for the dominant kitty to show aggression. When a cat notices another cat staring at him, they both stop everything they’re doing and visually connect. If this cat staring doesn’t sufficiently meet the dominant one’s objective, then swatting, wrestling and even perhaps an all-out cat fight are next.
Cats are visual hunters and their ability to stare without regular blinking helps them keep a close eye on their prey. Unlike we humans who must frequently blink to keep our eyes lubricated, cats can maintain a steady gaze for quite some time before a blink. This is why it’s impossible to win a cat staring contest.
How to Avoid Cat Staring in Your Home
If you’re adding a new cat into your home, it’s important to take steps to avoid — or at least lessen — the aggression that could come from either kitty. Here are a few steps to take when introducing cats — and cut back on any potential aggressive cat staring:
- Introduce them gradually. Don’t simply place both cats in the same room together and expect them to become fast friends.
- Share scents between the two cats. This can be done by trading blankets or toys so each kitty can get used to the other one’s smell.
- Initially confine the new cat in a closed room with his own food, water and litter box.
- A good way to slowly introduce the cats is to feed them on either side of the door, with the food bowls moving closer and closer to the door. Soon, they’ll be eating with just a minor barrier between them.
- Make sure all initial contact is supervised.
Why Is Your Cat Staring at You?
The cats with whom we share our lives are innately interested in our activities — especially if said activities could result in something that benefits them. We’ve all been on the business end of cat staring when mealtime is near. Our cats impatiently watch our every move, and if we make the slightest move toward the kitchen — even if it’s to pour a cup of coffee — they’re all over us.
Dr. Kathryn Primm says, “Obviously cats are naturally attuned to non-verbal communication. Maybe she is using your appearance to help her choose how she should respond to something, and also sharing with you how she feels about it. Her eyes are reading your cues and her body language may be telling you something, too. She may want to be sure that you are watching her in return because you share a family group bond. Your shared look can reaffirm your bond and assure the social stability of your group. If you are calm, she is calm. If you look on edge, she will be, too.”
Our kitties love us and sometimes look at us with such affection in their eyes. If you notice your cat’s eyes meeting yours, give her the slow blink “I love you,” and enjoy the moments of bonding.
Thumbnail: Photography ©SensorSpot | E+ / Getty Images Plus.
This piece was originally published in 2018.
About the author
Angie Bailey, an award-winning writer, podcaster, and humorist, is the author of Texts from Mittens and Whiskerslist: The Kitty Classifieds. She’s written cat humor for over a decade, and lives in Minneapolis with her fiancé and two cats — Phoebe, a sassy senior and Janet, a teenage kitty with tons of tortitude.