Cats & Slow Blinking: What Does it Mean?

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Pet parents are used to seeing weird cat behavior. (Running from one end of the room to the other for no reason? Check.) But what about not-so-common behaviors, such as the cat slow blink? And why do cats blink so slowly? What does this movement reveal about their thoughts?

What Does the Cat Slow Blink Mean?

As theorized by animal behavior experts, the slow blink is how a cat tells her human family that she feels safe. According to The Cut's interview with veterinarian Gary Weitzman, author of How to Speak Cat: A Guide to Decoding Cat Language: "The slow blink really is an acceptance gesture. [Cats] do that when they're absolutely comfortable with you."

If you've ever had a cat gaze lovingly into you eyes and blink slowly, consider yourself lucky. Although it may seem like an ominous gesture, slow blinking is cat code for "You are my entire world!"

Think of the cat slow blink as the "butterfly kiss" of the cat world. While humans gently flutter their eyelashes against someone else's cheek to communicate their love, cats delicately flutter their eyelashes at their people. Cat friends will even slow blink at each other as if to say "We're cool."

Happy cat with eyes closed sitting on a jewelry display while a person scratches her ears

Why Do Cats Slow Blink?

It's a persistent myth that kitties don't show their affection for people, despite the millions of cat stories, videos and photographs that prove otherwise. While it's true that some cats may not be as outwardly affectionate as other companion animals, they can be quite expressive. You just have to know what to look for and how to read a cat's body language. Kneading, for instance, is a common way that cats show their love. Now you can add the slow blink to the list.

The cat slow blink is just one of the more subtle ways your kitty says, "I love you," and it's a gesture that you can return. "Cat returns your blink" made it onto Best Friends Animal Society's list of relaxed or curious body language cues.

The Science of Feline Facial Expressions

More and more scientists are on the case, too. For example, research published in The Journal of Physiology notes that cat slow blinking, when both the closing and the opening of the eyelid happen at a slow pace, differs from the velocity of a typical cat blink, when the closing of the eyelid is rapid but the opening is slow. This observation is noteworthy because it shows that slow blinking is not a reflexive movement — it's an intentional behavior. This research is an exciting step toward answering the question "Why do cats slow blink?"

In an article published by the American Association of Feline Practitioners, licensed veterinarian technician Ellen M. Carozza writes that with the pets she sees in an office setting, the "confident happy cat" is the one who might slow blink and expect you to blink in return. It may seem mysterious, but the cat slow blink is just one of the many things your cat will do to get your attention.

So even though you'll lose a staring contest with your cat every time, the two of you can have a "blink off" to show how much you love and trust each other. There's more than one way to say "I love you" to your feline friend!


Christine O'Brien

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