Have you ever looked up to find your cat already staring you down? Because cats can’t talk to us verbally, they will use a lot of nonverbal communication to let us know what they need. Staring is one of the most common ways for them to do this. But why does your cat stare at you? What does the stare-down mean?
Cats will stare down their humans for a variety of reasons, and it’s up to us to decipher which reason is behind each stare. Fortunately, we’ve got the information you need to help you figure it out!
Most Common Reasons Your Cat Stares at You
Your cat will stare at you for many reasons, ranging in need level and emotion type. Here are some of the typical reasons you may find your feline friend staring you down.
Your Cat Is Simply Curious
Cats are often curious beings. They may simply be staring at you in an attempt to just see what you’re up to. If you’re moving around or doing an activity around the house, this could very well be the reason for your cat’s eyes being on you.
Your Cat Is Asking for Something
Sometimes your cat will be staring at you because they want you to feed them, pet them, or play with them. Consider what time of day it is and see if it’s close to meal time or another activity that you do regularly. Cats begin learning their schedule fairly quickly and may let you know if you’re late for an “appointment” with them by staring you down until you give them what they want.
Your Cat Is Expressing an Emotion to You
Because cats aren’t able to tell us how they are feeling, they will use physical and facial clues to let us know what’s going on in their heads. Your cat may be staring at you because they are feeling a particular emotion, and they want you to know about it. This is a broad category of possibilities. It’s important to learn the body language to look for in determining what your cat is trying to tell you.
Let’s talk about some of the most common emotions behind a stare and what can help you determine which emotion is behind your cat’s eyes.
If your cat is letting you know they are calm by staring at you, there are some other signs that they are relaxed and content with their surroundings. A calm cat will have slow and steady breathing and will likely have relaxed muscles. Your cat may even be relaxing by stretching out and staring at you.
While your cat is staring at you, you may notice that its eyes are only half-open or that its pupils are small. These are both signs that your kitty is content and calm. You may even catch a few slow blinks between your cat’s staring sessions, which is your cat letting you know they love and trust you completely!
Sometimes your cat is staring at you because they are angry. If you’re being stared at by your cat and notice large pupils or a tail swishing back and forth, these are signs your kitty may be angry about something. If your cat is angry, it’s best not to stare back at them because they may take this as a threat.
If your cat is angrily staring at you, you have a couple of options. One option is simply giving your cat some space to calm down. Sometimes your feline friend simply needs some time alone to come down from their angry emotions. You can also make a loud noise to distract your cat or throw a toy to try to break their stare. These options may not help with the anger itself, but they may serve as a way to break the tension between the two of you.
Your cat may also stare at you because they’re frightened, and they want to let you know. If you notice your cat has their tail tucked under them or that they’re crouching, this may be a sign that they are scared and ready to run if needed. Your cat may even be staring at you from the comfort of a hiding space.
Although you likely didn’t scare your cat on purpose, it helps to know what you did to scare your cat so you can avoid doing it in the future. Take some time to speak calmly to your cat but don’t force them to receive petting or other physical contact if they’re overly frightened; this could make it worse.
Your Cat May Not Feel Well
Your cat may be staring at you because they don’t feel well, and they need you to help them. If you notice other unusual symptoms have shown up with the staring sessions, you will want to take your cat to the vet to make sure everything is okay. If your cat seems to be in pain, is more lethargic than normal, or isn’t eating or drinking as much, their stares may be telling you something is wrong.
How Did Your Cat Learn to Stare at You?
As we mentioned before, our cats can’t talk to us; they have to find creative ways to communicate. For many cats, staring is simply an instinct that will become a habit over time. When your cat stares at you, and you respond, it teaches them that they will get a reaction out of you when staring at you. For example, if your cat is staring at you and you assume they want to be fed, so you feed them, they will likely begin staring you down every time they want to be fed.
Humans often consider staring to be a rude action between one another and one to avoid. However, cats are simply doing it to communicate with you in ways they know. Your cat is simply trying to let you know they need something or communicate their emotions in a way that will strengthen the relationship between the two of you!
Should You Stare Back at Your Cat?
Typically, staring back at your cat isn’t a good idea. If your cat is frightened or angry, having you stare back at them can be seen as a threat and only escalate the situation. However, if your cat is staring at you in a calm way to let you know they love you, you can gently stare back. The best way to approach this is to look at them with soft, kind eyes and slowly blink in the same way they do.
It may be your initial instinct to be unnerved when your cat is staring you down, but you shouldn’t be! Your cat stares at you as a way to communicate with you. Your cat may be telling you it’s hungry, scared or simply observing you. The best thing you can do is take in your cat’s body language as a whole instead of just the staring. This full picture will allow you to determine what your cat is trying to tell you so you can help them in the best way possible!