Cats stare at their owners for all kinds of reasons, some exciting, some less so. A stare can mean anything from, “Hey, I’m hungry,” to “You’re the best,” to “I’m really, really mad at this moment.” Learning to read your cat’s facial and body language is a exciting part of being a cat owner.
By noticing your cat’s body language in addition to its stare, you can often decipher what your cat is saying. Your cat’s ears and tail are often the key. Cat’s use their ears and their tails to convey fear, dominance, and aggression, and they use their eyes to convey attentiveness and relaxed affection.
The Attentive Stare
If your cat stares at you expectantly with a face that is alert but not on edge and a tail that is straight up in the air, she is happy and interested in you. Maybe she wants to play as if saying, “Now what can we do that’s fun?” If your cat enjoys having the window opened and it is currently closed, she may jump up toward the window and then go to you and stare attentively.
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Some cats have special spots in the house where they enjoy basking in the sun. If you have an enclosed porch and your cat likes to lounge out there, your cat may be asking your to open the door. If playtime is something your cat enjoys, she may bring a soft toy, drop it at your feet, and stare.
Maybe your cat is hungry. If you are fixing yourself lunch or a snack and your cat takes this posture and stares attentively at you, it is really a mystery what the cat wants? Cats like snacks too: it’s up to you if you want to share.
Cats enjoy interactions with you and frequently give the attentive stare to convey a request. Once you get to know the cat and its preferred routine, you will be able take a pretty good guess about what it wants. Every time you guess right, you will be rewarded with a very happy cat.
If your cat is relaxed and comfortable and gives you a sleepy stare punctuated with a slow blink, it is showing affection. The relaxed, slow blink says, “Life is good. You are good. Everything is so good.” Many experts believe the slow blink is a sign of love and affection from your cat’s face to your heart.
If you receive this slow blink from your laid back cat, give the slow blink back. You cat will appreciate your efforts, and even if she doesn’t, it is just too much fun to talk back to your cat. Don’t pass up the opportunity to do so.
The Frightened Stare
If your cat’s ears begin to turn back and lay close to its head while it stares at you, your cat is letting your know it is frightened. Most often, you will not be on the receiving end of this stare. The cat may aim this kind of stare at a stranger, the dog, or even something in the environment that has caught the cat’s eye but not yours.
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Cats that are afraid may begin to curl their upright tails into a question mark. If the cat has a place to run and hide, that will likely come next. You may or may not be able to figure out what was freaking your cat out. Rest assured it will recover and return with its dignity intact once the perceived threat is gone.
One odd thing cats do that looks like fear but isn’t is to race around the house for no apparent reason. Often at night, or first thing in the morning, you will hear a cat racing around as if chasing a whole herd of mice. The cat is fine; it just needs to burn off a bit of energy.
The Imminent Attack
If your cat begins to sink into a crouch while flattening its ears and wagging its tail slowly from side to side, whatever or whomever it is staring at is about to be attacked. Often this kind of stare is accompanied by a low growl. Cats don’t generally attack if they aren’t cornered, so remove the source of conflict and give the cat an escape route before someone gets hurt.
Cats that are staring and are about to attack may let their tails hang down. If they are very upset and afraid and ready to attack, their tail may tuck between their back legs. The tufts of hair in their ears may stand straight out.
If your cat displays this kind of behavior, take it seriously and find a way to reduce the conflict in the room. Don’t try to pick the cat up! Just note what is happening and defuse it however you can.
My Cat Stares at Nothing and It Freaks Me out
Cat lore is filled with tales of cats that stare at ‘nothing’ when a house is haunted, cats that stare at a silent phone that then rings, and cats that register changes in the weather by staring out the window. Another commonly told tale involves the cat that goes to the door and stares at it moments before a household member comes home. It certainly appears that the cat knows the person is about to return.
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Cats have an uncanny sense of many things people don’t ever notice. When you see your cat staring intently at nothing, it isn’t necessary to be afraid or assume your home is full of spirits. You may think the cat is staring at nothing, but the cat doesn’t think that.
Cats that ‘stare at nothing’ are definitely staring at something, just not something human beings notice or care about. Changes in light, shadow movements, even insects can cause a cat to stop and stare intently. Sometimes cats are simply mysterious; you won’t always be able to understand what they are up to.
If your cat is crouched down in from of the refrigerator, or in front of a doorway, as still as a statue and staring intently, chances are you have mice. Cats will wait a very long time in this position for the mouse to come out. Let your cat wait it out and when it pounces, be ready to take the mouse away.
You may feel terrible about taking your cat’s carefully hunted prize away from her, but it’s for the best. Cats do not need to eat mice. In fact, small rodents carry all kinds of parasites and diseases, so thank your cat profusely, then dispose of the mouse outdoors and wash our hands thoroughly.
If you cat comes up to you, drops something at your feet, and stares attentively at you, don’t be surprised if it has brought you a present. Cats gift their owners with dead mice, crickets, and all manner of other small creatures both living and dead. Your cat is honoring you by bring you a gift, so even if the gift is disgusting, praise your cat profusely and dispose of whatever it is in the appropriate way.
Don’t Stare at a Strange Cat
Direct staring is a form of aggression. If you stare into the eyes of a strange cat without looking away or blinking, you are being rude at the very least, and at worst, you may be provoking an incident. If you want a cat to to learn to trust you, don’t stare directly into its eyes. Look at it, then look away.
Better yet, don’t look at a strange cat at all once you’ve acknowledged its presence. It may seem unfair that strange cats can stare at you but you should not stare back at them, but cats get to know people on their terms, not on yours. Why start trouble?
If you want to get to know a cat, let it approach you first. You can encourage this to happen by sitting in a relaxed way and not paying much attention to the cat. Have some cat treats with you, and set one or two a ways away.
The cat will come closer as it feels safer, and the only way to make it feel safer is to ignore it. Just as some young children are overwhelmed when adults meet them and want to shake hands and talk right away, most cats find aggressive attempts at friendship rude and even alarming.
When Your Cat Just Likes to Watch You
Cats know that humans are sources of food, safety, warmth, affection, and entertainment. Your cat has good reasons for paying attention to what you do in the course of your day. After all, your cat never knows when something you are involved in might produce something the cat wants.
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Cats get interested in surprising things. One cat came out and watched every time the man in the house repaired something. Even if the cat was in the far end of the house from where the repair was taking place, if the tool box came out, out came the cat at respectable to distance to watch the excitement.
Cats are much more social than most people believe. Once at cat trusts you and likes you, the cat will want to pay attention to what you do. The cat will want to hang out in the same room you are in. The cat is just including you in its social group.
If you have the full attention of cat, accept it with grace and gratitude. Cats are nothing if not companionable with their people. Isn’t that why you keep at cat in the first place? Of course it is.
Why Cats Stare (Video)
"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett