Have you ever turned away from the TV to look at your phone, only to turn back and find your cat staring directly at you? If you’ve experienced one of these intensely disquieting moments, you’re not alone. Since time immemorial, humankind has found itself wondering, what does it mean when my cat stares at me? Our ancestors had a slew of interesting, sometimes paranormal reasons for this peculiar feline behavior, but perhaps modern science offers a much more reasonable explanation.
What does it mean if my cat stares at me?
Honestly, it’s hard to tell. My wife (not a cat person, mind you) thinks that cats are staring at us because they are plotting to kill us. According to Mental Floss, people used to believe all sorts of strange things about cats. Some people believed cats of certain colors granted good or bad luck, or that they might steal a baby’s breath.
Other people believed that they were conduits to the afterlife or that if you looked into their eyes, you could catch a glimpse into the faerie world. There is no proof that any of this is untrue, mind you, but we’re going to have to chalk pretty much all of it up to folklore, rather than science. The reality is that cats stare at us for a number of reasons, but none of them are particularly sinister.
Your cat wants food, obviously.
Your cat might be staring at you because they want you to feed them. It doesn’t matter if they have already eaten, either, especially if you happen to be holding something that your cat finds irresistibly delicious. In fact, cat eye contact often signifies a wordless way of letting you know that they’re hungry, according to Purina pet behavior scientist Jean-Francois Savard. It all depends on the cat, though. More vocal cats might let you know they’re hungry in other ways.
Your cat could be angry.
As it turns out, my wife’s assessment about cats plotting our demise isn’t entirely off base. According to PetMD, a cat’s penetrating stare could mean that they are about to attack. In these cases, the stare is coupled with a few other telltale signs. In addition to direct eye contact, cats that are ready to pounce usually exhibit pupil dilation, a stiffer body posture, pulled back ears, and a tail that swishes from side to side. Also, most domestic cats that exhibit this behavior are looking to play, not “attack.”
They could be an actual scaredy cat.
If your cat is staring at you while crouched down with their tail tucked under their body, you might be dealing with a fraidy cat. This is doubly true if your cat is staring at you from high atop or under the safety of a piece of furniture. Anything could have spooked them, so just try and calm things down with a cat treat, a fun toy they enjoy, or some soft, calming shushing noises. Food is usually the easiest way to make a cat forget their fears.
The cat might actually like you.
I know how crazy it sounds, but it’s entirely possible that your cat is staring out of love. Cats might not be as overly affectionate as dogs, in general, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t understand love and affection. A long, unblinking stare isn’t how we show each other affection, but according to Purina, cats do this sort of thing all the time.
If that stare is followed up by a behavior known as cat “eye kisses,” then it could mean your cat really loves you. When a cat looks at you with their eyelids half-closed and slowly blinks, those are eye kisses. This is a sign of true admiration and trust. You can usually answer this sign of affection with some gentle petting, followed by some well-earned purring.