Critter Culture
Your Cat's Staring Explained

Your Cat's Staring Explained

Critter Culture Staff



Cats have different ways of communicating. Sounds and physical contact are their go-to methods, but sometimes they stare.

If your cat is looking directly at you for more than a few seconds, they're trying to talk to you. It may be based on emotions, needs, or something else entirely. Pay attention because it's your job to figure out what they're trying to say.


First and foremost: food

Hungry cat sitting in front of a emty food dish and looking up to the camera. Lightspruch / Getty Images

The number one reason a cat will stare at you has to do with food. Since they can't speak, they have to resort to other measures to get you to take care of their needs. Is your kitty staring at you extensively? If so, don't get creeped out by this steady leering. Instead, look at the clock. Maybe it's around feeding time. Go fill that bowl and give your furball some fresh water.


Time for a litter change

Small gray kitten in plastic litter cat on floor

Another requirement your cat may have is a clean litter box. Maybe things have gotten a bit dirty in there. Perhaps you've been too busy to check out the situation. Your kitty, in this instance, will give you a reminder. So when you're buddy's staring at you for an extended length of time, and you can't figure out why take a look at the litter box. It could need to be scooped out or have a good scrub-down.


Wanting your attention and affection

Gray kitten cat with stripped fur chest DashaMuller / Getty Images

Life tends to be busy in the 21st century. Sometimes you simply aren't able to give your feline the full attention they crave. Don't worry; your furry friend will tell you when they're starved for affection.

Staring at you may mean your cat wants to be in the spotlight. Cuddling, pets, and snuggles are one option. If your buddy doesn't seem on board with this, get out the catnip mouse or ball of string. Grab their favorite toy and spend some time playing together. Providing them with a fun activity is a healthy way to offer mental stimulation and stave off boredom.


One happy and content kitty

cat lying on its back quantum40 / Getty Images

Happiness is another reason a cat will stare at its owner. For an emotion like this, paying attention to their posture will give you some clues. Is their body language relaxed? If that's a yes, then it's mainly a sign of contentment. Your cat is comfortable around you and living in the moment.

Close-up gazing with slow blinking will reinforce this theory. It's a general state of ease. Even if your cat wants something, if they're displaying this type of body language, it shows they're relaxed and confident enough to express their feelings.



Scared and on the defense

scared cat

Not all reasons for feline staring have to do with wants, needs, or happiness. Cats will make their other emotions visible, too. Fear is one of them, and it's fairly obvious when your buddy is showing you they're afraid. Crouching with a tucked tail or hiding while staring at you is a sure sign your cat is scared of something.

Your kitty is on the alert for danger. Something likely startled them. Maybe you dropped a glass or sneezed loudly. Perhaps the cat heard something outside, and you weren't the culprit. Whatever the reason, they're inclined to stare at the first person they see. If this is you, make slow and quiet moves to decrease the stress factor. Giving them a few treats should lure them out of hiding, calming them, and helping the situation.


Uh-oh: someone's mad

A Calico cat with a grumpy expression Mary Swift / Getty Images

Stiff body language turned ears, and dilated pupils are some signs that your cat is angry. Couple this with a direct stare, and it indicates your kitty could be ready to pounce.

Avert your eyes and put some space between the two of you. Then try to deescalate the situation. Breaking the animal's concentration by causing a non-threatening distraction is a good idea if your cat doesn't want to back down. Toss a toy for them to chase or make a diversionary noise. Once things simmer down, give your buddy some extra love and attention.


Curiosity didn't kill the cat

A curious cat looks out from behind the curtain.

Cats are genuinely curious creatures. Staring is an inquisitive way they follow you. You're their owner, so to them, you're their life. By far, you're the most interesting thing in their world. So it's only natural they keep track of your every activity. They want to know what you're up to throughout the day.


Learning about life

Kitten facing up with a questioning facial expression LisaValder / Getty Images

Along the lines of curiosity, cats, but especially kittens, want to learn. There's a new world they're just experiencing, so staring is a way to get to know what's going on around them. Again, you are the focal point of this realm, so it's only natural their attention revolves around you. They're getting to know you and also figuring out how to best communicate and convey their needs.


Taking a cat nap

Light red cat on a white blanket

It may be a little freaky, but there's no cause for alarm. If your kitty is lying down while staring at you, they may not be looking at you at all. Instead, they're asleep.

Cats may sleep with their eyes fully or partially open. This typically won't last long since they're only taking a brief snooze. It's a totally natural behavior you shouldn't worry about.


Illness or injury

Tired old gray tabby cat with green eyes resting on soft bed and looking at camera at home Aleksandr Zotov / Getty Images

One thing that should put you on the alert is an atypical type of staring. Anything that goes against the norm of your cat's behavior should prompt you to call your vet. Your kitty could be hurt or ill. High blood pressure, in particular, may cause an ocular injury that results in uncontrolled staring and dilated pupils.


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