If you’ve ever walked into a room to find your cat staring at you, or witnessed them gazing at you wide-eyed as you eat, then you’ll know it can be a little unnerving.
Rather than challenging you to a staring contest, this curious behaviour is actually something you may have trained your moggy to do without even realising it.
As a solitary species, cats don’t naturally feel the need to hold eye contact with others to communicate but if they think they can get something out of it, then they might be willing to give it a go.
For example, if your cat has stared at you in the past, you may have taken it to mean that they want food or maybe attention and given them a tasty treat or a bit of a fuss in response.
Your moggy pal will then have learnt to associate eye contact with an enjoyable reward and will want to try it again to see if they get the same result.
The more you reward this behaviour over time, the more likely your moggy is to stare at you to get their way.
Cats have learnt to miaow for the same reason, as they have no need to communicate in this way with other cats. When they miaow at us we often interpret it as them saying they want something and then reinforce this behaviour by giving them what they want.
As well as being a method of communication, staring is also a sign of a close bond between you and your cat, as they are unlikely to hold eye contact with someone they don’t like or trust.
If they slowly blink while looking at you, then that means they love you even more, as they trust you enough to close their eyes in your presence. If you want to show them you love them too, try returning the gesture by slow-blinking back.
Although staring is usually nothing to worry about in cats, if your cat has only recently started this behaviour then it’s a good idea to mention it to your vet so they can rule out any medical causes. In older cats, staring could be a sign of sight loss, so get them checked out as soon as possible.
For more information about cat behaviour, visit the Cats Protection website.