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Why Do Cats Stare at Each Other: 4 Reasons for This Behavior

cats fighting

An older and a younger cat are playing happily together in your living room. They’re batting catnip stuffed toys around or chasing each other back and forth in what you think is a playful game. They both suddenly stop, break apart, and stand several feet apart staring at each other. The older cat is staring determinedly at the younger one before the young cat loses the staring match. The tension in the room slowly dissolves before the cats go their separate ways. Why were your cats staring at each other?

hepper single cat paw dividerWhy Do Cats Stare at Each Other?

Cats communicate with each other through visual cues, physical contact, vocalizations, and chemical cues. Cats use eye contact and body language to let other cats know what they are thinking and feeling. They are experts at non-verbal communication and often leave us mere humans wondering what is going on behind those non-blinking eyes. You’ll need to watch your cats carefully and try to decipher what their body language is saying about the situation.

Here are 4 reasons cats stare at each other:

  1. A type of greeting: If your cat appears relaxed at another approaching cat and only offers a blink, it means they are open to approach and attention from the other cat. You may also see that the tip of the tail is bent forward when your cat is approaching a cat it knows and likes as this means that it is comfortable with the other cat.
  2. Territorial or defensive posturing: Cats may engage in a staring contest when they are feeling territorial and want to establish dominance. They may also take a defensive posture: ears flat, whispers back, crouching low with their tail wrapped around their body or between their legs. You may also see dilated pupils and they may begin vocalizing, i.e. hissing, growling, meowing, and spitting.
  3. Play time: Your cat may be feeling playful. Cats are masters of the hunt and if they’re playing a hunt and seek game, they may pause and challenge each other to a playful staring contest.
  4. Fear response: They may be feeling scared. A cat that has suffered a scare will stare at you while hiding behind furniture or crouch down with its’ tail tucked under its’ body. Your cat is spooked and is on guard for danger. Try distracting your cat with a favorite toy or a treat. If you suspect an injury, wait until they have relaxed before checking for trauma.

cat fighting
Image Credit: Pixabay

Is my cat being aggressive when it stares?

Cats are territorial and may develop aggression issues with other cats in the home if they feel they are being encroached upon. If you think the staring contest is about territory, it might be a good idea to distract your cats with treats or a toy. Make sure there are plenty of resources available to your cat to avoid competition and mistrust among your felines. Food, litter boxes, hiding spaces, toys, scratching posts, playtime, and human attention are all resources that your cats could become territorial over. If your pets are being aggressive with one another and you can’t figure out what the problem is, check with your vet or a cat behaviorist to help solve the riddle.

hepper single cat paw dividerConclusion

Cats are the masters of the thousand-yard stare, but this particular piece of body language between cats can mean a few things. If your cat is blinking at another cat and is not showing any other defensive body language, it means it is feeling open and friendly toward the other cat. Staring between playful cats may just be a part of the play before they are off and running to continue their cat games.

Cats also stare when they are feeling fearful, so distract your cat if possible before checking to see if they are injured. A staring contest between cats may also be a signal of territorial issues and you should watch for aggression between your pets. Cats worry about resources such as food, litter boxes, treats, and toys, and will display aggression toward other cats in the home if they believe they will not be getting their fair share. If your cats develop aggression toward each other, check in with your vet or a cat behaviorist for help to resolve the issue before it gets out of hand.


Featured Image Credit: Vshivkova, Shutterstock