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Why Does My Cat Squint at Me? 4 Vet-Verified Reasons

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

cat eye squinting with swelling

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Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you spot another person squinting at you, you probably suspect they need glasses. But what does it mean if your cat exhibits this behavior? Cats are experts at hiding when they are sick or injured, but when you see them squinting, you may be concerned about their eye health. In fact, squinting may be an indication that your cat needs to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible, although it doesn’t always mean they’re suffering from an illness, especially if your cat squints at you and then opens their eyes normally. Here are four typical reasons why your cat might squint at you.


The 4 Reasons Your Cat Is Squinting at You

1. Because They’re Relaxed

Cats rely on body language as a communication tool, including their eyes. If your cat is resting with their eyes squinting or partly closed, it’s a sign that they’re relaxed and in a good mood. Their ears will be facing forward and their whiskers will look relaxed, and your cat may be purring or kneading with their paws.

If your cat is squinting while sitting near you or in your lap, it’s a sign that they trust you and feel comfortable in your presence. Understanding this type of body language is especially important if you recently added a new cat to your family, especially one with trust issues. If you’ve spent time building a bond with your new pet, seeing them squint at you, in this case, can be extremely rewarding.

2. They’re Communicating Affection

A study published in 2020 examined how cats use their eyes to communicate positive emotions with each other and with trusted humans. If your cat narrows their eyes and blinks slowly at you, they may be trying to tell you they’re feeling affection and a bond with you. Typically, during the so-called slow blink sequence, cats half-blink a series of times and then end up narrowing or closing their eyes for an extended period of time.

The study showed that cats squinted and blinked more frequently when their owners demonstrated this behavior towards them. Cats were also more likely to approach an unfamiliar person who first slowly blinked at them. Squint back at your cat if you notice this behavior and feel confident that they are getting the message.

orange cat squinting at laptop
Image Credit: Catherine Heath, Unsplash

3. They Have an Eye Problem

Unfortunately, squinting can also be a sign that your cat is suffering from a medical issue in their eyes. Ocular pain or light sensitivity can cause a cat to squint one or both eyes. Generally, you’ll also notice other signs, such as watery or thick discharge, redness, cloudiness, or pawing at the eyes.

Many eye conditions can cause your cat to squint, including infections, injuries, or dryness. If your cat is squinting for more than a couple of minutes, see a veterinarian immediately. Eye problems can be very painful and get worse rapidly without treatment.

4. They’re Angry

Because of course, cats have to be contradictory, squinting can also indicate that they’re angry or feeling aggressive. However, you’ll notice very different body language if your cat is squinting at you for this reason.

Typically, your cat will crouch low to the ground if angry, often with their ears flattened to their head. Angry cats may lash their tails and make aggressive vocalizations like growling or hissing. If your cat squints at you with this additional body language, it’s a sure sign you need to give them some space.

An angry brown and white cat with black stripes
Image Credit: RomanaMart, Shutterstock

What Are Some Other Ways That Cats Communicate?

As we learned, squinting or eye narrowing is one way that cats communicate with each other and their owners. Their other body language, such as tail movement, body posture, and ear and whisker position, are vital communication methods that cats use.

For example, flattened ears usually indicate fear or aggression. A tail that’s swishing rapidly could mean your cat is feeling playful or angry. Forward-facing ears and relaxed whiskers indicate a positive and friendly disposition.

In addition to body language, cats use scent markers as a communication tool, primarily with other cats. Have you noticed your cat rubbing their face on you or different surfaces around the house? They are marking the area by releasing pheromones from scent glands present on their face.

Urine spraying is another less desirable method of scent communication employed mainly, but not only, by unneutered male cats. Cats also vocalize to communicate. Research suggests cats may have as many as 21 separate vocal tones, from meows to chirps to growls. These sounds can indicate anything from happiness to anxiety to aggression.



Squinting may seem like a normal eye movement, but for cats, it can be so much more. As we learned, squinting could be a clue to your cat’s mood or a sign of suffering from a medical condition. Learning to interpret your cat’s body language, including squinting, can improve your bond with your pet or save you from a painful scratch.

Featured Image Credit: Sheila Fitzgerald, Shutterstock

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