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Why Does My Cat Wink at Me? Feline Behavior Explored

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

cat winking The “slow wink” is a common behavior amongst most cats. If you’ve ever been around a cat that likes you, you’ve probably noticed them winking at you at some point!

Cats don’t actually need to blink with their usual eyelids. Instead, they have a third eyelid that they blink with in most cases. This eyelid’s main purpose is to keep their eye moist and it is also completely transparent, so we don’t tend to notice them blinking with it.

However, if something particular gets in their eye, they may need to blink using their outer eyelid as well. Usually, this only happens in one eye. Cats can close one eyelid at a time, so this will usually result in something that looks like winking.

If they do this in our direction, it can easily look like they’re making eyes at us!

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Why Do Cats Blink at Us Slowly?

On top of normal blinking, you’ve probably noticed your feline slowly blinking at you as well! Typically, this has a completely different meaning and occurs with both eyes. Therefore, it is far more like a slow blink than a wink.

Usually, cats do this because they are communicating with us. The small blink usually points to a very relaxed and comfortable cat. Sometimes, cats are simply communicating that they are comfortable. Other times, they are asking for more close contact.

In other words, they want to be pet by you!

If you slowly blink back at your pet, you may notice that they’ll get up and come join you. Sometimes, they may only blink back again, though. (Often, they’re just too lazy to get up.)

Cats have a lot of different messages that we can’t copy. We don’t have a tail or ears, after all! However, this is an easy signal that we can use to communicate with our felines. Whenever you’re looking to cuddle, try slow blinking at your feline first.

It might just prompt them to get up and join you.

winking cat on the floor
Image Credit: Pixabay

When Winking Because Dangerous

Usually, winking and slow blinking are completely normal. However, there are some situations where they may indicate an underlying problem.

For instance, if your cat is blinking a lot, it could indicate that there is a permanent irritant in their eye. They may have injured their eye, which can indicate a need to visit the vet. Eyes are very good at healing themselves.

However, if your cat acts like their eye is bothering them for a few days, it’s probably a sign that something isn’t working correctly.

Sometimes, their third eyelid can swell. In this case, it will usually become visible. If you can clearly see your cat’s third eyelid, you need to visit the vet.

Their eyelids can become damaged in a few different ways. Sometimes, it becomes infected without actually getting physically hurt. Other times, a scratch or some other injury can become infected – or just be irritated for a few days.

Usually, a bit of winking is not an issue. If your cat winks heavily for an hour or so and then stops, there isn’t a reason to rush to the vet. It’s when your cat’s eye has been obviously irritated for over an hour that you should get worried!

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Conditions that Can Cause Eye Infections

There are several problems that may cause excessive blinking in cats. Therefore, we recommend taking your cat to the vet if you notice anything that’s off.

Here’s a short explanation of the problems your cat may experience that cause excessive blinking:

Eye Infections

Eye infections of all sorts can cause excessive blinking. If your feline has an injury in its eye, it can easily become infected. Usually, eyes heal from minor injuries by themselves. After all, our cats are likely constantly injuring their eyes with small blades of grass and dust.

When the eye doesn’t heal correctly, infections can set in. Usually, the cat will act like their eye is bothering them. They may rub it excessively and blink more than usual. Both of these are obvious signs that your cat’s eye may be infected.

Redness and swelling are often signs of an infection as well.

Sometimes, only one eye is infected. In these cases, your feline may only blink and rub one eye. It may look like they are winking at you. One or two winks aren’t anything to be worried about, but consider visiting a vet if their eye seems to be bothering them after a day.

bengal cat winking
Image Credit: Pixabay

Upper Respiratory Infections

You usually don’t associate upper respiratory infections with eye issues. However, the respiratory system and eyes are explicitly connected. If your cat gets an infection in one, it can cause issues with the other as well.

Usually, both eyes will be infected. It isn’t odd for one eye to be worse than the other, though.

Signs like sneezing and nasal discharge are common. Your cat will sound like they have a cold and likely have pretty similar symptoms to people.

These infections don’t always get better by themselves. Therefore, we highly recommend taking your feline to see a vet. They may need antibiotics and supportive therapies to help them get better.

Third Eyelid Infection

While your cat’s whole eyelid may not be infected, the third eyelid can get infected. This eyelid is used to keep your cat’s eye moist. That’s not actually a major job of their third eyelid.

When this eyelid becomes infected, it usually becomes visible. Usually, it is transparent and not visible without looking very hard. However, when it becomes infected, it becomes obviously visible. It will often protrude out of the eye.

These sorts of infections are quite serious and need veterinary care. Without proper treatment, the rest of the eye can become infected. Eventually, your cat could lose an eye due to the infection. Therefore, it’s essential to get them the proper care ASAP.

This condition is often much easier to treat when you catch it early. Furthermore, even with treatment, delaying can lead to complicated and long-term consequences. A cat’s third eyelid is quite important, so it is essential to keep it functioning.

black cat winking
Image Credit: Pixabay

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Why Does My Cat Wink at Me With One Eye?

Generally speaking, cats usually wink with one eye because they have something irritating in their eye. This irritant can be anything from cat fur to dust. Just like people, cats usually dislodge this irritant by themselves. It doesn’t cause significant harm or stick around for very long.

Cats usually blink with their third eyelid to re-moisten their eyes. However, this eyelid isn’t always enough to remove any irritants, so they sometimes need to blink with their regular eyelid to remove it.

Other times, their third eyelid may dry out. It is translucent and very thin. Typically, it stays moistened so that it can remoisten their eye as necessary. However, it can dry out occasionally. The cat may “wink” a few times to remoisten it.

Other times, winking can be a sign of a problem. Eye infections often cause excessive winking, for instance. Respiratory infections can also cause eye problems, though the underlying infection often needs to be treated for the eye problem to go away.

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If your cat winks at you, it’s likely that they just have something stuck in their eye. As long as it just happens once or twice, you don’t have anything to be worried about!

However, if it continues over a number of days, then it may be a sign of an underlying problem. For instance, eye infections can cause excessive eye irritation, which can lead to excessive winking. If your cat winks multiple times over a 24-hour span, it’s time to see the vet.

Your cat will likely exhibit other signs, as well. For instance, their eyes may become red and swollen. They may paw at one eye excessively. If they have a respiratory infection, they will likely sneeze and such as well!

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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