What Your Cat's Eyes Can Tell You

Cat with wide pupils

Your Cat's Different Pupil Sizes and What They Mean

Unlike humans, cats don't show their emotions on their faces, which may make it a little difficult to decipher your favorite feline's moods. Luckily, paying attention to subtle changes in your cat's eyes can help you tell if your pet is calm and happy or feeling a little frightened or anxious.

Changes in the Eyes Provide Important Information About Your Cat's Mood

The pupils provide important information about your cat's moods. Pupils, the dark openings inside your cat's colored irises, constrict and expand as the light changes. In dark areas, the pupils expand to allow more light into the eye. The openings get smaller in well-lit areas or bright sunlight.

Pupil size can also be an indication of your pet's mood. Changes in the appearance of the pupils or eyes can indicate:

  • Pleasure. As your cat purrs on your lap, you may notice that its pupils become narrow slits. Narrowed pupils may be a sign that your pet is happy and content, particularly when accompanied by purring. Although purring often happens when cats are happy, some cats also purr when scared or in pain.
  • Aggression or Anger. Pupils also tend to get smaller and narrower when your pet is feeling aggressive. Before your furry friend playfully pounces on a toy or lashes out at another pet, you'll notice a change in pupil size. Cats may also stare and squint if they're feeling aggressive. Squinting helps protect your cat's eyes from injury during a fight, according to Catster.
  • Fear or Excitement. Wide eyes or pupils can be an indication that your pet is facing a scary or stimulating situation. You may have noticed that your cat's eyes widen when you turn on the vacuum or bring out the kitty fishing rod.
  • Relaxation. Half-closed eyes and normal pupils mean your cat is feeling relaxed and comfortable in your company.

What Blinking Means

Have you ever noticed that your cat locks eyes with you then blinks slowly? Cat behavioral experts compare slow blinking to a kiss or smile from your cat. It's the way your cat shows affection. The next time you notice the slow blink, return the sentiment with your own leisurely blink.

Putting the Clues Together

Your cat's eyes aren't the only information you need to consider when you attempt to figure out your pet's mood. You'll also need to pay attention to:

  • Posture
  • Tail and ear position
  • Vocalizations

Small pupils, flattened ears, an arched back, and a high tail with fur standing on end means your cat is angry and feels aggressive. In contrast, a neutral tail and erect ears coupled with normal or large pupils and neutral or relaxed posture are signs that your pet is confident and happy. Cats that feel threatened or anxious may hunch over and place their tails between their legs.

Is your cat's tail thumping back and forth furiously? That may be a sign that your feline wants you to stop the petting session immediately. If you disregard the warning, your pet might scratch you or wrap its teeth around your hand to make sure you understand the message.

The sounds your cat makes also provide information about its mood. By now, you can probably tell the difference between a happy meow and an agitated or aggressive one. Of course, growling is never a good sign and lets people or other animals know it's best to back away and give your pet some space.

Familiarizing yourself with the clues your cat's eyes provide will help you keep your cat healthy and happy. If you notice a sudden change in your pet's behavior, an illness or injury could be the reason. We can help you determine why your cat's behavior has changed and if there's a cause for concern. Contact us to schedule an appointment for your furry friend.

Sources:

Catster: Cat Pupils: Here’s What Your Cat’s Eyes Are Telling You, 10/15/19

Petfinder: Cat Talk: A Guide to Pet Body Language

The Humane Society of the United States: The Cat’s Meow

Location

Find us on the map

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

9:00 AM-6:00 PM

Tuesday:

9:00 AM-8:00 PM

Wednesday:

9:00 AM-4:00 PM

Thursday:

9:00 AM-6:00 PM

Friday:

9:00 AM-5:00 PM

Saturday:

9:00 AM-3:00 PM

Sunday:

Closed

  • "I have my puppy for only 4 days and the doctor provided all the answers to my million questions. She was patient and kind and very loving to my pup. She diagnosed ear mites and cleaned his ears throughly. She explained everything throughly and even comforted me when I got upset about him being a little sick. I would highly recommend and will be taking Finn her from here on out. Thank you thank you thank you!!"
    by Jeanna P. on 04/06/2022
  • ""My husband and I absolutely love Three Village Veterinary Hospital! Our puppies adore Dr. Sophia, and she takes the best care of them whenever we bring them in. When our newest puppy broke her leg and had to have surgery, Dr. Sophia called us right away to check in and see how she was doing, which meant the world to us! All of the vet techs and front desk staff are also amazing! I couldn't imagine bringing our babies anywhere else.""
    Jessica K.
  • "'They have taken great care of my puppy...even when he does scary things like eating light bulbs ( metal and all). As a first time dog owner I have lots of questions and each of the vets have taken their time to answer all of my questions and concerns without ever making me feel stupid for asking. The support staff is also very knowledgeable, helpful and truly gets excited to see each of the animals that comes through the door.'"
    Joanne W
  • ""I could not be happier with my visit to Three Village Veterinary Hospital! I just recently moved to New York and have been extremely nervous in choosing a new veterinarian for my dog (he’s super stubborn and can be a real handful). I called Three Village Veterinary Hospital and right off the bat Dr. Sophia Was fantastic! She really took the time to dive into Huxley’s history with me, including his anxiousness about vet visits. Hearing Dr. Sophia ask all the right questions reassured me that Huxley was in good hands.

    Huxley came out of his appointment with a bill of clean health and a ton of new friends in the office staff, I couldn’t believe how happy he was! I am so glad that I was recommended to Three Village Veterinary Hospital and feel incredibly relieved to have found a fantastic new team that I can trust Huxley with. I HIGHLY recommend!""
    Michelle G
  • ""I would never go to another place but this one, even if I had to travel. best professional understanding point on doctors there. they opened their doors and stayed open just for me after hours. They had so much empathy & helped me make the right decision in a short time. I recieved a hand written card from them a couple of days after my visit, which made me cry. I trust them and respect all of them 100% my entire will be taken our pets theres. I cant thank them enough""
  • "We've been with TVVH for over 25 years. Could not imagine going elsewhere. In addition to their professional expertise is the consistent human element; their very real kindness and caring. Office staff, technicians and doctors all are exceptional."
    Linda B
  • "The staff and doctors are amazing. The older my Shih Tzu gets the more difficult and snappy he has become. Your doctors and staff are kind, gentle, and professional. You don't make me feel like I have a bad dog or I raised him wrong. I feel you care not just for me dog but for me (who can be a bit neurotic about my dog). Your tech staff and doctors...even the front desk staff are the best!!"
    Rebecca D
  • "I not only use Three Village Veterinary for my personal animals, but frequently recommend them to my grooming customers as well. I trust them explicitly and value their professionalism, but above all their compassion... all the doctors there are great & the fact that they put up with my MANY emergencies (& my neurosis) makes them my fav. Love you guys <3"
    Melissa V