How often do cats blink?
Sometimes it seems like our cats don’t blink at all…and other times they seem to blink dozens of times a minute while they sleepily stare out the window.
So what’s going?
And how often do cats actually blink?
Well, that question isn’t as simple as it might sound. That’s because cats don’t actually have to blink in the same way we do. Instead, they use something called a third eyelid to clean and lubricate their eyes without actually blinking in a way that humans can really relate to.
Sound pretty wild?
To learn more, let’s dive a bit deeper into how cat’s eyes work, what blinking means for your cat, how often they blink, and how you can actually use blinks to communicate with our cat!
Understanding Your Cat’s Eyes
First, we have to understand that the anatomy of your cat’s eye is much different from our own. As mentioned, they have a third eyelid or nictitating membrane that helps keep their eyes clean.
In healthy cats, the nictitating membrane is barely visible which is why you may be surprised to hear that it even exists!
While usually the third eyelid is visible when your cat isn’t feeling well, you can also see it if your cat lays just right. We’ve got a video here where you can see the white portion of the nictating membrane.
Check it out:
So What Does This Third Eyelid Do?
Your cat’s third eyelid moistens and protects the eye from irritants. It does this by very quickly moving across the eye.
Think of it like a windshield wiper for your cat’s eye. Just like when you’re driving, you wouldn’t want to completely lose sight of the road, right?
Your cat’s wild ancestors wouldn’t want to risk completely losing sight of their surroundings either. Whether they’re tracking prey or just trying to stay safe your cat’s eyes are critical for survival. The nictitating membrane lets your cat keep their eyes clean and debris free without having to actually close them. The same way your windshield wipers can keep your view clear while still removing snow and rain!
Want to learn more about your cat’s ancestors?
Do Humans Have A Third Eyelid?
Yes, we do! But it’s much more visible in birds and a handful of other mammals. It also doesn’t work for us and is considered vestigial just like your appendix. In other words, we have it but it doesn’t fill any purpose anymore.
Okay, So How Often Does A Cat Blink?
Not very often!
But that’s only if we’re using the human definition of a blink which is when our eyelids meet and our eyes close.
That’s because cats don’t actually need to have their upper and lower eyelids meet at all. Instead, they use their third eyelid to constantly lubricate their eyes and remove debris.
If instead, we think of your cat’s third eyelid as a blink then your cat is blinking quite frequently, just like us! However, you typically can’t see this clear membrane cross your cat’s eye which is why it looks like your cat can go hours without blinking!
So Why Do Cats Blink At All?
Cat’s will still squint (to the point of looking like a blink) in windy environments or when something is coming towards the eye.
Just like us, this helps protect the eye.
Your cat will also use blinking as a sign of communication which is one of the most common blinks the average cat owner will see!
What Does It Mean When A Cat Blinks At You?
When your cat blinks slowly and softly at you it means they like you!
Let’s take a moment to think about what a blink would mean in the wild. Closing your eyes would always be a risky decision or at least something your cat would only do when she feels safe. On the other hand, staring intently at something with unblinking eyes would indicate that your cat either sees something as prey or a threat.
So when your cat looks into your eyes and slowly blinks, that’s her way of saying, “Hey, I feel safe around you and I think you’re pretty great.”
Do Cats Blink To Say I Love You?
I don’t want to put words in your cat’s mouth, but yes a slow, soft blink means your cat loves you! Or at least that they feel safe and secure with you. Remember that your cat would never close her eyes to predators or potential prey!
How To Communicate With Your Cat Using Blinks
Here’s a fun way to communicate with your cat and let your kitty know that you love them!
The next time your cat is relaxed and comfortable with soft eyes, make quick eye contact, and then slowly blink several times. Hold your eyes closed just for a moment to make sure your blinks are extra slow.
There’s a good chance your cat will match your slow blinks with some of their own.
But please remember that steady eye contact with cats without blinking could be a sign of aggression or attempted intimidation. So make sure you don’t accidentally send the wrong signals to your cat by staring too long!
Once you get good at mastering the soft blink it can be a great way to say hello to new kitties who are already somewhat comfortable with you and it’s a technique I used in my decade long experience in the animal welfare industry.
Cats will also use this soft blink to show their love and trust towards their feline friends. So if you’ve ever wondered whether your kitties are comfortable with each other just like for the slow blink cat!
Like many cat questions, the answer to how often your cat blinks isn’t so simple! Because cats have a third eyelid that humans just can’t relate to they honestly need more words than a just blink to describe how their eyes work!