Cats work in mysterious ways – and even more so when it comes to showing us they care. Yours might purr, cuddle up to you constantly, or…blink at you slowly? What do cat slow blinks mean? And is it even a big deal?

In short: yes – and it says a lot about your cat’s love and trust for you. So in this post, we’re going to cover some of the heartwarming reasons behind the cat slow blink – and the other subtle ways they show you that you matter. And if your cat isn’t as demonstrative yet, we share a few small, simple ways you can earn their trust over time. Let’s get started.

It can be easy to miss a cat’s slow blink. In fact, you wouldn’t be the first to think your cat is wide-eyed and on high alert most of the time. Or you might confuse it with any other blink. Some cats might even slow blink in different ways – like rolling their eyes or squishing their eyes tight. Or in other comical ways, like you might’ve seen online.

Here’s a super short, super sweet video where Jericho the cat slow blinks at you – so you now know what to look out for:

In a nutshell: your cat’s slow blink is a sign that they trust you and feel comfortable around you.1 It’s as close to an “I love you” from them as you’ll ever get. So if you’ve received one of these languid, droopy-eyed blinks from your cat, pat yourself on the back. You’re doing a great job as a cat parent and your cat is acknowledging your hard work.

A woman holding her cat in her arms outdoors

So watch out for the next time your feline friend deliberately makes eye contact – and makes a slow, deliberate blink. It’s how your cat expresses that they’re comfortable letting their guard down around you. And for your little hunter, this is actually a pretty big deal.2

Because in many ways, your cat isn’t too different from their bigger brethren stalking the jungles or savannah. And in these wild areas, a big cat letting down their guard could make them vulnerable to other predators. So for your feline friend to close their eyes around you means you’re someone they trust and feel content around.

Your cat is more likely to slow blink at you if they’re already in a calm, familiar environment. (Like snuggled in your arms before a fireplace.) So the next time you’re enjoying some quality time together, lead by example. Try to slow blink at them. Make sure to avoid direct eye contact for too long – and be persistent. It might take your cat some time to catch on to your behavior. And because they tend to see us as bigger, clumsier cats who are in charge of their food, they also tend to adapt to and mimic our actions.

A woman stroking her cat as they lie on a table

In fact, your cat is also likely to slow blink back at other people who slow blink at them.3 Great news for when you’re introducing a new roommate or partner to your cat. (And want them to score a few brownie points, trust-wise.) 

In fact, your cat’s slow blinks are similar to why they meow. It’s a form of communication they’ve evolved specifically to better relate to and interact with us humans. (Also one of the reasons why you won’t usually hear cats meowing at other cats.)

Ouch, this feels personal, doesn’t it? But it’s more likely that your cat might be feeling overwhelmed by the sudden attention. Cats are creatures of habit and routine – so a sudden change can be stressful. Or you might be more likely to experience this if you’ve just adopted a cat or they’re still not 100% comfortable around you yet. In fact, cats who are more nervous around people tend to take longer to slow blink back at them.4

A cat seated on a chair, looking away from their parent

Also keep in mind that not all cats show their affection with a slow blink. Cats are famously undemonstrative, affection-wise – but they do have their ways of showing they care. So instead of a slow blink, they might gift you socks, purr on your lap, snuggle against you at night, or cry endlessly when you’re behind a locked bathroom door. 

Much like humans, cats have different types of love languages – and with a little patience and consistency, you can figure out the subtle cues that yours trusts you.

Yes – unlike meowing, cats do slow blink at each other! You’re more likely to see this among two cats who aren’t threatened by each other’s presence. (Like cats who’ve grown up together.)5 Male cats meeting for the first time might not always be so friendly. They might need a bit more time to warm up to each other, usually due to territorial instincts.

Cats sitting together in a basket by a window

So if you’re introducing your cat to a friend’s – and they look at each other, blink, and then look away, it’s a sign they just about became besties themselves. On the other hand, prolonged, direct eye contact means one of your cats most likely wants to pick a fight instead.

Why eye contact is a big deal for cats

Before you run off to get into a staring match with your feline friend, hold on. Extended eye contact isn’t the best way to get your cat to slow blink at you. In fact, eye contact is a pretty big deal for cats – and if you look them directly in the eye, they might be more likely to run away, hiss, or even bat at you instead.5

A cat biting a man's hand

This is because direct eye contact is an adversarial signal for cats (and most other animals.) If you’re noticing your cat’s pupils growing dilated – or, on the other hand, squinty – it’s more likely a sign of aggression. You might observe this introducing a new cat to the household or if your cat is afraid of something. (Which could be as benign as your new Roomba or the neighbor’s dog.)

Small steps to gaining your cat’s trust

Gaining your cat’s trust isn’t easy – in their little heads, they’re still a predator in the jungles, after all. So it’s a big deal for them to let down their guard around you (or anyone.) Here are some small, simple steps you can take to help them trust you a bit more.

Give your cat plenty of space

Even the most sociable of cats need a bit of cool-off time. So if you can invest in vertical spaces and perches, they’ll thank you for it. (In their own quiet way.) Cats generally like to have a high vantage point where they can survey their surroundings. It helps them relax and feel more at ease with their environment.

A cat sitting by a window next to the houseplants

Besides this, we also mean give your cat space – figuratively. It’s generally not a good idea to pick them up or pet them or force them to interact with you or others if they’re not in the mood. It might make your cat hiss, bat, scratch, or even bite you in self defense.

We’d also recommend keeping an eye out for their body language. If your cat seems tense, nervous, or hunched up, it’s better to give them some space. Your cat will come back for company when they’re ready.

Make regular playtime a part of your everyday routine

Playtime is one of the best ways to get a cat to associate you with a positive experience. And no, you don’t necessarily need expensive cat toys or equipment to get started. Rather, even simple games like chasing a laser or a toy on a string can be enough to keep your cat entertained. Or take them outdoors – to your backyard or a local park nearby – and let them enjoy the sunlight, grass, and the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Plus, they’ll benefit tremendously from the exercise.

A woman relaxing with her cat outdoors in a park

Regular playtime is also a great way to help a cat overcome separation anxiety. You might not notice it, but even cats (much like dogs) don’t like being left alone for long periods of time. So once you’re home from work, spend some time cuddling and playing with them. It’ll help your cat slowly build trust and learn to bond with you over time. (And maybe throw in a slow blink or two.)

Figure out your cat’s “touch” language

Not all cats are built the same. One might purr when you stroke their ears – while another might resist instead. Yours might prefer it when you rub their chin or cheeks or even areas like where their tail connects to their body. Keep your fingers gentle and “wiggle” them – instead of long strokes. Also, avoid touching your cat’s belly or stroking them in the opposite direction of their fur.

A little girl spending time with her cat by the garden fence

By taking the time to figure out how your cat likes to be cuddled and approached, you’ll be helping them learn to trust that you won’t hurt them. Which, over time, makes it easier for them to associate you with positive feelings.

Stick to a consistent routine

Like we’ve covered, cats tend to get thrown off balance from changes to routine. Sometimes, you can’t really help it – like if you move apartments or have just adopted them. So in times like these, it can take your cat a little while to adjust and approach you with trust again.

So start small and create a predictable routine of feeding, playtime, naptime – and also your regular interactions with your cat. If you’re, say, in the habit of playing with your cat in the evenings, do your best to stick to these timings. Switching playtime to mornings instead might confuse and stress out your cat instead.

Keep track of your cat’s health & wellbeing

Cats are notorious for hiding signs of sickness. It’s an evolutionary trait – and it’s why they’re likely to mask any signs of pain and discomfort until their condition has worsened. This applies even to cats who love and trust their parents and have lived with them for many years. So even if your cat seems normal, it’s easy to miss out on the signs that they might be sick until it’s too late.

But with activity and sleep tracking, you can take a more active role for your cat’s health and wellbeing. By keeping track of simple, observable behaviors like your cat’s sleep and exercise, you can learn their individual patterns over time. Now, if you notice a drop in your cat’s activity levels or constant sleep disturbances, it might be a sign that something is wrong. (Even if your cat seems normal otherwise.) So you can get your cat to a vet immediately – and get them the care they need.

It’s how pet parents around the world are using Tractive’s Wellness Monitoring to stay on top of their cats’ health. Here’s a story where a cat’s Wellness profile helped her parent catch on to a change in her behavior – and narrowly avoid a medical emergency.

With the Tractive GPS, I found out one night that she’d only made one little trip to the park, slept all night – and didn’t really do much during the day. On the second night, she didn’t leave the garden at all. Which struck me as odd, since she’s an outdoor cat and on the move quite often.

So I decided to check her up to see if she was sick – or had something else going on. When I picked her up, the pus oozed over my hand from the abscess bursting!

Without Tractive, I wouldn’t have noticed it at all. I would still see her walk around to drink and feed and think everything is okay. I might only have noticed when I didn’t see her stroll over for a whole day. At which point, she’d probably have been dangerously sick.

We went to the vet a few hours later – she had a serious fever, a big abscess, and was pretty sick already. So we got it in time. A whole week of antibiotics – and now she’s herself again.

Tractive is also very handy for when you need to give your pets their medication. All I have to do is check where she is and call her over to give her the antibiotics.

Even cats who might seem happy and healthy might be struggling with a sickness. And it’s easy to miss out on the signs until it’s too late. But with a little vigilance and monitoring their wellness indicators, you can get your cat the help they need. And help them trust that they can count on you to care for them when they need it most.

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Build your cat’s trust step by step – and earn it for a lifetime

Way more than just an adorable quirk, your cat’s slow blinks are a profound and beautiful language of their own. They’re a sign of your cat’s trust and affection in you – even if it’s not so obvious. So by taking some small steps, like with regular playtime or actively monitoring their health, you can earn their trust for a lifetime.

A woman holding her cat in her arms

Remember: cats show affection through a whole variety of verbal and non-verbal cues. So don’t be discouraged if a slow blink isn’t one of them. By paying attention to your cat’s individual behaviors and personality, you can help deepen your bond and understand their needs that much better.

So watch out for the next time your cat’s snuggling in your arms. Give them a slow blink – and understand that if they blink back, it’s not just a blink. Rather, it’s a heartfelt message from your feline friend. One that shows that they love you, trust you, and that you’re doing a great job as a loving cat parent.

Got a fellow cat parent who wants to score a few trust points? Share this article with them and make their day!