I’ve looked everywhere I can think of online for accounts of cats winking rather than blinking and what it means to no avail.
The difference? A wink is when one eye is open and the other eye closes either slowly or quickly. A blink is when both eyes close (usually quickly in humans, though in cats, slow blinks are most common).
While there are a slew of posts about how cat slow blinking can be interpreted, winking seems to be a phenomena not written about all that often, maybe because it’s more rare in the cat world.
That being said, I’ve absolutely seen cats wink and heard pet parents distinctly mention their cats will often wink – with one eye – and not blink – with two eyes – at them.
The meaning, I’m guessing here, is likely to be similar to that of slow blinking or blinking in general in cats. But maybe there is something more to it.
I’ve done my best to come up with as many theories as I can about cat winking in comparison and contrast to cat blinking.
These theories could all have something to them, or none of them could be true. Who knows!
It’s up to scientists to uncover the truth, though my guess is it’ll be an answer we won’t have any time soon, as, truthfully, it’s not the most important (figuring out the perfect cat food formula I’d say is the highest up on the list).
Until then, we can always hazard guesses as to what the explanations behind quirky cat behaviours happen to be.
I’ve done this with a bunch of different common feline acts – from biting and licking humans, to sleeping & laying on human chests, running away when you go near, to following humans everywhere – even things like meowing when you sneeze.
There are so many odd behaviours, I could talk about them for days.
But back to the winking vs blinking. Here are some theories as to why cats wink at humans.
If you can think of more, please leave them in the comments below.
Also take a moment to let me know if you think some explanations fit with your winking cat’s behaviour, while others don’t. It’ll be really interesting to see which resonate more with you guys than the others.
And of course, share your cat winking stories with us in the comments below! I’m sure you have a bunch of cute ones!
10 Possible Explanations Why Cats Wink at Humans & What It Likely Means
1. Cats May Wink Because They Have Dirt or Debris in One Eye
If your cat doesn’t often wink, one explanation for your cat winking at you is that your cat has dust, dirt, or debris in one eye.
Double check by having a peek at the eye in question – again, especially if your cat doesn’t often wink and usually blinks instead.
2. Cats May Also Wink Because They Have Allergies or an Infection in One Eye
Another reason to double check to make sure your cat’s eye is okay if he or she doesn’t typically wink, but recently started, is that your cat may have allergies or an infection in one eye.
If you suspect your cat has an infection or allergies, take a quick trip to the vet. Your vet will definitely be able to tell you how to treat it/keep it clean, and/or will do it for you.
3. If a Cat Winks Regularly, That Cat May Wink as an Alternative to the Feline Slow Blink
A lot of pet parents mention their cats wink regularly – so frequently in fact that their winking seems to happen as frequently as slow blinking happens in other cats.
My brother from over @ PetsOverload.com is one of those pet parents. His cat, Beau, winks quite often, the same way all my cats slow blink at me.
I personally have one cat who sometimes slow blinks and sometimes slow winks, Athos, but I’m not completely convinced he winks on purpose and not because he has allergies.
His eyes often need cleaning because of his allergies, and I think sometimes this bothers him, making him favour keeping one eye a bit more squinted and closed than the other in the first place. Then when he tries to slow blink, it comes across as more of a wink than a blink.
Still, my brother’s cat, Beau, has no allergies (to our knowledge!). He never has build up in his eyes. Yet he seems to wink and slow wink just as often as most cats will slow blink at their humans. Very interesting!
Let me know in the comments below if you think your cat is winking as an alternative to slow blinking. And if you’ve got multiple cats or had multiple cats over the span of your life, how many of them slow blinked versus winking.
4. Cats Slow Blink at Other Cats to Communicate They Are Not Threats, They Likely Sometimes Wink to Do the Same
When cats slow blink to each other, in part they do so to communicate they come in peace, are friendly, and are not a threat to the other cat.
Chances are when they slow blink at humans, they are communicating the same thing, along with many other similar messages.
5. Cat Winking Likely Communicates “I’m Calm”
Cats really only give slow blinks when they’re very calm, so if a cat is winking in the same way other felines would slow blink at you, it’s in part a method of communicating that the cat feels calm.
6. Winking Likely Also Means “I’m Happy”
This can be taken a step further.
While it’s possible for cats to communicate they are not threats through slow blinks and using winks as alternatives to slow blinks, amongst humans my guess is this is less the message, and the message is more of a combination of “I’m calm” and “I’m happy right now.”
Let me know if you get this indication from your own pet, or from another cat you know.
7. Winking Can Also Mean a Cat Feels Safe & Not Anxious
Similarly to the two explanations above, cats who slow blink or who use winking as an alternative to slow blinking only do so if/when they feel safe and not anxious.
Thus, your cat blinking could be indicating he or she currently feels quite safe.
8. Cat Blinking Is an Acknowledgement of Your Presence
It may sound obvious, but if your cat is blinking at you, it’s an indication that he or she is aware of your presence.
Sometimes cats are off in their own world, doing their own thing; sleeping, playing, resting, whatever it happens to be.
In this case, a cat is acknowledging your presence, that he or she sees you, that you’re sharing the same space and they know you’re around.
9. Cat Blinking, if Like Slow Blinking, Means the Cat Is Comfortable in Your Presence
There are definitely a lot of ways you can make a cat uncomfortable in your presence – making loud noises, moving in ways that a cat sees as threatening, going toward a cat who does not want to be pet or picked up, to name a few.
That being said, if a cat is giving you a slow blink, or is blinking at you as an alternative to a slow blink, this is an indication that, in the moment, this cat is comfortable in your presence.
Of course there are things you can do to change this, but whatever you happen to be doing when a cat slow blinks or winks at you as an alternative is probably A-OK with kitty.
10. Cat Winking if Like Cat Blinking, Likely Implies “I Trust You”
Whether they mean “I trust you” as an end all be all statement, or an “I trust you not to bother/disturb me” is up for debate.
I’ve been slow blinked at by feral street cats who would never let me near them, but have grown accustomed to me to the point where if I’m sitting and they’re sitting in the same driveway area, they’re okay with my presence enough to let me know they know I’m there and that they’re fine with me and trust me where I am.
If a cat’s slow blinking or winking as an alternative to slow blinking, it’s likely to let you know that, in the moment, they trust you to do what you’re currently doing in their presence.
Your Thoughts on Cats Winking at Humans?
Why do you think cats wink at humans?
Which of the explanations I listed sound most likely to be true to you? Which do you think are least likely?
Have you had experiences with cats winking?
Why do you think the cats you knew winked? Did they all wink for the same reason, in your opinion, or for different reasons?
Would love to hear your thoughts, stories, and experiences on the topic of cat winking in the comments down below!