From the Sphinx in Ancient Greece to the Bengal in your bedroom, cats have always been famously enigmatic. Their mysterious gaze is undeniably a massive part of their charm. We can’t help but wonder what goes on in their minds when they look at us. But what about when they give us a sly wink? Is it a friendly greeting? Or a secret signal about the mouse they’ve just stashed away?
Let’s delve into the various reasons why cats may wink at us.
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Why Do Cats Wink?
The reasons behind a cat’s wink can be categorized into three main areas.
1. A Friendly Gesture
A cat’s wink is closely related to the equivalent of a two-eyed blink. Slow blinks are a well-documented way that cats communicate their positive emotional state and goodwill towards the person they are looking at. The “slow blink” involves two or three partial blinks in which the eyelids don’t fully close, followed by an extended period with the eyes partly or fully closed.
Recent research has confirmed what cat lovers have always believed – cats respond to slow blinks from humans by reciprocating with their own. This adds to previous studies suggesting that cats recognize human emotional states and take emotional cues from us as well. Interestingly, we humans also seem to interpret a cat’s slow blink as a positive emotional sign. In fact, shelter cats that engage in more slow blinking are more likely to be adopted quickly.
But what about slow winks? Usually, a slow blink involves both eyes, but there are instances where a cat might substitute it with a slow wink instead. For example, if a cat is resting on one cheek, the immobilized side of their face may rely solely on the other eye for communication. Additionally, cats with ear infections or traumatic injuries that cause facial paralysis may blink more distinctly with one eye, resulting in a wink.
2. Eye Irritation
The anatomy of a cat’s eye is fascinatingly complex, including three eyelids. If a speck of dust or debris gets trapped on the surface of the eye or beneath one of the eyelids, it can cause irritation. Grass seeds are also known to embed themselves in the eyes of cats and other unfortunate pets. In these cases, a cat may wink in an attempt to get rid of the irritant. Look for signs such as rapid or persistent winking, redness or watering, and pawing at the eye.
If you suspect that your cat has something in their eye, monitor them closely. If the foreign object doesn’t come out on its own, it’s crucial to seek veterinary assistance to prevent damage to the delicate eye tissues.
3. Eye Damage, Injury, or Infection
Cats are prone to various eye problems, including corneal ulcers, bacterial infections (pink eye), and traumatic injuries from scratches, particularly during encounters with other cats. The eye’s surface contains more nerve endings than any other part of their body, making injuries and diseases affecting it especially painful.
When cats experience eye pain, blinking, winking, squinting, or twitching (known as blepharospasm) are common initial signs that owners notice. Other symptoms to watch out for include tearing, white, yellow, or green discharge, the third eyelid protruding, redness on the eyeball or surrounding membranes, cloudiness over the eye’s surface, and excessive grooming or rubbing of the affected eye.
If you observe any of these signs or suspect that your cat has something lodged in their eye, it’s crucial to consult a vet. They will examine the eye for damage and recommend the appropriate course of treatment.
Remember that a cat’s wink can convey various messages, from friendly greetings to potential health issues. Pay attention to their behavior and seek professional advice if needed. Understanding your feline friend’s subtle cues will enhance your bond and ensure their well-being.