Why Do Cats Eyes Dilate When They Attack?

Video why do cats eyes dilate when they attack

tabby cat with green eyes lying on the table

Cats can be mysterious creatures, often difficult to understand. While they may not have expressive faces like dogs, their eyes play a vital role in their communication. Cats use their eyes to express their emotions, and understanding their eye language can help us better interpret their behavior.

The Meaning Behind Cat Eyes

In the intricate world of feline body language, enlarged pupils speak volumes. So, let’s delve deeper into the significance of cat eyes.

The 6 Common Reasons Why a Cat’s Pupils Dilate

Occasional dilation of a cat’s eyes can occur due to emotions, environmental factors, or age. Pupil dilation is a normal response to improve vision in varying light conditions. However, constant dilation can indicate underlying medical conditions.

  1. Better Vision: Just like humans, cats’ pupils dilate in the dark. This dilation allows more light to enter their eyes, enabling them to see better in low-light conditions. Vets often use bright lights to test a cat’s eye function during check-ups. If the pupil fails to constrict, it may signal an underlying issue.

Caracat looking up

  1. Surprise or Fear: Cats’ pupils can widen suddenly when they are surprised or scared. This could be due to unexpected visitors, loud noises, or the sight of another animal outside. The dilation subsides once they settle down.

  2. Excitement: Dilated pupils and wide eyes can also indicate excitement. Your cat may be delighted to receive its favorite treat or play with its favorite toys. Adrenaline pumps through their bodies during playtime, leading to pupil dilation.

  3. Hunting in the Dark: Cats need to be alert and fearless while hunting, especially at night. The adrenaline rush during hunting causes their pupils to dilate. Wide pupils and large eye lenses enable them to gather information about their surroundings, enhancing their night vision.

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tabby cat at night

  1. Defensiveness: If your cat feels threatened by another animal or person, its pupils may enlarge. They may display aggression, such as scratching or biting, as part of the “fight or flight” response. In such cases, it’s best to give your cat some space until it calms down.

  2. Anxiety: Wide cat pupils are also a sign of anxiety. Cats display several signs when they are tense, including a hunched back, a tense tail on its side, a lowered head, and dilated eyes. Nervousness at the vet’s office or during thunderstorms can trigger this response. Providing a safe environment and reducing stress is crucial for their well-being.

Medical Conditions That Cause Dilated Pupils

While a cat’s pupils may dilate for various reasons on a typical day, constant dilation often indicates an underlying medical condition. Here are some common causes:

  • Hypertension: High blood pressure can cause dilated pupils in cats, particularly those with kidney disease or hyperthyroidism. Hypertension can lead to retinal detachment and blindness if left untreated. A veterinarian will diagnose the condition and prescribe appropriate medication.

cat and vet. Maria Sbytova

  • Anisocoria: Anisocoria refers to unequal pupil sizes, with one eye constantly dilated. It can be a sign of illness, such as glaucoma, corneal ulcers, or retinal diseases. Prompt veterinary attention is necessary to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

  • Blindness: A cat with constantly dilated eyes may be experiencing vision loss, noticeable when they are reluctant to move, frequently bump into objects, or seem clumsy. Immediate veterinary care is crucial to diagnose and treat the cause of blindness, which may be temporary or permanent.

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half blind cat on the ground

  • Feline Dysautonomia: This rare condition affects a cat’s autonomic nervous system, which controls automatic bodily functions, including pupil dilation. Symptoms include poor appetite, respiratory issues, and diarrhea. Seeking veterinary advice is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment.

  • Ocular Tumors: Dilated pupils, cloudy eyes, or abnormal eye shape or color might indicate an ocular tumor. Immediate consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to determine the extent and severity of the problem and create a suitable treatment plan.

savannah cat looking up

  • Iris Atrophy: Iris atrophy is commonly associated with older cats. This age-related condition causes the muscles in the iris, the colored part surrounding the pupil, to weaken. While iris atrophy doesn’t usually cause pain or long-term vision issues, veterinary evaluation is crucial to rule out other serious conditions.

  • Medication Side Effects: Some medications can cause dilated pupils in cats as a side effect. If you suspect medication as the cause, consult your veterinarian to confirm and discuss any necessary adjustments.

What Does It Mean When a Cat Stares?

A cat’s stare can communicate a range of emotions. Different types of cat stares convey various meanings:

  • Direct Stare: Cats that hold eye contact or stare might feel threatened, angry, or attempt to intimidate. Breaking away from the stare and looking away can help ease their anxiety.

persian cat

  • Breaking Eye Contact: Cats that briefly stare and then look away are comfortable in your presence and do not intend to become aggressive.

  • Calm Stare: A calm stare indicates affection. Cats enjoy keeping a watchful eye over their human companions, similar to how we care for them.

What Does It Mean When a Cat Slow Blinks?

Slow eye blinks are a way for cats to express love and trust. When a cat engages in a slow blink, its eyes and lids partially close, giving them a sleepy appearance. To reciprocate these feelings, meet your cat’s gaze and blink back.

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Image Credit: Danielle Armstrong

In summary, understanding cat body language can be a challenging task for most cat owners. However, by observing their eyes, we can gain valuable insights into their emotions. While occasional pupil dilation is normal, constant dilation may indicate an underlying medical condition. If your cat’s pupils remain dilated, it is best to consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination and potential treatment to prevent any vision-related complications.

See also:

  • 10 Best Cat Cave Beds
  • Why Teenagers Are Like Cats: 15 Striking Similarities

Featured Image Credit: driesel, Pixabay

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