Ever get the feeling you're being watched? If you share a home with a cat, you probably have! Whether you've caught your cat looking up at you with those big, wondering eyes, or you've spotted her lurking behind a piece of furniture following your every move, you've likely noticed your cat's watchful nature. Cats may have a unique way of seeing the world, but why does your cat stare at you and is it cause for concern?
Why my cat stares at me
Curious by nature, cats are true masters of their environments and rely on their sense of sight for a variety of things. An outdoor cat may watch for small creatures to stalk and hunt, keep an eye out for possible predators, or remain on alert in case another cat wanders into his territory, all of which are natural-born instincts. When moved indoors, a cat's tendency to lock his sights on a moving object doesn't go away just because he's not outside. There is still plenty for your cat to stalk and set her sights on inside the home — you!
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It seems most cats stare at their human companions as a means of communication, and they follow us around for the same reason. They don't have the language skills needed to ask for a pat on the head or a treat before bedtime, so they must resort to body language to effectively express themselves.
Many people notice their cats staring at them around regularly scheduled meal times as if to remind them that it's time for dinner. Although highly independent, some cats can also look to us for security, or to help them understand how they should react to certain situations; especially new ones, like the welcoming of a new visitor into the home. Ultimately, both reasons are signs of trust.
Should I worry?
In most cases cat staring isn't a cause for concern, assuming an attack or other aggressive behaviors don't follow the stares. Sometimes, however, staring can be a symptom of a health issue. Common conditions associated with staring include heart failure, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism, all of which can result in hypertension if untreated. If your cat's pupils remain dilated, or if she seems to stare at you with empty eyes, it's time for a trip to the veterinarian.
Additionally, staring between cats is usually considered to be a sign of aggression, so stop it as quickly as possible. To safely break up a stare-off between cats, try making a loud noise to scare them apart from one another. Because cats will often size each other up by staring when they are first introduced, you can avoid potential problems by introducing them slowly and supervising them during their early days until they become better acquainted.
Other odd cat behaviors
Staring us down is not the only thing cats are known to do, and it's certainly not the "weirdest" either. To an indoor cat, their human caretakers become their entire world, and they often strive to communicate or develop bonds with us in the only ways they know how. Some of the most common cat behaviors, which include kneading, rubbing up against pant legs, gentle biting or licking, and purring, are the most frequent signs of affection your cat may show you.
Sometimes, cats can also reach out and touch us, either with a light headbutt or by lending a gentle paw toward our arms, hands, or faces. This is a way to "mark" you as one of their things, as both the feet and the front of their head bear scent glands that cats mark their territory with.