It’s All the Eyes: How to Read Your Cat’s Eyes

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Many of us cat lovers think that we really know our cats well enough. But by taking the time, we can actually communicate with them on a whole new level. This can be easily better by paying closer attention to their eyes!

One major way cats communicate is by using their eyes. This is helpful because we have eyes, too.

Here’s What Your Cat’s Eyes Are Telling You.

Cats’ eyes are not exactly like ours, however. Experimenters at the University of Oregon Eugene and other bastions of great learning have wasted vats of federal funds and countless cat lives trying to put to human use knowledge gained from interfering with cats’ eye movements.

According to a veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Ned Buyukmichi, “Humans have a very specialized region in their retina with which they see and almost all their vision depends on that specialized area. Cats don’t have that specialized area. Also, cats have a much greater ability to see at night. These and other reasons make the information from vision experiments on cats worthless if humans don’t apply it.”

Veterinarian H. Ellen Whiteley reports that cats can see in light only one-fifth as bright as the faintest light we can see and that their complex ears contain 30 different muscles, whereas ours have only six. But no set of figures or charts can convey the anger, annoyance, bliss, love, and subtler emotions your cat’s extraordinarily expressive eyes hold. So don’t think I was scrimping on design costs when I left out the chart.

Cats’ pupils dilate when they are angry or on the attack, and cats smile at us and other cat friends with appreciative eyes by squinting.

Your cat will slowly, almost, but usually, not quite, close her eyes and reopen them while looking at you. When almost closed, the eyes are held at the lowest point for a second. You can return the sentiment by gently squinting back, mimicking the cat’s pattern. It would be rude to do anything less.

If a cat closes her eyes all the way for more than a split second, that is absolute trust in action.

If your cat “smiles” when looking at you, you are observing private contentment, expressed publicly in the same way you might give a happy sigh in an empty room.

To read the eyes, you have to watch closely.

When your cat sees a bird outside the window and that tail starts twitching, compare the look in your cat’s eyes to the look that accompanies a different tail-twitching experience-the appearance of a strange cat. Although your cat’s eyes will dart back and forth in both cases, the first look is reserved for interest in prey, the second for interest in a potential marauder. Although the two looks are different from the seasoned cat observer, both hold elements of annoyance, keen interest, an awareness of the potential for action, reserve, and the need for vigilance.

Annoyance is commonly expressed in the joint eye and tail action. If you are not attentive, you can get swatted at or bitten, simply because you missed your cat’s polite warning that he or she was in no mood to be petted or picked up.

What Does It Mean If Your Cat’s Eyes Change Color?

The eyes are the window to the soul, and I think that’s especially true when it comes to the beautiful eyes of our feline friends. But did you know that your cat’s eyes can also be a window to her health? Changes in a cat’s eye color can be an indicator of a potentially serious health problem.

Normal cat eye color

Normal cat eyes cover a range of different colors. The majority of kittens are born with blue eyes. Between the age of three to eight weeks, kittens’ eyes begin to change to colors ranging from green, yellow, and orange to amber, copper, and brown. This color change is usually complete by the time a kitten is three months old.

Odd-eyed cats

Some cats have different colored eyes, also known as heterochromia. This is not unusual. It is most often seen in white cats. But It can be seen in any cat that possesses the white spotting gene. The same gene creates a white blaze across the face, a white bib, a tuxedo pattern, or dappled paws. Cats with blue eyes have a higher rate of hearing issues.

Eye color changes in adult cats

Changes in eye color are often a sign of infection but can be a sign of more serious health issues.


Uveitis is the inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye, which consists of the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. It can be an isolated eye problem. But more often, it is a symptom of a number of other conditions, including:

  • trauma to the eye
  • bacterial or fungal infection
  • viral diseases such as feline herpes, FeLV, FIV, or FIP
  • metastatic tumors
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure

Symptoms include red eye, cloudy eye, light sensitivity, squinting, rubbing at the eye, and protrusion of the third eyelid. If you notice any of these symptoms, your cat needs to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Glaucoma is a condition of increased pressure in the eye, which will cause vision loss if left untreated. Typical symptoms are a cloudy, white, milky eye color. Glaucoma can also be a cause of uveitis.

Portosystemic Liver Shunt

While copper-colored eyes are normal in some cats, they can also be an indicator of a portosystemic shunt or liver shunt. It can be a congenital condition or can be acquired later in life. Not all cats with liver shunts have copper-colored eyes.

Sudden changes in eye color require immediate veterinary attention

Eye color changes in adult cats are always a cause for concern. If your cat’s eye color changes suddenly or a period of time, consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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