According to the NAVC’s recent Voice of the Veterinary Community study, helping animals on a daily basis is what veterinary professionals cite as their favorite part of their job (77%), followed by doing meaningful and purposeful work (65%). But on the flip side,...
Have ever been struck by the unsettling feeling that you were being watched, only to find your cat staring fixedly at you from somewhere in the room? Staring can be unsettling, but it probably shouldn’t concern you.
Most of the time, your cat watching you is harmless. However, there are occasions when you should pay close attention to two indications from your cat that they may be uncomfortable or trying to communicate with you in some other way.
Here’s what you need to know about why cats are likely to stare and how to determine why your cat is staring.
Staring Out of Curiosity
Perhaps the most common reason that cats stare is simply that cats are curious about what you are doing. For most cats, a favorite pastime is sitting and watching. It should come as no surprise that the most interesting thing in the room is often you.
Cats may watch you when you are doing something that they find interesting or just because they like to be aware of what you’re doing. If your cat is watching you with a mild expression of interest and blinks their eyes slowly when you look their way, the chances are pretty good that they are just watching you out of curiosity and that there is nothing to be concerned about.
Try speaking gently to your cat and petting them to see if they are just observing you.
They Think You’re Going To Give Them Something
Cats are visual hunters and opportunistic by nature, so you should not be surprised to find that your cat is very attuned to any possibility that they may be getting something to eat. This is especially likely if your cat tends to be very food-motivated.
If your cat is watching you with an alert expression, especially when you approach the refrigerator or where the cat food is kept, it may be that your cat is watching you in hopes of handouts. Talk to your veterinarian about whether your cat is at a good weight and make sure that they are clear of any common cat diseases that could increase appetite.
If you find that your cat is healthy, they may just be the type of cat that really enjoys handouts.
Take advantage of your cat’s dedication to food by using food as a motivator in training activities. You may be surprised but just how much you can train a highly motivated cat to do.
They May Be Anxious
Cats tend to watch things they are interested in. This includes anything that might give them anxiety. If there have been changes in your household or if you have only recently acquired your cat, especially as an adult, or if they have been poorly socialized as a kitten, they may watch you out of a sense of worry and anxiety.
Some cats may have had unpleasant or even traumatic things happen to them in their lives. They may be slow to trust you, no matter how kind you are to them or how good your intentions might be.
Be careful to go very slowly and give new cats plenty of time to adjust to their lifestyle in your home. It is completely normal for cats to experience anxiety, frustration, and even a desire to escape. Even if your cat may not have come from the best situation before you found them, there may still be an instinct to return to what was more normal to them.
Give your cat time and let them watch you when they want to. It can give a cat a great deal of confidence to feel that they are comfortable in their environment and free to watch you if they want to. It may make you a little bit uncomfortable, but it can do a lot to ease your cat’s anxiety in the long-term.
They May Be Upset
Anger isn’t very common in most of your cat’s interactions with you, but there will certainly be times when they aren’t very happy with you.
In these cases, the anger is motivated by fear but expressed differently than in anxious cats. A cat may stare at you with wide eyes and lay back its ears. Your cat may even hiss or growl at you. Such behavior may occur after you’ve bathed your cat, taken them to the vet, or when you’ve handled them in some way they don’t like.
It is very uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of your cat’s anger, but cats are forgiving animals when they are properly motivated. Try to make it up to your cat with highly desirable food, lots of affection, and of course, the groveling that cats believe they deserve.
Can You Train Your Cat To Not Stare?
If your cat’s eye contact is frustrating or unnerving for you, you may wonder whether you can train them not to stare. Cats are generally very intelligent and quick learners, but asking a cat to learn not to stare is a pretty high requirement.
It may be unlikely that your cat will understand what you are trying to communicate to them. It can be very difficult to train a cat not to do something instinctual to them.
Therefore, if your cat’s staring is making you uncomfortable, try distracting them with a food-distributing toy that they are obsessed with. Avoid rewarding staring by not giving your cat treats for attention when they stare, but offering treats and attention when they are relaxed and doing their own thing.
If the staring is still making you very uncomfortable, you can consider putting your cat in another room for brief periods. However, in the end, it is probably best that you get used to having your cat stare at you now and then.
Can You Train Your Cat To Pay More Attention To You?
On the other hand, if your cat seems to barely know you exist most of the time, you may wish they were a little bit more interested in what you are doing. Cats naturally have different degrees of interest and attention to their people.
Cats who have not been socialized very much as kittens may be less likely to be interested in people as adults. You are unlikely to make a cat that has no interest in people into a lap cat, but it is certainly not impossible.
Here are a few things that you can do to help teach your cat to pay more attention to you.
- Use food rewards to encourage your cat to pay attention. The vast majority of cats have at least some degree of interest in food. You can use that interest to your advantage by rewarding your cat when they focus on you. The easiest way to provide this kind of training is to keep a pack of dried cat treats on hand and reward whenever you notice your cat choosing to pay attention to you.
- Very interesting toys. A great way to capture the interest of any cat is to always have something interesting available. Randomly toss out a compelling toy or play with toys by yourself to entice your cat to join in. This can be a great way to convince cats that are not very interested in food rewards to find you worth paying attention to.
- Talk to them. Talking to your cat is a superb way to build a bond and increase interest in you. Your cat can understand a lot about your emotion and intention by the cadences of your voice, so talking to your cat frequently is the perfect way to encourage them to be interested in you and develop trust in you.
Have Your Cat Cleared By a Veterinarian
If your cat ever does anything that seems extra strange to you, have them cleared by a qualified and trusted veterinarian as soon as possible. Cats are very good at hiding illness, but your cat may be trying to communicate that they don’t feel their best by staring at you in a way they haven’t before.
Before you spend too much time trying to find a behavioral reason for your cat’s staring, be sure that there is not something medical that they are trying to communicate to you. Since cats are often stressed by vet visits, a remote veterinarian visit and discussion might be best.
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