Why do cats close their eyes when you pet them? The purr-fect answer!

Have you ever wondered why your furry little friend closes its eyes while you are petting it? Cats have always been mysterious and fascinating creatures that have fascinated human beings for centuries. As a matter of fact, according to recent studies, cats have been living with humans for more than 10,000 years. They have evolved into our homes, our hearts, and our lives.

While it’s undeniable that cats are self-sufficient animals, they also need attention and affection from their humans. Whether it’s a gentle pat on the head or a good long scratch behind the ears, nothing beats a good petting session with your cat. So, why do cats close their eyes when getting a little bit of TLC? Let’s find out!

The Science Behind Cats Closing Their Eyes When Being Petted

As it turns out, there is a scientific explanation behind your cat’s closed eyes when they’re getting a good petting. According to experts, the reason behind this behaviour is an emotional response called “slow blinking.” When cats are being petted and they close their eyes, they are actually displaying a sign of trust and affection towards their human.

The slow blink is a signal to other cats, and it’s how they communicate trust and relaxation. This is why cats often slow blink at each other when they want to communicate non-verbally. By mimicking this behaviour when being petted, your cat is telling you that they trust you enough to let their guard down completely.

The Evolutionary Reason Behind Cats Closing Their Eyes When Being Petted

Cats are solitary animals and prefer to keep to themselves most of the time. However, when they form a bond with their humans, they are more than willing to form an emotional connection. When you pet your cat, you are providing a sense of security and comfort that they don’t get from anyone else. This is why they close their eyes, as it’s their way of showing you that they are completely comfortable and relaxed with you.

Another theory behind this behaviour is that cats close their eyes to protect themselves. When cats feel threatened, they close their eyes as a way of protecting their most vulnerable body parts, like their eyes and ears. By closing their eyes when being petted, your cat is showing how much they trust you and how safe they feel in your presence.

The Body Language of Cats That Love to Be Petted

1. Purring and kneading

When a cat is happy and relaxed, they will often purr as a sign of contentment. They may also knead their paws on your lap or bed, which is a behaviour that they learned from being kittens. Kneading is a way of mimicking the actions of a nursing kitten, which is a sign of affection and comfort.

2. Moving their tail slowly

If your cat is closing its eyes while you pet it and its tail is slowly moving back and forth, it’s a sign that they are completely relaxed and content. This slow tail movement is often referred to as the “happy tail.”

3. Rubbing their head against you

Cats often show affection by rubbing their head against their humans. This is a sign that they are marking their territory and showing that you belong to them. If your cat does this while you’re petting them, it means they trust you and want to be close to you.

The Body Language of Cats That Don’t Like to Be Petted

1. A flicking or twitchy tail

If your cat’s tail is flicking or twitching while you’re trying to pet them, it’s a sign that they are agitated or stressed. It’s best to leave them alone and let them calm down before trying to pet them again.

2. Dilated eyes and flattened ears

If your cat’s eyes are dilated and their ears are flattened against their head, it means they feel threatened or scared. They are likely to lash out if you continue to pet them in this state. It’s best to give them space and let them calm down before trying to pet them again.

3. Hissing or growling

If your cat hisses or growls while being petted, it’s best to stop immediately. This is a sign that they are feeling extremely threatened and want to be left alone. Continuing to pet them in this state can lead to aggression and biting.


Cats are complex creatures, and their behaviours are often misunderstood. By understanding the reason behind why cats close their eyes when being petted, we can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for these beautiful feline creatures.

Whether it’s a gentle pat on the head or a good long scratch behind the ears, it’s always important to pay attention to your cat’s body language and understand when they want to be petted and when they don’t. By respecting your cat’s boundaries and showing them affection in a way that they are comfortable with, you can strengthen the bond between you and your furry little friend.

Common Questions and Answers

  • Q: Is it safe to pet a cat while it’s sleeping?
  • A: No, you should never disturb a sleeping cat. Let them wake up on their own and approach you for a cuddle.
  • Q: Why does my cat bite me while I’m petting it?
  • A: Your cat may bite you while being petted if they are overstimulated or if their skin is too sensitive. Pay attention to their body language and stop petting them if they start to show signs of discomfort.
  • Q: Can cats feel love?
  • A: Yes, cats are capable of feeling love and forming emotional connections with their humans.
  • Q: Can I pet a cat that I don’t know?
  • A: No, it’s best to ask the cat’s owner before attempting to pet them. Some cats may not like being approached by strangers and may become aggressive.


  • Bateman, S. (2019). Why do cats close their eyes when you pet them? New York Post.
  • Animal Planet. (n.d.). Why do cats close their eyes when you pet them?
  • Harvard Health Publishing. (2020). The health benefits of pets.

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