While I don't have a direct answer to your questions about why your cat winks, however as a cat owner, a lifelong cat lover, someone who can speak cat (allegedly), and a self-proclaimed feline friend and expert on cat behavior - I can help you with a lot of possible explanations for your winking cat. A cat blink could simply be because your pet cat feels sleepy or a message for other cats for the gradual world domination that they're planning.
All jokes aside, sometimes, the reasons can be more logical and critical as well. Let me walk you through the possible reasoning why a cat winks - and if, as cat parents, you need veterinary advice or not.
Possible Reasons Cats Wink
Your Cat Could Be Sleepy
Cats are naturally some of the most environmentally sensitive creatures. Their senses are heightened, and they can smell, taste, listen and view better than us. Even when a cat sleeps, it is still susceptible to its surroundings.
When I see my cat winking, one thing I note is how wide open its eyes are. If the eyes are already half-closed and the cat winks, it could simply be that the cat is relaxing and feels sleepy.
Cats only close their eyes and try to rest when they feel safe in their environment. When my cat feels good about the environment and I am around my cat, the cat already feels confident in taking a nap. At this point, if you see a cat with a half-closed eye winking, it is just relaxing.
Like us, when a cat has an eye infection, some dust in the eye, or some parasite around the eyebrow, it winks to feel free from the trouble. Winking helps us clear off any dust from the surface of our eyes. The same applies to cats.
If they have any parasites such as ticks or might around the eye, especially in the eyebrows, they will also try to scratch it off with their paws and wink too many times. This is the case if you see your cat, walk or run and then stand still and blink a few times.
There are also eye infections that cause irritations in and around the eyes. One thing that happens when cats wink is that the tears help clear the eyeball - like all other animals.
Tears are not just meant to be unfortunate. The tear-drop is a secretion from a gland around the eye with antimicrobial traits. Tears also keep the eye from drying. So, when a cat feels irritation in its eye due to a possible infection, it tries to wink as much as possible to clean up the eye and keep it from drying out.
As stated earlier, the cat tries to keep its eyes wet and safe from the environment. Unlike us, they also have an additional membrane that opens and closes on the eye.
While their eyebrow is still open, the cats can move this membrane quickly to wipe their eyeball. You must have noticed that the cat is looking at you, yet two halves of this membrane slide from the left and right of the eye quickly, touching in the middle and moving out fast.
Unlike the eyebrows that shut down and open up and down, this additional membrane opens and closes side by side.
This membrane can have trouble opening and closing when the eye gets dryer. In such a situation, the cat would try and wink with some difficulty. You can observe this when the cat sits, looks in just one direction, and makes an effort to wink.
I remember why they call it a cat's eye. The iris of the cat is noteworthy. It shrinks horizontally to adjust for the light available in the environment. If you observe your cat's eye, the iris would be round throughout the night and start shrinking as the day breaks.
The iris keeps shrinking until noon and becomes almost like a vertical line. After the highest density of the light is over, the iris expands till night to become round again.
In addition to adjusting the light with the iris, the cat can use winking to align its view to its target and focus. Especially during the day, when the light density is high, the iris is at its tiniest, and the cat tries to focus on something, you can see more winking.
This allows the cat to keep the eye clean and let the light flow through the iris to reinforce its vision to the best.
Why does a cat winks slowly? Well, cats communicate to their allies through slow winks. When my cat is around me, I am his ally. Often referred to as a kitty kiss, a slow blink is often a sign of friendship towards its owners and other cats. It is an evolutionary trend that evolved with all the cats in the cat family.
These trends apply to all big and small felines in the wild and even our domesticated cats. They do a relaxed and slow winking to communicate that they feel that all is well, that there is no danger nearby.
So, when cat owners think that their cat is winking at them, they might be right. Your cat might just be communicating that they are fine and confident around you. But it doesn't mean your cat tries hard to communicate with you by winking. Cats have other means of communicating as well.
Your cat can meow at you in a different and particular tone, cuddle with you, rub its body and tail around you, and many more. The winking is a part of the combination of gestures. If I tried to train my cat to communicate with me by winking, it might not work.
While it is true that cats can use winking for communication, it does not mean they will rely on it.
Don’t Mistake a Blink for a Wink.
Cat owners often mistake a blink for a wink. The blinking is universal for all animals that have eyelids. It is a safety procedure and is involuntary most of the time. When danger approaches the eye, the animals blink intentionally.
When my cat blinks, it closes its eyes entirely and opens them up again. Winking is different. It only uses the inner membrane to close and open the eyes momentarily. This happens so fast that if you don't intentionally look for the membrane moving, you might not see it. As mentioned earlier, cats can use winks for different reasons. Blinking also comes with a few cues such as danger, comfort, disturbance, and others.
Why Do Cats Wink? The Takeaway
Yes, your cat could be communicating with you by winking, but that is not the only reason. If you see your cat winking abnormally, watch closely and see if it is only temporary. If it is not, it's always best to seek veterinary guidance.
Otherwise, you don't need to worry if the cat returns to normal. It's just your cat being a cat.