Your Cat’s Pupils Can Signal What They’re Feeling

cat pupils

For us cat lovers, we love to try and figure out what it is that they are thinking. Our cats are not as hard to decode as we realize. Cohabitating with them and studying their body language can tell us so much about what’s going on inside their mind. We know that cats talk to us humans with their meows. And those tails? They tell us a lot, too. But did you know that your cat’s pupils tell you a lot about what they’re feeling, too?

Here I’ll decode what your cat’s pupils are telling you…

First, knowing the structure of your cat’s eye might help. Your cat’s eyes differ greatly from ours in how they respond to light. Compared to a human, a cat’s eyes are much larger in comparison to their size. And these large eyes? Well, it allows them to see better as they can absorb more light.

Your cat’s eyes have a layer of highly reflective cells known as tapetum lucidum, which is located between their retina and optic nerve. This is exactly what causes that eyeshine but also allows them to see so well in the dark, whereas we cannot.

Obviously, the pupil is responsible for the amount of light that enters the eye. So, can your cat’s pupils really tell you what they’re thinking, too? You bet. Let’s take a closer look…

cat pupil's

Wide, Dilated Cat Pupils

Have you ever given your cat catnip and suddenly noticed their pupils are wide and enlarged? Or what about when your cat gets the zoomies? Have you ever taken a look at their eyes when this happens? When your cat is excited, their eyes can become dilated. But, it can also be a display of fear. For example, if your cat is suddenly frightened, hiding behind something, take a peek at their eyes. Chances are, they are likely dilated. And, if you happen to notice their ears, those will usually be facing backward, too. Once you understand cat behavior well, you’ll be amazed find how in sync their bodies are when they’re feeling a certain way. For your cat, their pupil size is dictated by light AND emotion.

cat pupil's

Narrow Pupils

When your cat has those perfect little cat eye slits, this is a telltale sign that they are happy and relaxed. One of my cat’s often has eyes like this when he is in my presence because I provide him with a sense of calm. Around others, he is NOT this way. Pay close attention to your cat’s eyes when they feel relaxed, and you will often see them turn into slits. But, should something startle your cat randomly, you can quickly see them transform.

And those squinted eyes, like when they’re giving you a kitty kiss? That happens when their pupils are narrow, too. If you want to communicate back to them, try sending a slow blink their way.

Fun little big cat pupil fact for you: lions, tigers, and cheetahs have round pupils. The shape of the pupil is related to the cats’ hunting style. Your cat’s eyes are closer to the ground and they hunt in the wild at a different time than big cats would hunt, which is why they have slits.

cat pupil's

Physical Factors Can Play a Role in Your Cat’s Pupils

Despite your cat’s mood, there are a few health conditions that have been known to affect a cat’s pupils. Hypertension has been known to affect a cat’s pupils and cause them to dilate. But remember, your cat’s pupils can be affected by either a primary or secondary illness. Hypertension can come as a result of kidney disease or hyperthyroidism.

If you feel your cat’s eyes look different than normal regularly, you must take them in to see their veterinarian. Your veterinarian will likely shine a light into your cat’s eyes to see how they respond, in addition to blood work being performed. Just know that your cat’s eyes being constantly dilated is not normal and can signal that something is amiss with their health.

Did you learn anything new about our feline friends? Share this article with other cat lovers you know so they can learn something, too.

Want to know more about tail talk? Find out what your cat’s tail is saying to you by reading this article here on

cat's pupils

Was this article helpful?