February 20, 2022

Pets and Eye Contact

This is a very random post (quite literally) but it's had me thinking all weekend. The "random fact" of the day for Sat/Sun (there is only one for each weekend in my desk calendar--not separate ones for each day) really surprised me. And kind of bummed me out! I just had such a hard time believing it.

I already know that dogs seek eye contact--Joey is the master of it!--but I have such a hard time believing that cats don't look their owners in the eyes. I feel like Duck stares into my eyes all the time.

Jerry was making me laugh the other day because he kept pointing at something he wanted the cats to look at. He was getting frustrated that they were watching his finger the whole time and not looking at what he was pointing at. "No, don't look at me! Look where I'm pointing!" I was laughing and telling him that they don't understand what he's doing--they just watch the thing that moves, which was his hand.

And that made me think about how Duck probably stares at my mouth when I talk to him instead of into my eyes. Cats' pupils dilate huge and constrict to a tiny little line (and everything in between), so you can't tell for sure exactly where they are looking. This is a funny picture of Duck yawning, but check out his pupils!

It's funny how Duck really likes when I talk to him, though--as long as I'm talking, he's watching me (probably my mouth). If I stop talking, he'll meow at me until I talk again. It's adorable 99% of the time, but sometimes when I'm busy he drives me crazy! ;) 

All this time, I felt like he was looking into my eyes, but now I know he's likely just watching my mouth. I know a lot about cats and their body language, but I never really thought about human eye contact before.

Remember the book my mom gave me as a gift when Duck was sick and I was super sad? It's full of interesting random facts about cats, and here is what it says about eye contact:

"Cats find direct eye contact alarming, whether it's from a human or another animal. On the other hand, we humans tend to look directly at things that interest us and, well, ignore things that don't. So to a cat, people who don't stare make the best company."
Sometimes my cats will battle it out with a staring contest as a sort of duel. The first one to look away is the loser. One time, Duck and Estelle were staring at each other for SO long that I finally took a video because I wanted to see what would happen when one of them finally looked away. It was probably about 3-4 minutes that they were as still as statues, just staring each other down. The end was totally anticlimactic (and I don't remember who looked away first). Estelle is extremely stubborn, so it was probably Duck.

As far as the other part of the "random fact"--that dogs run toward humans when scared, while other domesticated pets don't--is totally accurate in my experience! When something scares the cats (if they're all sleeping and someone was to drop a heavy book on the floor for example) they jump up and are under a bed in about one second flat. Then they come out, looking embarrassed, and grooming themselves like they meant to do that all along ;)

Joey, on the other hand, definitely comes to us when he's scared. He wants to be near someone--it doesn't even matter who.

Like I said, totally random post. I just found the eye contact thing interesting, that dogs are the only non-primates to look people in the eyes!


  1. Very interesting. My husband and son love cats and we have cats and dogs and we found this an interesting fact.

  2. We just visited my stepson and his girlfriend and 10-year-old daughter in Kentucky. Then drove the motor home back here to NE Iowa and I can't stop thinking about their old blue healer dog. He gets no attention from anybody. I feel so sorry for him. He has a towel on the concrete garage floor to sleep on. We decided to NEVER EVER adopt another dog after losing a couple of wonderful dogs, but I can't stop thinking about Hoyte and how nobody gives a shit about him. They have 2 house cats and a puppy in the house and a little dog that sleeps with them. This old dog gets no attention from anybody and they have been talking about euthanizing him for a couple years, it's so pathetic that people can be so f'n heartless. We had our dog euthanized last march and decided never again, but I keep thinking Hoyte needs us, and love, and attention before his life is over. They never look at him and I'm like where is the food and water? I Fead him steak and kept scratching him, telling him he's a good dog. They are so fancy and clean freaks, and he doesn't fit their lifestyle. I empathize with Hoyte and we really love each other. Why can't his family give a shit or see he is in pain? My husband would be pissed if I get another dog and his only child is treating his poor dog like shit. I'm torn because I don't know what to do.

    1. This absolutely BREAKS MY HEART. Of course I think you'd be fantastic to take him in, but if your husband wouldn't be up for it (maybe have a good talk with him about it?) then please let me know if there is anything I can do publicly here on my blog or on Facebook. I'm so sad for poor Hoyte :(

      I know how you feel about never wanting another pet--it's SO hard when they pass or you have to make the decision to put them down. But think of how happy you could make him (or another rescue) for the rest of their lives! It sounds like you have so much compassion for animals--I think they'd be so lucky to have you adopt them.

  3. Our dogs look at our eyes for sure, but I also think my goats sometimes look like they're looking at my eyes? I know they're able to look at people's facial expressions, and can tell people's moods...maybe they're just taking in the whole face :)


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