Why does a cat always try to outstare you?

I have this cat that sits on the floor and washes his face all the time with his paw. When he gets bored with this he stops and looks at me. If I am watching him he will stare at me right in the eyes. He will do this for what seems a long time. Usually I give up and go get myself a beer, then we start the whole damn thing all over again. Should one of us get out more?

My grandma tells me that when I was 2 I stared at her cat for the longest time, until it came up and pawed me in the face. Anyway, I heard that staring at a cat is fairly threatening, but a cat staring intently at you could mean it wants something, or is hostile. I think some just want to play games.

Because cats are evil, and they are trying to steal your soul.(The eyes are the gateway to the soul - trust me, I know lots about he soul stealing business.)

I was always told that if you stare at a cat, it thinks of you as a threat. If you want a cat to come up to you, its best not to look directly at it.

Supposedly cats see staring into the eyes as domineering(sp?)behavior.

My cats turn away. Yes, they know who controls the food.


Same here. I always win. . . except for that time I got a little too daring and stared him in the face from 3 inches away. I promptly received a bitch slap to the cheek (no kidding, it was a bitch slap–he did not use his claws).

I was always able to outstare my cats as a child. I think i just had too long of an attention span. God I want another cat…:frowning:

Staring is widely regarded as threatening behavior. Don’t stare at a wolf for that reason, BTW. If you stare at a dog, you’ll usually win because dogs are bred to be submissive pack animals (wolves frozen in the puppy stage, essentially). Staring at a cat may provoke the cat to minor violence, as cats are much less pack-oriented and that much more willing to tell you to take a flying leap.

As anyone who has owned cats can tell you. :wink:

Meeting and keeping key contact can mean different things even within human societies, so aren’t we assuming a lot in ascribing a motivation to cats?

As has been pointed out, cats are not really pack animals, so the close contact and social significance of a “stare-out” doesn’t feature in a cat’s world. The cat is not trying to outstare you, it just doesn’t attribute any significance to the act. You assign significance and feel discomfort in the staring, the cat, on the otherhand, feels nothing and could look in your eyes all day, as long as they held its interest.

So the contest is all in your head, the cat is simply looking at you.

Dogs and humans, as you say, are a different matter. As pack animals staring is a convenient way of establishing dominance without physical conflict. A stare-out is a challenge.

as a cat lover, i’ve seen many documentaries that claim different.
cat’s are in many ways the opposite of dogs, for instance, a dog will wag its tail when it’s happy, a cat will swish his/hers when it’s agitated. A dog is open to eye contact, and in non-threathening circumstances will make eye contact easily, whereas a cat (and if you’ve ever seen documentaries about big wild cats, you’ll know what I mean) takes eye contact as being a threat, nearly always. Among cats that are friendly with each other, there will be eye contact, but fleeting. As soon as they’ve acknowledged each other, they will turn their heads away, as if to say: you’re alright, see, i’m not going to attack.
Even with domesticated cats this is true. A cat will nearly always jump on the lap of the person who least wants it. This because that particular person is ignoring the cat, instead of staring at it and trying to lure it over, and the cat will perceive that as “inviting behaviour”.
So far the documentary :wink:

They’re busy thinking “I wonder if it’s true that they taste like chicken?”

I must disagree. Cats have a whole repertoire of social behaviors. They don’t run in packs, but they do compete and cooperate in sharing territory. The stare-out definitely has social significance.

Cats display this in their natural environment. Cats that encounter a strange cat in their territory will stare. This staring contest can last for 15 minutes or longer. If one cat blinks or looks away, the other cat will either charge aggressively, or relax and do its own blinking. If one cat decides to move away from the confrontation, it will carefully turn its head, and move verrrry sloooowwwly away.

Cats that know each other will look, sniff noses and such. If one cat wants to sit near another cat on a warm spot, it will lick the ear of the sitting cat as if to get permission to share its space.

You can get cats to relax by looking at them and then closing and blinking your eyes. Cats seem to interpret this as a friendly signal and will eventually mimic it back at you.

Cats also recognize the eyes of mice and other prey. A hunting cat will crouch and watch the animal. When the other animal’s eyes disappear behind a rock or tree, that is the moment the cat will pounce. By instinct, cats know when their prey cannot see them, and the visual cue for this is the eyes. They will do the same thing if you play with animal toys that have clear eye dots.

as a child i had stared at my kitten just 3 inches away too. after a while she pawed my eye =)

as an afterthought i’d imagine what i did was dangerous, but i doubt it was ever that; how could a paw so soft be dangerous? :smiley:

Yep, I have seen that same behavior many times

Well, I have a very different opinion.

I’ve owned nine cats. Presently we have three. To be quite honest, I think the reason they stare at you is the reason they often sit and stare at anything; their brains spend a lot of time just idling in neutral. When your cat is staring, he’s probably not thinking about dominance or hunting. He’s just thinking “Hummana hummana hummana humanna.” I’ve never seen a cat display behaviour based on staring that could be reasonably argued to be dominance behavbiour - towards a human, anyway.

Cats cvertainly DO recognize your eyes as being your eyes, but I strongly suspect they look at you, and if you aren’t getting up to get food, their brain goes to sleep. They’re drawn to your eyes, for the various reasons already stated, but beyond that it’s “zzzzzzzz.” Cats, their reputation aside, are in my experience not terribly bright animals.

Your cat can outstare you because it’s not as easy for a human to just let their brain idle.

Its the cats instinct to determine friend, foe or prey. If you look away that means he is not the prey and he relaxes. If you stared first and keep looking hes in fight or flight mode. When they sense someone is staring at them, they stare back and wait. Depending on what you do next will determine his reaction and he will stay in that mode until you do something.

If they stare first, they are trying to determine if you are “prey” even if its pretend. They are practicing stalking the food. If you look away, he won the game goes on his merry way. There is a way to win this game tho. make the cat look away with some noise thats away from you (push the remote to change channel, throw something with your hand from behind your back so he doesnt see you move) when he looks away, yell “AHA!!!” and watch the funniest face a cat can ever make.

Some of the time, the cat is guilty of something and when you stare at him he has this deep feeling of guilt and remorse that he will stare at you to see if he was busted.

Good to see someone else who plays with their cat. Jumpie, The Warehouse Cat, and I used to play Hide and Stalk.

Your idea of it being a game may be the answer to the OP.

On the other hand, sometimes a cat will pointedly refuse eye contact. Not the submissive dropped eyes of a dog, but a nose-in-the-air aloofness.

When I was a kid we had a cat like that. I would pick her up and stare directly in her eyes. She’d shift her eyes and head ever so slightly and look past me. So I’d shift to stare again, and she’d look the other way. We’d do this for minutes at a time. She was completely blasé about it.

Also, (the eye recognition thing again) there’s a cat that sits in a window that I pass on my way to work. It pretends not to notice me as I walk by. And of course as soon as my back shows, it checks me out good. I know, because I love to turn around quick and catch it looking at me. Heheh.

Thanks everbody. What great stories about our Feline friends! I agree with a great deal of what has been posted. By the way, a friend has a cat that will chase a small beanbag, grab it and bring it back and drop it next to his feet. As soon as he lifts his arm to throw it, the cat will run in that direction and try too catch it it mid air…just like a dog! Anyone else seen something like this?