how long can cats go without blinking

How Long Can Cats Go Without Blinking?

Cats can go all day without blinking because they don’t blink in the same way that we do.

It often looks like cats don’t blink at all, this is because their eyelid movements are different from ours so they often squint rather than fully blink. 

Instead of blinking, cats have a third eyelid that moves diagonally across their eye.

This third eyelid is thin and moves quickly so it is unlikely you would see it.

This works to keep your cat’s eyes moist and clean without the need for your cat to actually close their eyes. 

Cats Sometimes Slow Blink

As there isn’t a need for cats to blink conventionally, you probably haven’t seen them do it a lot.

When a cat does blink in the same way that we do, they do a much slower blink that takes around 50 seconds and this is often used as a way for your cat to communicate how much they trust you rather than as a way for them to clean their eyes. 

In contrast, as humans, we blink very quickly around 15-20 times per minute to keep our eyes moist and free from debris.

This is why many cat owners worry that their cat isn’t blinking because we need to blink so often.

There’s no need to worry, cats are keeping their eyes moist and clean with their third eyelid.   

Why Is My Cat Not Blinking?

This is completely normal.

Cats don’t need to blink in the same way we do, humans need to blink regularly to keep their eyes moist and free from debris/ particles but this isn’t the case with cats.

Cats’ eyes have a number of differences compared to ours and this means they don’t need to blink. 

why is my cat not blinking

Firstly, they have a third eyelid which is a thin nictitating membrane that moves diagonally across the eyes.

When a cat squints their eyes, the third eyelid is likely moving but it moves very quickly so is very hard to see. 

Secondly, cats don’t need to blink to remove tears from their eyes.

After particles are removed from the eye, the tears evaporate so blinking is not required. 

Cats Can Keep Their Eyes Open All The Time

A cat’s third eyelid may extend up to protect a cat’s eyes from trauma, for example when they are walking through long grass.

This stops the eyes from being scratched or irritated without them needing to close their eyes. 

As a cat needs to keep their eyes open when hunting prey or avoiding predators, it makes sense that they don’t need to frequently blink.

It is thought that a cat can see through the nictitating membrane so if they are stalking through grass they can still see their prey and continue to hunt. 

Why Do Cats Not Need To Blink As Much As Humans?

Cats have a third eyelid that regularly moves across their eyes to moisturise and clear any debris.

Why Do Cats Not Need To Blink As Much As Humans

This gives cats the same effect as blinking without actually needing to blink. 

When the third eyelid moves, your cat may squint slightly but won’t actually blink.

The nictitating membrane moves very quickly and is barely visible so you are unlikely to actually see it, this is why it looks like your cat is hardly ever blinking. 

How Many Times A Day Do Cats Normally Blink?

Cats don’t need to blink but their third eyelid moves across their eyes regularly to keep them clean and moist.

However, there is no concrete data on how many times a cat blinks with their third eyelid each day. 

This may be because the eyelid is very hard to see so keeping track is a difficult task.

How Many Times A Day Do Cats Normally Blink

In regards to blinking in the way humans do, cats rarely blink in this way so the answer would be zero, or close to that. 

You may see your cat blink as a reaction to something moving quickly towards their face.

This is called a menace response and is something people have too.

It is the eye’s reflex to close when something comes close to it.

Cats may also use blinking as a form of communication which is something we look at in more detail below. 

What Does It Mean When A Cat Blinks At You Twice?

If your cat is looking at you and blinking slowly, it’s their way of showing that they like and trust you.

For a cat to close their eyes fully it means they feel safe and secure so if your cat is blinking at you, take it as a compliment and a sign of love.

What Does It Mean When A Cat Blinks At You Twice

Don’t just take our word for it.

There was a study on cat-human communication that showed there is a link between slow blinking and positive emotional communication between humans and cats.

This also includes half-blinks and eye narrowing. 

So, if your cat is keeping their eye on you it isn’t always a bad thing.

A cat slowly blinking at you is a sign of trust and you can always blink slowly back at them if you’d like to communicate the same thing.

Remember that staring at your cat without blinking could be interpreted as intimidation or aggression, so avoid doing that. 

If a cat rapidly blinks and scrunches its eyelids closed then it may be a sign they are feeling fearful or threatened.

In this case, move away from the cat to give them more space and to show you are not a threat. 

Is My Cat Blinking Too Much? 

If you have noticed your cat is blinking a lot more than usual, it may be a sign of pain, discomfort, or inflammation in or around the eye.

You may also see tears or discharge.

Other symptoms to look out for include:

  • Unable to blink one or both eyes 
  • Blinking/ squinting frequently 
  • Holding one eye (or both eyes) completely shut 
  • Discharge from the eyes 
  • Pawing at eyes
  • Redness or cloudiness in the eyes
  • Increased tear production 

Potential health issues that can lead to eye issues and increased blinking include: 

  • Lacerations
  • Corneal Ulceration 
  • Uveitis 
  • Foreign objects in the eye 
  • Growths
  • Abnormal growth of eyelashes
  • Glaucoma 
  • Facial nerve paralysis 

Take your cat to the vet if you notice they are having issues with their eyes.

Ask a Vet

If your cat is experiencing eye issues we recommend you speak with a vet ASAP to help you work out what’s going on and what needs to be done. JustAnswer allows you to talk in real-time to veterinary experts for a small fee.

You may also be able to see their third eyelid in some situations.

This may be caused by pain, chronic dry eye, discomfort, or viruses. 

Any changes in your cat’s blinking behaviour and eye health should be discussed with a vet to ensure they are healthy, happy, and pain-free.