What Do Dilated Cat Eyes Mean?

What Do Dilated Cat Eyes Mean?

Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD, RPh
Written by Adam McCown, PharmD

Aside from just using them to look deeply into your soul, your cat’s eyes can tell you a lot about what they are feeling and what’s going on with them. It’s important to know what your cat’s eyes are expressing because their faces and body language can sometimes be more difficult to read than your dog’s might be.

Your cat’s eyes are actually pretty cool. They allow them to see in dark and let them pick up on the slightest movements and detect any motion in order to stalk and hunt their prey. And their vertical, slit shaped pupils do a lot more than just respond to brightness, they can change based on what your feline is feeling or experiencing.

What Do Narrow Cat Pupils Mean?

When your cat has narrow, skinny pupils, it’s an indication that they are aroused by either anger, fear, or pleasure. These emotions can result in the sudden contraction of cat pupils so that they become narrow slits. You might see this if your cat encounters a catnip mouse and prepares to attack it. Even the smell of catnip itself can cause arousal in a cat that likes the stuff.

Your cat’s pupils may also narrow if they are playing with their favorite toy and about to go in for the “kill”.

What Causes Dilated Cat Pupils?

Dilated cat pupils are another window into what your cat may be feeling or not feeling and often indicate an excited cat. Dilation can also be a display of surprise or fear, depending on the situation. It is not unusual for a cat’s pupils to fully dilate when they are really excited.

Additionally, your cat’s pupils may grow larger as a result of a number of different biological responses.

The only time this might be something to worry about is if your cat’s eyes are always dilated. Dilation all the time could be an indication of a larger problem. If you notice your cat’s pupils are almost always large, then test them by turning on the lights and seeing if they constrict. If they don’t, then you may want to bring it up at your cat’s next vet visit.

If your cat is hyper by nature, his or her pupils are probably dilated more often than not. Additionally, younger cats are more prone to dilated pupils caused by excitement than older, more relaxed cats.

Dilated cat pupils can also be the result of a deeper problem. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common culprit for dilated cat eyes. However, if your cat is suffering from high blood pressure, then large pupils are probably not the only symptom they will be experiencing. They may also not be grooming themselves regularly and maybe have gained or lost a few pounds.

Cat Eyes: What They Tell You

The thing about your cat’s eyes is they will and should be moving back and forth between being dilated and being narrow, typically based on their mood or environment. You can see this transition in action by tossing a new toy or other object they are unfamiliar with on the ground near them. Their pupils should dilate at the new, maybe dangerous object, and then narrow once they feel they have a handle on the situation and are intrigued.

Like we mentioned, your cat’s eyes are very expressive. Even more than our own in many ways. So if you notice dilated cat eyes all the time, even when their mood changes or the situation changes or in all types of light, then there may be a larger issue that is worth investigating with your vet.

As always, if your vet prescribes your cat any medication for their dilated pupils or the issue causing the dilated pupils, you can fulfill all your pet’s needs online at ExpressVet Pharmacy.