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Every cat owner knows the importance of interpreting every meow because they have distinct messages.
And just like meows, cats use their eyes to communicate with their humans too.
From squinting to blinking, every eye movement has a coded message.
So, can cats roll their eyes?
Cats are like humans in the sense that they lack peripheral vision.
As such, they will need to move their heads together with their eyes to see what’s behind them.
Sometimes, they don’t have to turn their head completely and just roll their eyes to see something on their left or right.
It’s important to differentiate between when a cat rolls his eyes and when his eyes roll back.
Just like reptiles, cats have a third eyelid for purposes of protection.
This third eyelid is usually rucked away and as long as the cat is healthy and fine, you won’t even notice it.
If your cat’s eyes roll back in the socket and thereby reveal the third eyelid, it means your cat is either sick or dehydrated.
In such a case, you may want to take him to the vet immediately.
However, if you have to wait overnight before taking him to the vet, make sure to keep him indoors. This is because his vision will be slightly impaired and he could be easy prey for predators.
Some medications as well as tranquilizers can also make the cat’s eye get rolled back.
If your cat’s eyes roll back when on medication, it is a sign they are reacting to the medication.
Explain this to the vet and they will advise you if you should switch your medication or if the side effects will wane with time.
Why Do Cats Roll Their Eyes When They Sleep?
When cats fall asleep, their eyes will be half-closed and it will look like they are rolling their eyes in sleep.
It is also not uncommon for the eyelids of a cat to roll back when they are asleep.
This is usually a result of the third eyelid (nictitating membrane) that is not only in cats but birds and reptiles too.
The nictitating membrane is meant to protect the eye and because the cat is vulnerable in sleep, it rolls over to protect the eye while keeping it moist.
The membrane is a whitish cover and it can cover the entire eye or sometimes it could cover it partially.
However, this membrane is only used when the cat is asleep and if you see it when the cat is awake, it indicates the cat is sick and needs medical attention.
Why does my cat roll her eyes at me?
Contrary to common belief, cats do not roll their eyes at you to signify they are bored with you.
On the contrary, they roll their eyes at you if you are not in direct line of sight.
However, your cat can squint at you and that is what most people mistake for rolling of eyes.
Cats are very independent animals and they like retreating to safe spots when company comes over.
But if your cat gets comfortable around friends and family, they will show their affection through their body language—like squinting of eyes.
When a cat squints, its vision is slightly limited. This means the cat will only squint when they are comfortable and feel safe.
Squinting is, therefore, a sign of trust, love, and affection. If you are very close to your cat, they can squint back at you when you squint at them.
Why do my cat’s eyes look like they are rolling back?
There are three main reasons why your cat’s eyes can look like they are rolling back.
The eyes will roll back when they are asleep, when they are dehydrated, or when they are ill.
When a cat dozes off, the nictitating membrane rolls over the eye, and all you will see is a whitish membrane that can give your cat a weird look.
This membrane serves the purpose of protecting the eye of your cat as they sleep.
If the cat is dehydrated, the cornea in their eyes will get dull and sink in.
Additionally, some cat illnesses are also signified with rolled-back eyes.
In the case of sickness, the eyes can roll back gradually over a few days although it can also happen overnight in severe cases.
Ailments that can cause your cat’s eyes to roll back
As we have already seen, rolled-back eyes can signify a health condition.
Here are some of the common cat ailments that could result in rolled-back eyes.
Glaucoma is not very common in cats but can be quite severe if it occurs.
It can be caused by infections, tumors, trauma, inflammatory disorders, or a condition where there is an abnormal shift of the lens of the eye.
A cat suffering from Glaucoma will be in excruciating pain and its eyes will be cloudy, red, and enlarged.
Glaucoma should be treated as an emergency because any delay in treatment can result in complete loss of vision.
2. Corneal ulcer
Corneal ulcer can also make your cat roll back his eyes.
Corneal ulcers are open sores on the eye and they are a result of physical injury, insufficient secretion of tears, infections, or some anatomical anomaly.
Symptoms include cloudy eyes, red eyes, eye discharge, and eye sensitivity which results in squinting or rolling back of eyes.
Blepharitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the eyelid.
This condition is caused by parasites, viral infections, allergens, bacterial infections, or even an anatomical anomaly.
Some of the main symptoms of blepharitis include rolled-back eyes, loss of hair, thicker than normal eyelids, discharge in the eyes, intense itching of eyes, and blurred vision.
4. Eye trauma
Eye trauma can also cause rolling back of the eyes.
The trauma could be a result of a foreign object in the eye, punctures, scratches, or lacerations.
The symptoms will depend on the type of trauma but they include swelling, bleeding, and very painful eyes.
This is an inflammatory condition that can be caused by eye infections or allergens.
Common symptoms of this disease include rolled-back eyes, eye discharge, red eyes, respiratory distress, and excessive squinting or blinking.
In conclusion, rolling eyes is normal – it usually is a way of the cat seeing what is out of its line of sight.
And no, it’s not a sign of boredom.
However, if the eyes roll back, then you have reason to worry as that is a sign of sickness.
A cat with rolled-back eyes (when awake) should be taken to the vet right away.
Hi! I am Eleanor Price. I started this website after my cat, Louie, almost died from a case of botulism (a type of food poisoning often caused by bacteria that grow on food items). Turned out that my cat’s diet was the problem. I have made it my duty to provide the best information and recommendations about everything cat lovers need to know about their felines’ health and wellbeing. My goal is to find the most informative content on anything feline-related and share it with fellow hardworking kitty lovers.
Disclaimer: While I ensure that the advice and tips given here are in line with the latest evidence-based veterinary information and health guidelines, under no circumstance should you misconstrue my suggestions as medical advice. Please contact your veterinarian in all matters regarding your kitty’s health.