Exploring the Mysteries of Cat Eyelids: How Many Eyelids Do Cats Have?


Cats have a reputation for their enchanting eyes. Their expressive gaze can captivate anyone who looks into them. But have you ever wondered what lies behind those mesmerizing eyes? One intriguing aspect is the number of eyelids they possess. Unlike humans and many other animals, cats have not just one or two but three eyelids! Let's delve deeper into this curious aspect of feline anatomy.

How Many Eyelids Do Cats Have?

Understanding the Three Eyelids of Cats

Most mammals, including humans, have two eyelids: the upper eyelid and the lower eyelid. However, cats have an additional eyelid known as the third eyelid or the nictitating membrane. This third eyelid is located in the inner corner of their eyes, close to the nose.

The Function of the Upper Eyelid

The upper eyelid in cats serves a similar purpose to that in humans. It helps protect the eyes from foreign objects, dust, and excessive light. Additionally, it contributes to keeping the cornea moist by distributing tears evenly across the surface of the eye.

The Function of the Lower Eyelid

The lower eyelid in cats acts as a protective barrier, similar to the upper eyelid. It helps keep foreign particles and debris away from the eyes. It also aids in spreading tears and keeping the eyes lubricated.

The Third Eyelid: Nictitating Membrane

The third eyelid, or the nictitating membrane, is a translucent or opaque membrane that is not readily visible unless it covers part of the eye. It moves horizontally across the eyeball from the inner corner towards the outer corner. The nictitating membrane helps protect the eye from injury and serves as an additional shield against dust, wind, and bright sunlight.

How Do Cats Blink?

Cats blink in a similar way to humans, but you might not notice it as easily. Unlike humans, cats have a slower blinking rate. They close their eyelids partially or fully and reopen them in a slow and deliberate manner. This slow blinking is often associated with relaxation and contentment in cats.

Why Do Cats Need Three Eyelids?

The presence of three eyelids in cats provides them with enhanced eye protection. Cats are natural predators, and their eyes are crucial for hunting and survival. The third eyelid helps shield their eyes during intense moments, such as when they're chasing prey or engaging in physical combat.

Similarities and Differences with Other Animals

While cats have three eyelids, some other animals also possess a nictitating membrane. Dogs, birds, reptiles, and sharks are among the creatures that have this extra protective eyelid. However, the structure, appearance, and function of the third eyelid may vary across species.

Protecting the Eyes: Role of Eyelids

The primary function of the eyelids, including the third eyelid in cats, is to safeguard the eyes from potential harm. They provide a physical barrier against foreign objects, prevent excessive light from entering the eyes, and aid in the distribution of tears to keep the eyes lubricated and healthy.

Eyelid Abnormalities in Cats

Just like any other part of the body, cats can experience eyelid abnormalities. Some common conditions include eyelid agenesis, entropion, ectropion, and cherry eye. These conditions may require medical attention to ensure the cat's eye health and overall well-being.

Eyelid Care and Health

Maintaining good eye health is essential for cats. Regular grooming can help keep their eyelids clean and free from debris. If you notice any signs of redness, swelling, discharge, or changes in your cat's eyes or eyelids, it's important to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Fun Facts about Cat Eyelids

  • The third eyelid in cats is also referred to as the haw.
  • Cats have a wide field of vision due to their large eyes and the ability to rotate their eyeballs.
  • The third eyelid can sometimes become more visible when a cat is unwell or experiencing certain health conditions.
  • The nictitating membrane in cats can move independently from the upper and lower eyelids.
  • The color of a cat's third eyelid may vary, ranging from pink to brown or black.


In conclusion, cats have three eyelids: the upper eyelid, the lower eyelid, and the third eyelid known as the nictitating membrane. Each eyelid serves a specific function in protecting the cat's eyes from potential harm and ensuring their overall well-being. Understanding the unique characteristics of cat eyelids allows us to appreciate the marvels of feline anatomy.


How many eyelids do cats have? 

Cats have three eyelids: the upper eyelid, the lower eyelid, and the third eyelid known as the nictitating membrane.

What is the purpose of the third eyelid in cats? 

The third eyelid, or nictitating membrane, provides additional protection for the cat's eyes, shielding them during intense moments and serving as a barrier against dust, wind, and bright sunlight.

Do all animals have a third eyelid? 

No, not all animals have a third eyelid. Cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, and sharks are among the creatures that possess a nictitating membrane.

How do cats blink? 

Cats blink slowly and deliberately, closing their eyelids partially or fully. This slow blinking is often associated with relaxation and contentment.

How should I care for my cat's eyelids? 

Regular grooming and observation are important for maintaining good eye health in cats. If you notice any abnormalities or changes in your cat's eyes or eyelids, consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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