It’s adorable when your cuddly kitty curls up and gives a big yawn, notifying the world of their utter contentment with life. After all, what can feel better than a great big relaxing huff or a refreshing burst of oxygen to the brain?
Cats have body language that’s all their own, and everything from shaking their heads to keeping one eye closed has a purpose in their lives. Whether that purpose is to communicate, self-soothe, or something more mysterious, it is for them to know and for us to try and figure out.
So let’s dig into the question, “why do cats yawn” and deconstruct this behavior to better understand your kitty companions.
What Does it Mean When Cats Yawn? 7 Reasons
There are a variety of reasons for your kitty to get the yawns. It probably has you wondering, what does a cat yawn mean? Here are some of the most common reasons for cat yawns.
1. They’re Just Waking Up
When your cat wakes up, they commonly make a big stretch and accompany it with a nice big yawn. It’s one way to gather a lot of oxygen in one go, helping the brain to wake up fully after a snoozing session.
Yawning aids by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the head, waking the brain up and helping your kitty achieve alertness. If your cat sleeps a lot, they’ll probably yawn a lot, too.
2. They’re Relaxed
Contented kitties are more likely to yawn. If they’re well taken care of by their humans with plenty of cat-friendly spaces, tasty treats, and are lovingly doted upon with attention, they’ll feel more relaxed.
So if you catch your cat yawning during a cuddle with you or they halt their playtime to take in a big gulp of air a couple of times, they’re likely feeling super relaxed.
Image by Luis Wilker Wilkernet from Pixabay
3. Or They’re Trying To Relax
You know that lovely feeling after a good yawn when your whole body relaxes and you slump a little on the exhale? Accompany that with a big stretch, and it feels just so magical.
Cats can yawn to try and help themselves relax and get in the sleepy spirit if they’re preparing for a nap. Getting those tight muscles nice and loose and feeling that pleasantly tired slump is the perfect way to prepare for a cat nap.
4. They’re Bored
On the flip side, if your cat doesn’t have enough toys to play with or simply feels unengaged with their environment, they may start yawning out of boredom. If you notice your cat yawning a lot and suspect this might be the reason, it’s time to up the ante with a few new toys or a boredom-busting enriching lickimat.
You can also try to get more interactive with them with some playtime. Whether you use a cat laser in the living room or take them outside for a walk on a harness to change their environment, either will help them feel less bored.
A needy cat can be a noisy cat, as many kitty connoisseurs will know. Whether they want pets or food, they may start meowing at you to get it. You might see them start yawning too and wonder, “why is my cat yawning at me?” but it can be for the same reason.
They may simply ask for something and demonstrate behavior that’ll get your attention to get what they want.
6. It’s a Behavioral Cause
If you own multiple types of pets, you might know that dogs often yawn from fear or anxiety. This doesn’t seem to be the case with cats, though, so at least you can rest assured your fluffball isn’t trying to tell you they’re stressed.
That being said, a cat’s yawning can mean that they’re feeling conflicted about something. If they’re yawning in the vicinity of other strange cats, it may be their way of trying to show that they’re not a threat.
Image by Helmut Sternwies from Pixabay
7. There’s a Medical Reason
Although yawning is a natural motion and can signify your cat’s mood, it can also indicate a few medical problems. If you find your cat yawning a lot, it might be that they are experiencing something uncomfortable in their mouth. This can be anything from a cut to a sore tooth or something more severe like oral ulcers or resorptive lesions.
If the cause isn’t oral, it might relate to another underlying issue. Cats that yawn from medical issues tend to exhibit other symptoms as well, such as vocalizing from pain when they yawn. If you notice they also have difficulty eating, are drooling excessively, or rubbing at their face, it’s definitely time for the vet.
Are Yawns Contagious to Cats?
Dogs have been known to yawn in a contagious fashion after seeing their humans and fellow floofs do it.
Even lions, which are some of the bigger cat species, are known to experience contagious yawning within their pack. This is thought to encourage pack cohesion and synchronization of movement.
There is no evidence, though, that a cat can catch a yawn from either a fellow kitty or their human owner. One theory about why this is is that cats are generally solitary animals rather than pack animals.
They’re independent and don’t have the same instinctual social urges to spread a yawn around the room. Contagious yawning is intrinsic in empathy and strong social bonds between animals, so if your cat considers itself a lone wolf, there’s less reason for it to copy a yawn.
Another theory regarding why dogs give in to this behavior when cats don’t seem to is predicated on the fact that dogs have been domesticated longer. The science is still up for debate and studies continue with regard to this topic, though, so look forward to new discoveries.
Why Does My Cat Yawn So Much?
The occasional yawn here and there is nothing to be concerned about. But if your cat keeps yawning frequently, you might need to bundle them into their crate and head to the vet for a check-up. This is especially important if other symptoms accompany excessive yawning, such as changes in breathing, panting, or labored breathing.
Image by Andrew from Pixabay
Bear in mind that if you wonder, “why does my cat keep yawning?” the reason may be situational. For example, you might often find them yawning if you’re on a long car ride with your kitty. They’re not bored, though — they might be a bit carsick, and yawning helps make their nausea feel a little better.
FAQs About Why Cats Yawn
Are there any other lingering questions you may have about cats yawning? You’ll find the most common ones right here and the answers that go with them.
Why Do Cats Yawn at You?
Why does my cat yawn at me, you might wonder? The answer can vary as it is mainly subject to observed behavior from pet parents. Some are sure it’s their cat’s way of letting them know they’re bored and want to play, and yawning is an invitation to do so. Others believe their kitties yawn at them to let them know they’re relaxed, peaceful, and possibly ready for a nice nap.
Bear in mind this might not be an invitation for vigorous pets and cuddles and affectionate love squeezes. They may just be telling you they’re happy and ready to sleep. It’s often said to “let sleeping dogs lie,” but it’s not recommended to disturb a sleepy kitty, either.
If you really want to decipher your cat’s yawns when directed at you, look at their coinciding behavior. Are they brushing up against you, sitting on you, or walking nearby, looking eager to engage in some play? Or are they sitting somewhere comfy when they yawn right before curling up for a snooze?
Depending on the circumstances, you should come to understand your particular kitty’s yawns and what they mean if you pay the right amount of attention. It’ll also help you know how to respond accordingly.
Do Cats Yawn When Stressed?
Dogs tend to yawn when stressed, and anxiety can even make humans yawn. So it makes sense that a cat might do the same thing. But when cats are stressed, they tend to become extra alert.
But that mode effectively prevents them from being able to do a relaxing behavior like a nice big yawn when they’re too tense. For them, yawning tends to happen when they’re nice and chilled rather than on edge, so it’s unlikely your cat is yawning from stress.
Do Cats Yawn When Happy?
It’s safe to say that a yawning cat, unless otherwise indicated, is generally a happy one. If they yawn and stretch simultaneously, that’s a big indication that they’re happy as a clam and completely at peace with life.
Don’t give in to the desire to grab and coddle them or instantly engage in play. Rather let them enjoy the moment without being distracted by calls to food, playtime, or anything else. If they want any of those things, they’ll let you know.
Image by Jonathan Sautter from Pixabay
Wrap-Up on Why Do Cats Yawn
So there you have it — a comprehensive guide to cat yawn meanings and how you can utilize this information to understand your beloved pet just that much more.
More often than not, yawning is a benign sign of boredom or utter relaxation, but it can sometimes signify a health problem. So it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your kitty to check they’re not yawning excessively.
At this point, you might be getting really interested in common cat behaviors and what they mean. In that case, look at this post about why cats arch their backs.