Why Do Cats Yawn?

Stephanie Dube Dwilson

There's nothing cuter than seeing your kitty curled up in a ball, eyes half-closed, yawning sweetly at you when you gently say his name. But you might be surprised to learn cats don't only yawn when they're tired. If you're wondering why cats yawn so much, it's because there's actually a deeper meaning to their cute little yawns.

Cats Yawn to Get More Oxygen

Cats yawn for a variety of reasons, but it's often connected to how sleepy they're feeling. Sometimes they yawn as a way to try to stay awake when they're tired, just like humans do. The act of yawning means they're quickly inhaling extra oxygen, which can stimulate blood flow in their brains.1

Some experts think animals involuntarily yawn any time they have too much carbon dioxide in their bodies, and they're craving more oxygen. Humans may also yawn for the same reason.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, your cat might yawn to relax his body and prepare for sleep. It may seem odd that yawning can both temporarily help him stay awake and relax him, but it works that way with humans, too.

They Yawn As Part of Their Waking Up Routine

You may also notice your cat yawning and stretching as she's waking up. Cats love traditions and routines, so this might be part of your kitty's regular wake-up ritual. First, she stretches all the muscles in her body when she wakes up, getting a nice, deep stretch from nose to tail. Then she yawns as a way to relax her facial muscles and jaw. This can be a pleasant way to end a long night's sleep or a nap, helping her get ready for the rest of the day.

Your Cat May Yawn as a Form of Communication

Cats may yawn at other cats as a form of communication.2 Your cat may yawn to let another cat know he's feeling relaxed and isn't a threat. The calm yawn means he's not interested in fighting.

But why do cats yawn at you? Some pet parents believe their cats yawn as a way of letting them know they're bored and want to play. Or they may yawn as a way of letting you know they feel relaxed and peaceful. The best way to decipher the meaning of your cat's yawns is to watch what's happening when he yawns. Does he yawn at you when he's relaxing, then settles down for a nap? Or does he yawn right at you, then walk close by, ready to play?

Some people have even noticed that if they yawn at their cat, their cat might yawn back! This type of sympathetic yawning can mean you and your kitty are very close.

Your Cat May Yawn from Health Issues

Although less common, cats may also yawn because of health issues. This is especially true if they have any pain in their mouths, like a cut or a sore tooth.3 If you think your cat is yawning too frequently, you should see your veterinarian. Tell your vet why you're visiting and ask they pay special attention to your cat's teeth.

Comfort Zone Products Can Help

If stress is causing problems for your cat, Comfort Zone products can help your cat's "e-meow-tional" health and better manage normal stress.

The Comfort Zone Cat Calming Diffuser with Opticalm Diffuser releases a vapor that mimics your cat's natural pheromones, signaling in her language that she can relax. If you have more than one cat in your home, you'll want to use the Comfort Zone Multi-Cat Diffuser with Opticalm Diffuser. Plug either diffuser into the rooms where your cat spends the most time. The calming notes promote relaxation and support normal emotional balance.

If your cat travels a lot from room to room or even outside and you want the calming signals to stay with her wherever she goes, try the Comfort Zone Calming Pheromone Collar. If she's also scratching and spraying, then use the Comfort Zone Spray & Scratch Control Spray on the areas that attract the most unwanted behaviors. It may take up to four weeks to see changes in your cat.

While many of the ways cats communicate are very different from humans, yawning often has the same underlying motivator in both humans and cats. So if you're trying to understand why your cat is yawning, consider why you might yawn in the same situation. You might even experiment with yawning first and see if your kitty follows up with a cute little yawn of her own in response.

1. Donovan, Dave. "Excessive Yawning in Cats." The Nest, https://pets.thenest.com/cats-tune-out-noise-sleep-8222.html.

2. Bales, Liz. "Why Do Animals Yawn?" Doc & Phoebe's Cat Co., 20 September 2016, https://docandphoebe.com/blogs/the-catvocate-blog/why-do-animals-yawn.

3. Donovan, Dave, https://pets.thenest.com/cats-tune-out-noise-sleep-8222.html.