This article may include affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
I’m sure your cats are like mine – they like to sleep, a lot – so when we see them yawning it’s easy to assume that they’re tired, bored, lazy or all of the above. Cats’ amazing physiology means that they can open their mouths much wider than us mere mortals can, so when your cat yawns you’ll get a really good view of the inside of his mouth in all its glory. One thing that is for certain, if you’re taking a photo of your cat and catch him mid-yawn, it makes for a great shot!
What Does it Mean When Your Cat Yawns?
There are a number of different ideas about why cats yawn, and they’re all closely linked to the reasons why us humans yawn.
Brings More Oxygen Into the Bloodstream
Our bodies, and indeed our cats’ bodies, need oxygen to function to their fullest capacity, and oxygen is taken in through breathing. If your cat is tired or bored, he’s likely to be breathing in slower breaths, so less essential oxygen is getting in. Yawning is the body’s reaction to needing more oxygen – your cat will breathe out carbon dioxide and take in oxygen. So it could well be that he’s feeling a bit sleepy, or you’re boring him. Sorry!
Wake Up Routine
You’ve probably noticed your cat yawning when he first wakes up. Just like us, yawning is probably a part of your cat’s natural wake up routine. In fact, it works similarly to the full on body stretching he does when he’s just woken up from a nap, just as that stretches out all of the muscles in his body, yawning stretches out his jaw and facial muscles too, so he’s nicely stretched and relaxed from head to tail.
Similarly to how his whiskers, tail, eyes and posture can communicate his mood to you or to other cats, so can his seemingly innocuous yawns. As yawning is a reaction that happens when he’s relaxed, it can help if he’s facing a tense situation with another cat. If he’s in a stand-off with another cat that looks like it could lead to a fight, by yawning he’s giving off relaxed and calm signals, so it could diffuse the situation.
Yawning as a Sign Your Cat is Not Well
As with any changes in your cat, if you notice that he’s suddenly yawning a lot more than usual it could mean that there’s an underlying medical issue. If he has a dental problem, like painful teeth or an abscess, or a cut in his mouth, it might feel painful for him when his mouth is shut, so yawning is a way to relieve the pressure. If you think that something’s changed or you’re concerned about his welfare, a visit to your vet is the best bet. Even if there’s absolutely nothing wrong with him, at least it’ll put your mind at ease!
Image: Pets Advisor via Flickr
Jean Dion says
I end up doing sneak-attack dental exams when my cats yawn. I can see all the way down their necks when they yawn, so I can get a jump on problems before they get too big.
The Swiss Cats says
Very interesting post ! Purrs
We never knew that yawning could be a sign of illness. Thanks for the great information!
Just reading the word yawn made me yawn! MOL It sounds like kitties are quite like us when it comes to yawning. No wonder their yawns are just as contagious! 🙂
Christine & Riley says
Wow! I never knew that a yawn can be used for communications…that’s really cool… unfortunately though, since I saw the pic of the cat yawning I can’t stop yawning!! lol
Dolly the Doxie says
I just think cats are lazy that’s why they yawn but I’ve learned there is a lot more to it! Love Dolly
Rosa @ Cat Lady Confidential says
Great information! I didn’t know cats used yawning to communicate with other cats. We’re always learning something new about cats 🙂
Christy Paws says
Great post. We used yawn for Y too.
Pip and Ruby says
Adorable yawn! I have noticed that cats yawn when they are relaxed, but sometimes dogs yawn when they are stressed.
Very nice yawn capture. We don’t see our kitties yawning much. I guess it is because they are sound asleep!
The Island Cats says
Our behaviorist told us yawning can be a sign of stress too.