Do Cats Yawn When They See Humans Yawn? The Science Behind Contagious Yawning in Felines

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Yawning is a common phenomenon that occurs in humans and animals, but the reasons behind it are still not fully understood. Yawning is a reflexive action that involves taking a deep breath, opening the mouth wide, and exhaling. It is often associated with tiredness, boredom, or relaxation, but it can also serve other purposes, such as increasing alertness, regulating body temperature, or expressing emotions.


One of the most intriguing aspects of yawning is that it can be contagious. That is, seeing someone else yawn can trigger you to yawn as well. Contagious yawning has been observed in humans and some other mammals, such as chimpanzees, dogs, and wolves. It is thought to be a sign of empathy and social bonding, as it indicates a shared state of mind and a sense of connection.


But what about cats? Do they yawn when they see humans yawn? And if so, what does it mean for their relationship with us?


The answer is not so simple. According to the current scientific evidence, cats do not catch yawns from humans, although they may catch yawns from other cats. In a study conducted by researchers from the University of London, 21 cats were exposed to videos of humans and other cats yawning, as well as videos of non-yawning stimuli. The results showed that none of the cats yawned in response to the human yawns, while 12 of them yawned in response to the cat yawns.


The researchers suggested that this could be because cats are mostly solitary animals, and do not rely on social cues from other species to regulate their behavior. They also pointed out that cats may have different mechanisms of empathy and social bonding than humans and dogs, which are more social and cooperative animals.


However, this does not mean that cats do not care about us or that they do not communicate with us at all. Cats have their own ways of showing affection and interest, such as rubbing, purring, blinking, or grooming. They also have their own reasons for yawning, which may vary depending on the context and the individual cat.


Some of the possible reasons why cats yawn are:


– Waking up: Cats yawn when they wake up from a nap, as a way of taking in more oxygen and preparing for the day ahead. They often stretch their bodies at the same time, which helps them relax their muscles and joints.

– Relaxing: Cats yawn when they are feeling comfortable and content, such as after a meal, a play session, or a cuddle. They may also yawn when they greet us at the door, as a way of expressing their happiness and trust.

– Boredom: Cats yawn when they are bored and unstimulated, such as when they are left alone for a long time or when they have nothing to do. They may also yawn when they are not interested in something, such as a toy, a game, or a person.

– Irritation: Cats yawn when they are annoyed or stressed, such as when they are disturbed while sleeping, groomed, or petted. They may also yawn when they are faced with a conflict, such as a rival cat, a dog, or a food bowl. Yawning in these situations may be a way of calming themselves down, or a way of showing their displeasure and warning the other party to back off.

– Staying awake: Cats yawn when they are sleepy, but also when they want to stay awake. Yawning helps them increase their alertness and awareness, which can be useful in the wild, where they need to be on the lookout for prey and predators.


As you can see, cats yawn for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are related to us. However, this does not mean that we should ignore their yawns or take them for granted. Yawning is a form of communication, and by paying attention to the context and the body language of our cats, we can learn more about their feelings, needs, and personalities. And who knows, maybe one day we will discover that cats can yawn contagiously after all, and that they are just

too cool to show it.

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