What It Means When Your Cat Is Yawning and Stretching

cat yawning

It is known as pandiculation and is essential for their health!

Feline yawning and stretching  (pandiculation)  is an involuntary behaviour that helps your cat communicate with other animals and humans

  • Yawning helps replenish oxygen to their brains
  • Reduces tiredness and fatigue
  • Implies boredom
  • Indicates an oral problem
  • Stretching primes their muscles for action

The word Pandiculation in Latin means to stretch oneself for good health by contracting and stretching all the muscles in the body – something cats have known for centuries!, To put it simply – when your cat yawns and stretches they are enjoying the act of sweet, glorious act of pandiculation in preparation for the day ahead.

As we all know, cats enjoy yawning and stretching as part of their daily ritual. The way they contort their tiny mouths while exposing their tonsils is a part of what we love about these gracious, mysterious felines!

At first, you may be excused for thinking that your cat is just a little tired if they yawn, or perhaps they have a few kinks in their system when they flex into a stretch. But this involuntary habit is a lot more complicated than that.


Here Is What It Means When Your Cat Yawns or Stretches

  • One theory is that your cat has excess carbon dioxide in their blood caused by inactivity or sleeping, and therefore they are craving more oxygen. 
  • Indulging in a yawn or a stretch can reduce tiredness and fatigue
  • These physical traits are a way felines communicate
  • Bringing in more oxygen and stretching and activating their muscles plays an emotional role such as calming your cat in times of stress and prevents boredom
  • This habit wakes up the muscles and keeps them fluid and ready for action


Resolving the Excess Carbon Dioxide in Your Cat’s Blood.

reduce co2
  • Yawning and stretching is a basic involuntary behavior that our cats enjoy, along with many other animals including humans! VetStreet.com agrees with the theory put forward by scientists, that your cat may need to remove the excess carbon dioxide within their system which is a sign that they are craving more oxygen.
  • As we all know, one way to get more oxygen into the system is to yawn and stretch our bodies. Your cat instinctively knows that this is an easy remedy, and even humans enjoy the feeling of these activities.


Reducing Tiredness and Fatigue.

tired cat lying on stomach
  • Dr. Hugh Matthews from  thenakedscientist.com concluded in his studies that yawning or stretching has little to do in regards to breathing, but that it has other functions such as reducing tiredness and fatigue
  • Dr. Matthew’s research mirrors our own that the flexing of the body while increasing oxygen intake awakens the body and keeps your cat alert, ready for action.


Stretching and Yawning Behaviors Play a Role in Feline Communication.

  • My own research aligns with the Peta and their conclusion in their article on feline body language, that your kitty cat communicates with other felines by using these not so subtle body signals.
  • Exposing their teeth in a yawn may say ‘See these sharp teeth … don’t try to mess with me!’ Flexing their body may mean that your cat is relaxed and in control of this situation.
  • It could also be a way of telling us that our cats are … well… bored! The game is no longer engaging your cat; they are signaling us that it is game over!


The involuntary stretch and yawn involve the muscles of your cat’s body which prepares them for action.

cat jumping
  • Just as you wouldn’t get up from a nap and go from inactivity to hyperactivity (such as a fast run) without preparing your body, neither does your cat.
  • By twisting and extending the muscles in preparation, your cat is loosening up their body to make activity motion more fluid. In other words, your cat is like an athlete preparing for exercising.

From the magnificent tiger, right down to the smallest housecat, all felines and indeed many other species, employ the routine of jaw cracking yawning and exaggerated stretching.

Until we can talk to the animals, no one really knows why they do it, but it obviously feels good!

Which brings me to this next point.


There could be many reasons why your cat is yawning and stretching, but the context is pivotal to understanding the underlying reason.

  • Do you get offended when you greet your cat, and they respond with a huge yawn? That response seems to imply that you are boring your cat. But from your cats’ point of view, it could be considered a compliment. At Seniorcatwellness.com their research aligns with our own, that the yawn means your cat trusts you and feels comfortable and confident around you.
  • Yawning brings more oxygen to the brain, which makes your cat more alert after a snooze, so it may mean that they are gearing up to enjoy your company.
  • Your cat’s yawn or stretch could be a sign of irritation, such as when you disturb them when they are grooming or eating. The yawn displays their pearly sharp teeth, so maybe it is a message to leave them alone or those teeth may just deliver a sharp rebuttal. https://www.seniorcatwellness.com/cat-yawn-when-it-sees-me/ agrees that a cat will often yawn when their sleep has been disturbed or if they have been  interrupted during a meal. This yawn signals their irritation at our behaviour.
girl holding yawning cat
A distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California by the name of Benjamin Hart, DVM, Ph.D., DACVB explained the yawning of animals as follows:

While yawning is a healthy activity that can bring in extra oxygen to the brain, some cats without a low level of oxygen still engage in this action. The hypothesis that most aptly describes this involuntary action is that yawning is a mechanism to cool the brain.

As your cat’s activity levels drop, the cerebral circulation begins to slow, while at the same time, the brain increases in temperature.

The act of yawning cools the blood circulation to the brain to enable it to function more efficiently.


Beware of Excessive Yawning.

cat yawning and lying on back

Although this doesn’t seem to happen often, if your cat is displaying excessive yawning, this could be the sign of illness or oral infection. It could be the result of the following conditions.

  • Cat stomatitis.
  • Sore teeth or a cut within your cat’s mouth.


Feline Stomatitis

  • This is a severe and painful inflammation of your cat’s mouth and gums. http://stomatitisincats.com/symptoms-of-stomatitis . The condition causes ulcers to form within the mouth, which can also extend to their tongue, lips, gums and the rear of the throat. Your cat will often try to yawn as a way of easing the pain. They usually are unable to eat due to the pain.  I changed so we are not repeating the word ‘often.’
  • Any cat of any breed or age can be affected, and there is no single cause of feline stomatitis – https://veterinarydentistry.net/feline-stomatitis-cats/
  • It can be due to your cat’s immune system attacking its own oral tissues due to the bacteria in your cat’s mouth. Other causes could include an infection plus a virus such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV), Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and bartonellosis. Veterinary care is required for this condition. For more information check out http://www.vetstreet.com/care/feline-stomatitis.

Treatment involves medicating to control the pain, and antibiotics are usually administered. This is followed by dental cleaning and a treatment plan to correct the condition.


Sore Teeth or a cut within your cat’s mouth.

  • A damaged tooth or a cut within your feline’s mouth can cause your cat to yawn as they try to get relief from oral pain.
  • Dental or oral problems often accompany bad breath if your cat yawns and stretches often and their breath nearly knocks you out, your kitty needs a dentist.
  • Veterinary care is required immediately.

Treatment requires dental work to clean and remove any bad teeth, as well as medication to help reduce bacteria and allow for oral tissues to heal.


The result of my research showed the following.

Feline pandiculation is a natural habit that your cat employs to wake up from a snooze, alleviate boredom, communicate with other felines or humans, or they do it just because it feels good.

From your cat’s point of view, there is nothing like a good stretch and yawn to prime the body for daily living.

If your cat greets you with a yawn or stretch, you can rejoice, as it is a sign that they feel happy and confident with you.

This quote sums up the high standing that cats have achieved in our humble lives.

 “Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.” Anonymous

Isn’t this the truth about the value we place on our felines, despite their yawning acceptance of our devotion and the stretching of the truth regarding their status of being a superior deity?

Writer: Jean Brewer

jean brewer







https://www.cathealth.com/behavior/how-and-why/1235-cat-yawn    A slide show of why a cat yawns and stretches.




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58SHjWubqYU  Cats yawning compilation – YouTube




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