MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: Why do cats meow and yawn at the same time?

Date: Tue Aug 31 18:38:02 1999
Posted By: Paul Odgren, Instructor, Cell Biology, University of Massachusetts Medical School (Dept. of Cell Biology)
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 931370888.Gb

Hello April,

Your question has been sitting there unanswered for a while, so I'll take a 
stab at it, although I can't claim animal psych as a special area of mine. 
I'm approaching this issue in a very practical way, by analogy to my own 
experience and people I've known. 

I know that cats have a rather large number of different vocalizations 
according to some researchers, many times more than dogs, even though dogs 
are instinctively more social animals. Perhaps dogs get by on body language 
as much as "talk". But, although cats are capable of many sounds, 
scientists frankly don't understand what most of them mean- beyond the 
obvious, like purr for content, certain kinds of meows for "give me your 
attention and feed me" or "let me out", etc, and some sounds mothers make 
to their kittens. But yawns? Nowhere do I find even a hint that anyone has 
studied this one. I strongly suspect it may simply be a case of individual 
variation. I have an old aunt who always practically shouts when she yawns, 
like a big, "AAAOW!" Not too common, but there it is. I suspect scruffy may 
just be a bit like my aunt!

Here are the Mad Scientist answers to two related questions:

Re: How can cats purr and eat at the same time?

Re: How Does A Cat Purr, Which Cats Purr, and What Does It Mean? 

Paul Odgren
Cell Biology
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Worcester Massachusetts   USA

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