Why Do Cats Sigh? A Veterinarian Explains

Share Email Pinterest Linkedin Twitter Facebook

Cats can produce many different noises. Some are for communicating with other cats, and some are directed toward people. You may be interested in decoding each of these sounds to better understand your cat.

Quick Overview

01

Humans often sigh due to negative emotions, but cats mostly sigh when feeling content and relaxed.

02

If cats aren't getting enough mental and physical stimulation, sighing might signal general unhappiness.

03

If your cat continuously exhales noisily, contact your veterinarian in case of an underlying respiratory condition.

A purr or a hiss is easy enough to interpret. But maybe you’ve recently heard your cat sigh. Why do they make this human-like sound? When people sigh, it can be out of relief. However, it can also be due to a negative feeling, such as regret, frustration, or disappointment.

Do cats sigh for the same reasons as we do? Is a sighing cat cause for concern?

There is no scientific research to tell us why cats sigh. It is also important that we don’t project our own feelings onto our cats’ behaviors. But we can make some educated guesses by considering when they are sighing and other behaviors they are showing at the time. Read on to find out more.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Howl? A Veterinarian Explains 

1. They Are Feeling Happy And Relaxed

A very relaxed cat might let out a sigh of contentment.

Sighing can be a sign that your cat is in a total state of happiness and relaxation. You might notice your cat sighing while you scratch them behind the ears or under the chin. Or they might sigh while they are sitting on the windowsill in the sunlight.

Half-closed or slow-blinking eyes with soft, forward-facing ears are other signs that show your cat’s contentment. Feel free to slow blink at your cat in return, as this can strengthen the bond you have with each other.

Also Read: 6 Subtle Signs Your Cat Loves You

2. They Are Feeling Sleepy

Sighing is not uncommon in a tired cat that’s getting ready to settle down for a catnap.

Quite often, cats will let out a sigh before settling down for a nap, almost like a bedtime routine. It is likely that the motion of breathing in and out deeply helps to relax their muscles and release tension. In this way, it links back to feelings of contentment, as discussed above.

If your cat sighs and then sleeps with its legs outstretched and belly exposed, this means they feel safe and secure around you. The belly is a very vulnerable area. If they were to expose their belly in the wild, they would be at risk of attack from predators. So, by doing this in your presence, it means they have a great deal of trust in you.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Sleep On My Head?

3. They Are Feeling Bored

Sighing out of boredom is another common reason cats make this noise.

Cats might also sigh if they are feeling bored and uninterested. If they are not getting the mental and physical stimulation that they need, sighing can be a way to signal their general unhappiness. They will also show other restless behaviors, such as excessive grooming and chasing after other pets in the house.

If you think your cat is sighing due to lack of activity, engage them in some play time every day. Even 10 to 15 minutes of play that encourages them to run, jump and pounce is enough to get them going. You can also provide them with toys, scratching posts, and puzzle feeders. Without this attention and stimulation, they may turn to less favorable behaviors. We certainly wouldn’t want them to curb their boredom by destroying your furniture!

Also Read: The 10 Best Cat Slow Feeders & Puzzle Feeders

What If My Cat Is Huffing?

heavy breathing cat featured image

Different from a sigh, a huffing sound is generally made when cats are frustrated or annoyed.

Sometimes cats can produce a huffing noise, which is a sharp exhalation out of the nose. This can be mistaken for a sigh. While cats tend to sigh when feeling happy and relaxed, a huff is usually a sign of frustration and irritation.

For example, your cat might huff at you if they are waiting impatiently for you to place their food bowl down at feeding time. Or they might huff when you are trying to stop them from doing something they are enjoying.

Also Read: The 8 Best Cat Bowls (Purchased And Tested)

Can Sighing Be A Sign Of A Medical Problem?

Cat Coughing Feature

Some things that sound like sighing could actually be the sign of a medical problem.

Generally, if your cat is sighing from time to time, it is not a sign of an underlying medical condition. There is no cause for concern if your cat is their usual self and behaving as they usually would.

Now that we have established situations where it is normal for your cat to sigh, this will allow you to pick up on any other respiratory signs that may need to be investigated.

These symptoms include:

There are various medical conditions that can affect your cat’s breathing. These include, but are not limited to:

If you notice an unusual breathing pattern in your cat, alongside a change in activity and demeanor, get in touch with your veterinarian.

Also Read: How Long Do Cats Live?

In Summary

If you think your cat is sighing from boredom, ramp up play sessions, exercise and attention.

Next time your cat sighs, you can rest assured that they don’t do so for the same negative reasons humans do. Cats live very much in the present, instead of dwelling in the past. If they seem relaxed, you can take pleasure in the fact that they are feeling content and enjoying life.

However, if it seems your cat’s sigh could be linked to boredom, then it’s time to find ways to get them stimulated and entertained. You might even coax a satisfied sigh out of them before they wind down for a post-playtime nap!

Also Read: How To Get Your Cat To Use A Scratching Post

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my cat sigh like a human?

Cats can sigh as humans do. Although people often sigh due to negative emotions, cats mostly sigh because of feelings of contentment and relaxation. They might also sigh out of boredom. To understand why your cat does this, it is important to consider when they are doing this and what other behaviors they are showing.

Is it normal for my cat to sigh?

Yes! If you hear your cat sighing now and again, it shouldn’t be something to worry about. However, if you notice constant sighing and other signs, like difficulty breathing or lethargy, then it is best to contact your veterinarian.

Why does my cat exhale loudly?

If your cat exhales loudly, they could just be sighing or huffing. A cat’s sigh is a long breath out and is usually linked to positive feelings. A huff is a short release of air that accompanies negative feelings of frustration. If your cat continuously exhales noisily, then it is worth contacting your veterinarian in case of an underlying respiratory condition.

Avatar photo

About Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt (MRCVS) is a small animal veterinarian and writer who is passionate about helping owners to learn more about their pets in order to improve animal welfare. She loves to write and wants to empower owners to make the best decisions for their pets by giving them all the information they need. In her spare time, she takes consultations on the small island of Guernsey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *