Why Do Cats Sigh? A Veterinarian Explains

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Image depicting a cat in a moment of sighing, potentially conveying a sense of sadness or resignation.

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.

Key Takeaways

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

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

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.

1. They Are Feeling Happy and Relaxed

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.

2. They Are Feeling Sleepy

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.

3. They Are Feeling Bored

Image of a cat appearing bored, displaying disinterest and lethargy in its posture and expression.

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!

What if My Cat Is Huffing?

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.

Can Sighing Be a Sign of a Medical Problem?

Peaceful scene of a cat nestled comfortably under a blanket, sound asleep and radiating a sense of coziness.

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.

In Summary

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.

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About Dr. Beverley Ho BSc(VetSci)(Hons) BVM&S MRCVS

Beverley graduated from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh in 2020. She also has an intercalated honours degree in Literature and Medicine; she achieved this in 2018 and was the first veterinary student to do so. An expert in behavior and nutrition, Beverley currently works as a small animal vet.

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