Science Questions

Can you catch a yawn from a cat?

Tue, 2nd Dec 2014

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Matthew Boniface asked:

Can you catch a yawn from a cat? Matthew really wants to know because his wife claims to feel lazy all day holding her cat...


Dr Hugh Matthews from Cambridge University explains why yawns are catching.


Yawning seems to have very little to do with breathing itself.  Even unborn babies yawn and they donít need to breath yet.  One reason why we yawn is that we may be trying to stay alert or vigilant during the transition between the wakefulness and sleep.  This happens in nearly all animals and may in part be a sensory response to muscle contractions from the yawn.  But in some mammals, it plays an emotional role too, to help calm you down before or after stress.  For example, a cat or a dog might yawn more at the vets and if human athlete might yawn repeatedly just before a race.

Yawning could also be contagious.  Catching a yawn requires the ability to involuntarily empathise with others.  So contagious yawning was believe only to happen in humans and other great apes.  However, some psychologists have recently found that dogs can catch yawns from humans too, suggesting that these social animals may have a surprising degree of empathy with their owners.  Nevertheless, while you might be able to catch a yawn from your cat, I think that itís less likely that your cat would be able to catch a yawn from you.


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I don't know about cats, but it's been shown that dogs can catch yawns off people, and are more likely to catch them off their owners than strangers. Georgia, Mon, 24th Nov 2014

Its all about psychology, and there really is nothing physical about it.
when your catching a yawn its an emotional trigger..
Have you ever heard of the theory about emotional transference? 

1 Its the idea that the way you are feeling can be transferred to someone else....

Example # 1  the emotional roller coaster you go through when watching a movie isn't just the story itself but its the actors that bring out the core of the feeling they want you to go through.. If the actors were to just say their lines it wouldn't be as affective. they need to emote it

example # 2 when you go to a ball game or football you see other people around you yelling and cheering weather tis your team or not!This emotional transfer may cause people who normally wouldnt do that to start cheering themselves..

So yawning is basically a emotional trigger of being tired or bored... Because they are tired... you are being affected by that energy transfer
Oceanbliss, Tue, 16th Dec 2014

Cats can also catch yawns: wolfekeeper, Tue, 7th Jul 2015

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