I’ve never yet had a cat who meows right after a human sneezes, but I’ve heard this is a thing some cats do pretty much religiously.
Looking up videos on YouTube, it’s plain to see there’s a clear connection between the human sneezes and the cat meows that follow – it definitely doesn’t seem like it’s ever a coincidence.
That being said, we really don’t know why cats sometimes do this.
There are a lot of quirky cat behaviours – so many in fact, I have a pretty substantial section of my site devoted to articles about them.
From behaviours that have nothing to do with humans – like sleeping on their backs, being obsessed with string, sitting up like they’re humans, and chewing on plastic, to those that have absolutely everything to do with the humans in their lives – like following you into the bathroom, staring in an unwavering gaze straight at you, licking your hands, and even touching human faces gently with their paws – cats are some pretty odd balls!
I’m not going to lie – I have zero clue as to why cats would be inclined to meow, chirp, cry, chatter – or pretty much make any other kind of noise – right after a human sneezes.
I have guesses, but with regard to which guess is right or wrong, or which is more likely than another, I pretty much haven’t got an inkling.
There’s no way on earth there are studies done on this yet (let me know if there are relevant ones you can think of, though!).
There are plenty of much more important studies to be done on cats, so it’s a-okay that behaviours like this are pretty far down the list of research to be done.
That being said, that doesn’t stop our curiosity, especially as pet parents who are curious about their cats’ particularly odd-seeming behaviour.
There’s something oh-so-nice about being able to brainstorm the different reasons that could possibly explain away an exceptionally cute, odd, and curious quirk that a lot of cats engage in, like meowing when you sneeze, which is why I like publishing articles like this.
As with all the rest of these types of articles – the theories I’ve listed down below are absolutely guesses.
Each one has been made up off the top of my head, found through scattered searches around the web, been mentioned on a forum, discussion board, question site, or even in the comments section from a different article off my own blog.
If you have guesses of your own, or want to weigh in on whether you believe one explanation fits your cat’s behaviour over others, do take a moment to leave a comment.
This type of discussion really intrigues me, even if none of my own cats engage in this behaviour quite yet!
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10 Theories That May Explain Why Cats Meow, Cry, & Chatter When You Sneeze
1. The cat’s meow may be the equivalent of saying, “Bless you!” or “Gazuntite!” in cat.
I’ve seen quite a lot of people use the theory that cats are basically saying something like “Bless you” or “Gazuntite!” with their meows to explain away what exactly that meow after a sneeze might mean.
While this definitely could be us humans projecting our own thoughts and emotions onto our cats, in my mind, it still seems entirely possible that cats may be responding to sneezes in a similar way to the way we do – acknowledging them with a little verbal communication.
2. A cat’s chatter may be the equivalent of asking, “You alright?” in cat.
We as humans sometimes ask humans who have had a particularly aggressive sneeze or a round of allergy sneezing fits if they’re alright.
This may be something cats are sort of doing with their meows or chatters – though of course this absolutely may be us projecting our own thoughts and emotions onto cats.
I do believe it may be possible, however, that our cats might actually be checking up on us.
Definitely may not be within the realm of likely, but I wouldn’t write off this explanation altogether.
3. Cats may be mimicking their human’s sneeze with a noise of their own.
This is an interesting one to consider. It may be that your cat, especially if it’s a chatty one that likes to “respond” to you or mimic your talking to him or her regularly, is returning your sneeze with a meow or chatter because he or she thinks that you are communicating with them and responding in kind with a noise of their own.
Let me know if you think this one rings true in your household.
4. Cats may also be imitating how their humans say something after they sneeze.
Cats do seem to imitate human behaviour, taking on habits humans have and making them their own.
It seems incredibly possible to me that when cats sneeze and we say something – like “Bless You,” “Goodness,” “Gazuntite,” or “You okay?” – cats pick up on this sneeze then response pattern and mimic it back to you.
Would be super interesting if there was ever an experiment designed to test this one out!
5. The cry may be an automatic response to being startled or surprised by the loud & unanticipated noise.
Humans sometimes scream if they’re startled by something – a loud noise, a large object appearing out of nowhere, even a small mouse scurrying across the floor.
It would make sense that some cats, surprised by a sneeze that came out of nowhere and broke the peace or even complete silence, might meow, cry, or chatter in an automatic response to being shocked, much the same as humans will sometimes scream or jump when they’re startled.
6. The chatter may communicate the cat annoyed, disturbed, or bothered by the loud sneezing noise.
When humans are annoyed, they often grunt to communicate their disapproval of whatever’s bothering them.
Cats who chatter, meow, chirp, or make other noises right after a sneeze may be doing so because they’re bothered and annoyed at the sound of sneezing – or a particular sneeze – as well.
Nothing really disturbs the peace quite like a loud sneeze.
While some humans sneeze quietly, I’ve met my fair share of humans whose sneezes are – quite frankly – almost obnoxious.
If a cat only seems to respond to really loud sneezes and not to quiet ones, say he or she only makes a peep after a sneeze if the sound comes from one human who happens to have an insanely big sneeze – I’d say that’s good indication that the cat is bothered by the noise, and using the sound he or she makes after to communicate how bothered he or she is.
7. Cats might think the sneeze is a hiss & react with crying as a result.
I’ve seen this theory listed in a lot of places around the web, and I do feel like cats who take sneezes as hisses exist, but I don’t think it’s most cats.
Cats sneeze just like we humans do, so I have a feeling most cats will know what a sneeze is when they hear it.
While some human sneezes, as I’ve mentioned, are really loud and obnoxious, and maybe those might be interpreted as hissing, I dare say most cats likely don’t take a regular or soft sneeze that way.
Instead, I’m more likely to believe they’re surprised or startled by the noise, as it’s unanticipated and breaks the peace.
8. A cat may think your sneeze is a chatter to her & her chatter may then be a social chat back.
Listen, maybe those who have never had cats or haven’t ever been around that-special-kind-of-cat who’s an incredibly social animal won’t know, but there are kitties out there who genuinely respond back to humans talking at them with meows of their own.
Some cats will do this every so often, replying to humans verbally only once in a while. Others will do this most of the time.
And it’s those cats who are, in my opinion, the highest contenders for being proof that this theory might be true.
If a cat already responds pretty well near all the time to human questions and chatter aimed at him or her with chatter and meows of it’s own, I can see how a sneeze might be interpreted as a kind of sound like a chatter toward the cat, and thus that cat may just be chatting back.
9. The cry may be scolding or chastising you for startling or disturbing them.
Obviously, this might be a little too far. Sure, cats might be disturbed by your sneeze, but a scold or a chastisement may be an altogether human type of reaction to something like this.
It would make sense from our perspective if cats could do this, but whether or not they are capable of doing something like this is up for debate (and plenty of testing through research!).
10. Your cat may think you’re mad and be asking you if everything’s okay.
When we’re angry, we typically yell, and if we’re making a loud enough noise with our sneeze, it wouldn’t shock me to learn that some cats think you’re actually yelling.
Here’s an interesting response to a Quora question that asked why cats meow after hearing a human sneeze, “When I sneeze, my cat makes a series of small and unusual little meows that sound like submissive pleading.
If I sneeze a second time, she will jump down and run away.
Therefore I conclude that it sounds like a threatening sound from someone they usually feel safe with, so they respond with a sound that a kitten might make to an angry mother, then if that doesn’t work they make themselves absent for a while.”
Really fascinating to think some cats may actually think this. And no, I don’t think it’s a stretch.
Cats often sniff each other to gauge the type of mood other cats are in – it’s important so they know how to act around them, whether they’re angry or happy, playful or ready to mate.
So I do think they recognize anger in humans and it would make sense if they mistaken a loud sneeze for a yell at times.
Your Thoughts: Why Cats Meow When You Sneeze?
Why do you think cats meow, chirp, chatter, cry, or make any other type of noise right after humans sneeze? If you think multiple reasons are highly likely, which are they?
Are there any possible theories you feel should be up on the list? Why do you think your cat in particular (if you have one who does this) meows right after you sneeze?
Do you think certain types of cats are more or less likely to do this than others? More social cats, for instance?
Love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below!
Troy Hyams says
My 6 year old Calico Moon meows every time I sneeze. She is a sweet gentle cat that loves to cuddle, be touched and loved. I feel like she does it as if she’s concerned. She doesn’t do it when I cough, fart, or anything else. I can be cuddling with her and have a coughing fit and she doesn’t react, meow, or get up, so I’m pretty sure it’s not because I startled her as my coughs are more obnoxious than my sneezes. She also meows frequently when she’s getting down from sitting by me, as if to let me know she’s about to cross my path. She also rarely will play, and occasionally when I’m away from home she will leave a present where I lay. She is a wonderfully odd creature.
I personally think it may actually be the snot droplets that come out with a sneeze that bother them instead.
One of my cats is an obsessive cleaner and the other is not. The one that is an obsessive cleaner makes a chatter noise every time I sneeze near her. Only when she’s in range.
My other cat who isn’t an obsessive cleaner has never made a peep in response to a sneeze.
So therefore, my theory is that it may be a cat complaining about the snot/spit droplets on the fur that they take the time to clean themselves, especially if they’re really compulsive about it.
I mean, wouldn’t you be upset if this much larger being just sneezed on you and got all of their spit and snot droplets on your freshly washed hair?
We have 6 of us every other week and we always have 6 cats. We have two who will chatter or make a noise only when my husband sneezes most of the time I smell it and it’s not a pleasant smell. My sneezes are loud and obnoxious but none of them acknowledge it except by movement by their ears. So I’m wondering if it’s the smell? I have no idea but out of all of us in the house these two only make a noise when my husband sneezes which leads me to believe it’s about the smell. I would love to see all responses to my response. Opinions or thoughts are very much appreciated!
I have a lap cat who jumps down and runs away every time I sneeze. She does not respond to coughing, clearing my throat, or blowing my nose. She looks back at me with a hurt expression and will leave the room. I think she interprets sneezing as a hiss, which cats do when they are really angry. So I believe she’s upset because she thinks I am angry with her for no good reason.
Steve Meadows says
My wife thinks that it hurt their ears when I sneeze because she said
I could wake up the dead when I sneeze .
I have one out of three cats that does the same thing and I understood it the same way. No idea why he seems so concerned but he meows and comes running from across the room every time and stays near me if it turns into a fit, lol.
Bob Harrison says
We have a few cats but only a tom cat named Sam Adams chatters when we sneeze or cough. Whether he is close to us or in another room, Sam will chatter every time. When we have a sneezing jag, Sam always replies each sneeze. He can be sleeping and he will barely move but briefly chatter. He never runs away, if lounging he will chatter and return to his leisure. We often smile when we sneeze and can hear him chatter in the distance. This doesn’t disprove anything said here but it does support the possibility he is vocalizing some form of concern.
I agree. My cat sleeps on me every night and whenever I sneeze he looks directly at me and chirps. He’s a super gentle cat and loves to be held and caressed so I’m certain it’s not irritation. I’m truly sensing concern.
Nancy P Murnane says
I have 4 cats but only one of them reacts to my sneezing. I tend to sneeze multiple times in a row and my 13 yr old female, Cookie, will come running to me, sit right next to me and chatter every time I sneeze. I say thank you and pet her as if she has said Bless You. Very curious behavior.
Jenn M. says
One of our cats has a VERY strong reaction to any of us sneezing or coughing. He will come running while meowing, like a lightning bolt. He’s missing one rear leg so he cannot jump up onto us, but he will pace at our feet until we pet him and tell him “I’m ok, Onyx!” I have always just assumed it is a way he is showing concern.
Shanda Salamaca says
When I sneeze my cat will run over and check on me and he meows. I thought maybe he thought I was having a seizure or something or my heart was stopping..lol
Dustin H says
Mt cat chatters every time I cough or clear my throat. Havent noticed it with sneezing but same thing. She does it in her sleep without any other reaction like being startled. So I think its almost automated. I cough she chatters. No matter if she’s sleeping or eating or anything else. It’s odd to say the least.