Cats are known for exhibiting a bunch of behaviors we may find odd, strange, or genuinely funny. Meowing or chirping when we sneeze is just one of them.
Why do they do it, we ask ourselves. Are they annoyed that we have interrupted their train of thought, or are they telling us off for waking them up from a pleasant catnap?
The truth of the matter is, we may never truly know. No matter how well we believe we understand cat psychology, our human shortcomings mean we will never achieve complete insight. However, here’s why we think cats meow when you sneeze.
Why Does My Cat Meow When I Sneeze?
Cats meow when you sneeze as a response to the sudden and often loud sound you are emitting. They may be annoyed or startled, or they may simply want to participate in the conversation, and say “bless you” in their own way.
Cats have very sensitive ears, and can pick up all kinds of sounds we are completely oblivious to. Loud and sudden noises, like a human sneeze, will naturally demand their attention. You may know you are about to sneeze, but your cat, who may be relaxing and doing their own cat thing, has no idea you are about to insert an achoo into their environment.
Depending on your cat’s personality, they may then choose to meow or chirp at you, leave the room in more or less of a hurry, or come up to you and put a paw on your nose.
Here is our human understanding of why cats meow when we sneeze:
They Are Startled
Cats aren’t necessarily either timid or cowardly. However, they do tend to be startled by any loud and unexpected noise that surprises them. It may make them run for cover, or they may just start meowing as a response.
As your sneeze comes practically out of nowhere in your cat’s world, it is bound to be startled by it, which is why it will meow back at you, as a sign of disapproval, surprise, or as a defense mechanism.
If they also run away when you sneeze, you can be practically sure that it’s the startling effect of the noise that has impacted them.
They Are Annoyed
While cats don’t hold grudges, they can get annoyed by our behavior. For instance, cats are known to walk away when they don’t feel like being pet or cuddled, and for being generally aloof.
If your sneeze has woken your cat up from a pleasant nap, or if they were busy focusing on something else, like observing the behavior of that interesting bird in the garden, they will meow or chirp at you as a sign of displeasure.
They Think You Are Hissing
While we will rarely mistake a sneeze for anything else, cats don’t actually know what the sound means, and may mistake it for our version of a hiss.
When they feel threatened or upset, cats will hiss as a warning. If your sneeze sounds like a hiss to them, they may meow back at you, wanting to know if you are okay, and wondering what has upset you.
Cats can also hiss at you when you sneeze, if they believe you are trying to communicate via a hiss. They may think you are feeling threatened and are mimicking your emotions, or they may think you are angry at them, so they may be hissing from fear.
If your cat hisses at you when you sneeze, reassure them that you are neither upset or angry, and they will quickly calm down.
They Are Imitating You
A study has shown that cats recognize and can choose to mimic human behavior. In other words, they may adopt some of our habits, and give them their own cat-appropriate twist.
When you sneeze, your cat may be meowing back simply because it is imitating the sounds you are making. This can be their way of bonding, or just a way to show some affection.
They Are Saying “Bless You”
Cats may meow after you sneeze as a way of saying “bless you”. They have likely heard others respond to your sneeze before, and are now just trying to do the same, and behave as any well-behaved human would.
This is of course pure conjecture on our part.
They Don’t Understand the Sound You Are Making
Cats have no idea where that sneeze has just come from, nor do they understand why you are making that sound. As a result, they will meow to signal their surprise, disapproval, or simply to let you know you have been heard.
After all, a human sneeze doesn’t quite sound like a cat sneeze. Cats are also aware that the sound they are making when sneezing is a result of the tickling in their nose. They aren’t able to connect your own sneeze with the same process though.
They Are Checking If You Are Okay
Cats are very good at gauging how you are feeling and if something is wrong. When you are sick or sad, they will often shower you with extra affection.
When you sneeze, as they don’t understand what this sudden outburst means, they will meow or chirp at you as a way of checking if everything is okay. They have your back, after all.
They Are Scolding You
Cats are very good at showing their displeasure, and they will let you know exactly what they think about that thing you are doing, whether it be failing to add more food to their already full bowl, or sneezing.
If they don’t like this loud sound you are making for no reason whatsoever, they may vocalize their annoyance with a couple of meows, telling you to behave.
They Are Just Chattering Back
Your cat may ultimately just be making conversation when they meow at you when you sneeze. If your cat is vocal anyway, and they prefer to join in and be a part of the noise, their response to your sneeze may just be a way of feeling included.
Why Does My Cat Attack Me When I Sneeze?
If your cat attacks you when you sneeze, they have most likely been scared by the sudden outburst of noise, and feel threatened by it. They may have also mistaken you for prey.
Don’t forget that cats don’t know a sneeze is coming, and have very sensitive ears. To them, your sneeze will be even louder than to you. If they have been startled by it, they may feel the need to defend themselves, which is why they choose to attack you.
Your cat may also confuse you with prey, as you suddenly began exhibiting behaviors they normally associated with a species they would hunt.
Why Does My Cat Run Away When I Sneeze?
If your cat runs away when you sneeze, they are scared by the sudden noise, and feel the need to get to a safe place until they can determine if there is any imminent threat.
Cats that are otherwise timid and on the shy side are more likely to bolt when you sneeze. Don’t go running after them though, or try to convince them everything is okay. They will return on their own time, and the more often you sneeze around them, the more likely they are to realize there is nothing to be afraid of.
Why Does My Cat Come to Me When I Sneeze?
If your cat comes to you when you sneeze, they are just checking to make sure you are all right. They may even go as far as running into the room you are in straight from a deep sleep on the other end of the home.
Your cat likes you, and they will want to protect you. Since they have no idea what is happening to you to cause that sound, they will rush in to make sure you are still alive and well, and will often quite quickly go back to doing whatever your sneeze has interrupted.
Why Does My Cat Stare at Me When I Sneeze?
If your cat is staring at you when you sneeze, they are just making sure you are all right, and reassuring you with their presence.
Cats stare at you for a number of reasons. However, in practically all cases, this is a sign of affection, as cats don’t maintain eye contact with anyone they don’t trust. So when you sneeze, this is their way of both keeping an eye on you to make sure you are not about to keel over, and letting you know they are there for you.
Why Does My Cat Chirp When I Sneeze?
Since cats usually chirp at birds and other prey, if they chirp at you when you sneeze, it means they have mistaken you for something they may need to hunt.
Cats don’t understand human sneezing, and if the sound you emit reminds them of the sound they have heard from a bird, they will chirp at you as an instinctive response.
Don’t worry: your cat is well aware of the fact that you are not in fact a meal. They do however run on instinct, and will thus revert to the behavior that is ingrained in them when certain situations arise. For example, when you suddenly start chirping, aka sneezing.
How Should I Respond to Their Reaction?
No matter what your cat does when you sneeze, you should in most cases do absolutely nothing, other than continue doing whatever you were already doing. The cat will soon realize everything is okay, and get back to their own business too.
If you notice your cat is extremely startled and scared of your sneezing, you can try to make it less loud, by sneezing into a tissue or the crook of your arm. You can also try to teach your cat sneezing is nothing to be afraid of.
Hide a treat in your hand so your cat doesn’t notice it, and then fake-sneeze. Don’t wake them up though, and try to do it when they are in a casual mood. If they freak out, offer them the treat. Over time, they should start to associate sneezing with something pleasant, and stop being as afraid. You may have to keep doling out the treats though.
Wrapping It Up
Cats are amazingly interesting creatures, and the more you spend time with them, the more confused you can get by their various behaviors. Don’t worry if they meow, chirp or paw at you when you sneeze. It’s just their way of letting you know they have heard you, and may not actually enjoy the sound you are making.