A cat sitting in a pile of tissues.
A cat sitting in a pile of tissues. Photography by hwongcc/Thinkstock.

Cats and Sneezing: Why Your Cat Acts So Weird When You Sneeze

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Does your cat look “achoo” funny when you sneeze? Does your cat meow when you sneeze? Or, maybe he races away like he’s being chased by a giant vacuum cleaner? Perhaps he makes a cute little chirpy sound? There have been accounts of kitties reacting in all of those ways — and more — when that sharp, crazy sound rockets from our faces and into the air. In general, cats and sneezing don’t mix. Here’s why cats react so bizarrely to your sneezes and some variations (from funny to serious) on how they respond:

Why cats act so weird when you sneeze

Man with cat allergies sneezing.
A human sneezing around his gray cat. Photography by Art-Of-Photo on Thinkstock.

Cats love routine and don’t like loud, especially excessive noises. This is part of why they often jump or run away when we sneeze. When a cat’s ear detects loud or sharp noises, tiny muscles in the middle ear contract in order to lessen sound transmission and protect the delicate inner ear. Sneezes, gunfire or firecrackers popping occur too quickly for the reflex to provide adequate protection.

If your cat is especially jumpy when you sneeze, it could be because you sneezing reminds him of a negative experience. Family Pet Animal Hospital in Chicago explains: “While the exact cause of loud noise aversion is unknown, it may be due to lack of exposure in early development, a genetic predisposition for emotional reactivity or result from a traumatic event. Often, pets with noise aversion or phobias also suffer from other anxiety disorders.” If you believe your cat’s jumpiness is related to past trauma, consult with a veterinarian for a strategy to help kitty feel more relaxed and comfortable.

Cats who say “bless you” in meows in response to sneezing.

Many have reported their cats looking straight at them and meowing upon hearing them sneeze. Because meows are how kitties communicate with people, some believe the responding meow is an “are you OK?” or even “bless you” reply. Of course, we humans love to have “conversations” with our kitties, so we may return with an “I’m fine, kitty — don’t worry,” or a “thank you!” (Admit it — you totally have two-way conversations with your cat.)

Cats who chirp when you sneeze.

You know that chirpy little vocalization cats make when they see a squirrel or bird? Some cats also use it in response to human sneezes.

Cats who run away when you sneeze.

Some cats completely freak and can’t race away fast enough when we let loose with a giant sneeze. If they’re quietly cuddled in our laps, we sometimes get the “claws out” treatment as they scramble away from us. It’s as if someone rang a doorbell — a very loud, mortar fire-like doorbell.

Cats who display agitation at your sneezing.

A woman blowing her nose near an agitated cat.
A woman blowing her nose near an agitated cat. Photography by absolutimages/Thinkstock

If a cat doesn’t make noises or run away when we sneeze, they’ll usually at least show signs of agitation. They’ll sport the flattened “airplane ears,” look at us with complete disgust or change positions in passive-aggressive fashion: “I guess I’ll just flip over to this side and try to go back to sleep. No — don’t worry about me. I’m fine.”

Cats who think your sneezes are actually hisses — and react accordingly.

A few people have indicated that their cat becomes aggressive following human sneezes. Cats may go so far as to purposefully bite or scratch — sometimes drawing blood. Since some sneezes sound like hissing, experts think that cats react in an attack-like fashion. If this aggression is a new behavior, or becomes a pattern, consult a vet to make sure there aren’t any medical issues at play.

And then there are some cats who don’t even react when you sneeze.

It’s true: some cats don’t budge when they hear you sneeze — even a loud or sharp-sounding one. Like humans, cats react to situations in a variety of ways for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes, we just have to hang up our hats and realize we will never fully understand felines.

Tell us: Let’s talk cats and sneezing: How does your cat react when you sneeze?

Thumbnail: Photography by hwongcc/Thinkstock.

Read more about weird cat behaviors on Catster.com:

 

30 thoughts on “Cats and Sneezing: Why Your Cat Acts So Weird When You Sneeze”

  1. Shannon Louise Samuel

    Only one of.my cats reacts to sneezing. Bella will look at you all concerned and meow. She’s so sweet.

  2. Only my cat Myrtle reacts when I sneeze she is never vocal but she looks at me and makes a tiny tiny barely audible meow she’s so cute lol! She’s like Mom why u yell?! The other ones don’t care at all – love my cat babies!

  3. My cat is extremely aggressive when I sneeze. The attacks have gotten worse leaving me bleeding and with a black eye. I’m not sure if his kicking me or head butting but it’s brutal and he now waits until I put my arms down to attack me. I’m at a loss of what to do. It’s just he and I. He’s a little over 2 years old. I’ve used a spray bottle, put my arms over my head because he goes for my head and face.

  4. When my dad sneeze or cough, our persian black cat would come running and stare at him with big eyes like she’s checking on him and then give him a little meaw.

  5. My adorable silver grey male cat, Tristin, ‘chirps’ before I sneeze. Normally I camnot even sneeze then because I laugh too much.

  6. My big black sweet kitty gets aggressive when I sneeze, especially when I grab a Kleenex to blow my nose, he attacks my hand. He will not stop coming at me–the last time he tried to climb up my leg with his claws. This behavior is very frightening to me.

    1. My cat also attacks me when I sneeze.. or if I play sound on my phone, also if a baby is crying on tv. No matter what she’s doing it’s like she goes into a trance… it’s scary at the time because it hurts, draws blood and she doesn’t let go. It’s like a demon comes out and she makes this weird low growl.. she’s normally a scaredy cat.. I don’t know the reason but I am glad to hear mines not the only crazy kitty.. good luck

  7. My cat, Buddy, immediately meows and comes right over and jumps in my lap to check on me when I sneeze. Oddly, he doesn’t react when my husband or son sneeze.

  8. My cat comes running, jumps on my left shoulder and gives me lots and lots of kisses as if she wants to say “you’ll be okay!”

  9. my cat chitters and meows when i sneeze or cough. i also think it’s tonal, to some degree. i never thought he was saying bless you, though. it usually comes across as a complaint. oddly enough, they don’t scare him even when asleep, and he gets scared of almost everything (cars on the street, the neighbors in their driveway, people walking past, the tv,…he’s even afraid of the ceiling fan).

  10. My female cat Mango gives me *one* chance when I sneeze. On my first sneeze, she will lay her ears back and look highly offended. If I have the audacity to sneeze again within a short period of time, she will launch off of her resting place and race to another part of the house, and probably be invisible for at least an hour.

  11. My last female would glare at me when I sneezed. Even after we worked out a signal to warn her to move, I still was glared at. My current ‘puma’, Edmond barely reacts at all. I get more of a “What was that?” Response from him.
    I think the chirpy ones sound like they’re telling you not to get any on them! lol

  12. My Molly reacts to my friend when he sneezes and nothing when I do….go figure. I think may be a tonal thing. Also she doesn’t do a thing if we fake it. ????

  13. My Molly reacts to my friend when he sneezes and nothing when I do….go figure. I think may be a tonal thing. Also she doesn’t do a thing if we fake it. ????

  14. Bounce runs when I sneeze and gives me the most disgusted look. Baby Boy has a sharp meow when I sneeze. It disturbs his nap. The other 3 ignore me. Baby Boy and Bounce are the most high maintenance and generally reactive of my cats.

    I totally fake-sneezed while reading this. Bounce was not amused. I felt appropriately guilty.

  15. My cat chirps when any of us sneeze, but unlike the video it has to be real she does nothing when we try to fake sneeze.

  16. What I want to know is why does my cat sneeze on me whenever he wakes up or comes up to me for something? Neither of my cats care when I sneeze. Oh, Onyx doesn’t care about much. As long as you get it over with, he’ll take just about anything.

  17. One of my kittykats comes running toward me meowing when I sneeze – the other kittykat can’t be bothered – never see her. Hee!
    ps&btw – I always exaggerate my sneezes purposely when I’m at home. I now, strange human.

    1. Deirdra Montgomery

      My snow lynx female ALWAYS chirps or meows when I sneeze or cough but doesn’t run. She looks directly at me too!
      I believe she’s saying “bless you Mommy” ..my Rosetta male could care less

  18. My cats never react to my sneezes but they sure give haughty looks to fellow felines who dare to assault them with sneezy-wheezies!

  19. My cat, Tuulikki is very laid back but active playful cat. Fireworks going off on holidays never bother her and my explosive sneezes? It’s like “Mom’s sneezes are no big deal. She’s fine so I’m fine.”

  20. My house tiger only reacts when I wake her with a sneeze. Boy does she tell me off for disrupting her beauty rest. I get a full paragraph of meows! LOL!

  21. I have a chirper. His brother and sister don’t blink at sneezes, but then he’s the most emotionally sensitive of the three which might have something to do with it.

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