Can domestic cats try and deceive each other?

Before answering the question, we have to define the word ‘deceive’. Definition: to deliberately cause (someone) to believe something that is not true, especially for personal gain. I have never seen any cat behaviourists try to work out if domestic cats try to deceive each other. The activity of deception as carried out by humans is very complicated. It requires a lot of intelligence and guile and above all dishonesty. And if we are dishonest, we have to know what being honest means. And that goes back to societal norms, expectations and morals. Like I said deception as a whole is complex.

If you have any experience of ‘feline deception’ please share your thoughts! I’d love to hear from you. The person on Reddit who posted the video captions it: Bite disguised as a yawn.

And now the 64,000-dollar question, is this gray cat deceiving the black-and-white cat into believing that he was yawning when he was in fact about to bite the other cat? To put it another way, is the grey cat deceiving the other into believing that he is friendly with the black-and-white when he is not.

Human behavior

Another interesting aspect of this video is that the black-and-white cat, judging by their facial expression and general stance and demeanour, gives me the impression that he has seen through the fake yawn and knows that the grey is jerking him around. There is this disdain in his face as if to say: “WTF are you up to this time, you AH!?”

I’ve been a bit rude there but I want to get the message across that it seems we are looking at a couple of humans in this video. It is a mirror on human behavior and so much the worse for that reason. I like cats to be cats and forget about human behavior which to me appears to be deteriorating as the decades roll by. Perhaps it is my age (74 at this moment) that leads me to pessimism about the future of humankind.

Reasons for yawning

The yawn achieves two objects: it stimulates blood flow and briefly increase the heart rate and alertness which is one reason why tired people yawn. Contagious yawning is a signal of empathy one with another. Indirectly it is a sign of friendship. I’ve seen cats yawn contagiously. This would seem to support the grey cats desire to deceive the other because he wants to send a body language signal that he friendly when he is not really.

RELATED: Kitten copies mother’s yawn


Deception is close to emotion. Is it borne out of the emotion of distrust and disliking of another? If I am correct, we are then into a discussion about feline emotions. There certainly does seem to be a lot of emotion between these two felines. An uneasy relationship I’d say which might not be apparent to their owner. Domestic cats feel a range of emotions but we are unsure how far they go. Can they feel higher emotions? Probably not.

RELATED: Lions yawn to wake up and to coordinate their movements


The video also brings to mind the relationship between cats in multi-cat homes. The experts – and I regard myself as one – say that if the cats tolerate each other in multi-cat homes the owner should be happy. It is about all they can expect as not uncommonly the relationships can be worse. They can, of course, be better too.

Perhaps the big problem in multi-cat homes is ‘resource guarding’ as they are compressed into unnaturally small spaces. Because the cats might feel they are competing for resources such as food and toilets (litter trays) they might start to misbehave in human terms. This means bullying by more dominant and confident cats towards the timider and retiring cats.

In short, there can be stresses and an uneasy peace. This state of affairs seems to be played out in the video on this page.

Infographic on 9 emotions domestic cats feel and 1 they don’t

Why don’t domestic cats express their emotions through facial expressions like humans?

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