Cat Yawn Ear Movement

This is a video of Tootsie by VG. It is in slow motion. You’ll see Tootsie’s ears flatten while she yawns and then flip forward. The slow motion makes it easier to see how the ears move when a cat yawns. Being an ailurophile I am interested in ear movements during yawning 😉 We don’t know why animals and humans yawn. There are plenty of ideas but nothing concrete.

There is a natural evolutionary reason behind every action the cat makes. So, what is behind the ear flattening during yawning?

The only other time I know of when a cat flattens his ears is when hissing and preparing to fight. It is a signal to the opposing cat to beware and a way of protecting the ears.

Is Tootsie protecting her ears while yawning? She could be because when a cat yawns she is temporarily disabled to a certain extend. The eyes close or a partially closed and the cat’s normal awareness is blunted.

That is my rather vague theory. I can’t think of any other except that there is some useless reason why the nerves and muscles of the ears are activated when a cat yawns.

Tootsie looks very attractive as usual in this video. You can see the video on YouTube by clicking on this link.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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12 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    –forgot to add, I like that theory, Michael. I’m wondering if it might happen because when in full yawn mode, it’s a moment of total relaxation so kitty stretches /reflexes all of the muscles on her head?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Caroline, that is not a bad theory at all. Could be true. It could be because the yawn is connected to the muscles that control the ear position without any reason concerned with survival or fitness to survive. Personally, I still sense that there is a connection to survival when the ears go back when yawning.

      • Caroline says:

        Okay, Shrimpster just yawned, but it was not a huge yawn. It did make ME yawn. Mine was a full yawn (only four hrs of sleep), so big, that I could not hear and my arms stretched out in response. FWIW. I do think your theory makes sense,what I’m wondering though, do you think that to further your theory, when the cat’s mouth is spread so wide, he loses his hearing as well, besides sight? Your theory is sound, imho. 😉

  2. Caroline says:

    When Shrimptaro yawns, I say “Big Yawn!” and then immediately commence to doing the same. ;D

  3. Elisa says:

    Gizzy was the devil incarnate when she first arrived. She’s fearless. She can growl, slap and hiss at the same time. She’ll defend herself against cats twice her size. They’ve learned the hard way not to mess with the Giz.

  4. Marc says:

    I love Tootsie – she’s the best. So pretty. So happy. I think your last reason was the right one Michael – just a physical makeup that amounts to ears going flat in certain cats when they yawn.

    I’ll check with mine what their ears get up to when they are mid yawn 🙂

    • Michael says:

      Yes, it might just be one of those ancient inherited genetic anomalies from millions of years ago that serves no purpose 😉

    • Valley Girl says:

      Thanks Marc- she is such a sweet cat.

      For you and Michael- Tootsie does varying degrees of yawning. Her ears don’t always flip all the way back during a yawn. What I call the “full ear flip” (as seen in video) only happens during an extended “really big yawn”. Other times, with smaller yawns, her ears move back less.

    • Valley Girl says:

      Marc- a couple of years ago I saw a still photo of a Maine coon doing the “full ear flip” (that’s what I called it then) – posted by one of my contacts on flickr. it was a great photo b/c it also included mirror reflection of cat. (Don’t know if I could find it now.) What intrigued me a the time was that cat’s ears could normally fold into this position w/o harm.

  5. Elisa says:

    Look at this photo I took of Gizzy yawning. Just took it tonight after I woke her up. She’s predictable with her yawning.

    cat yawning

    • Marc says:

      I love Gizzy – she looks just like a cat I know and love very much. Her ears appear to be standing pretty straight actually. I think she might be laughing hysterically 😉 – if you look at her and think that it could be true 🙂 – such a sweet little face.

      I’m on comment mod at the moment Michael, just thought I’d mention it incase you didn’t know.

    • Caroline says:

      Did her ears flatten to the back of her sweet little face as she finished her full yawn? “Gizzy,” love that name!

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