Why does My Cat Mr. Chubs Squawk When I Sneeze (serious question)
April 2, 2017 3:09 AM   Subscribe

Every morning, I get up, grab my coffee, sit on the sofa and stare at the internet for about 15 minutes before exercising (I am literally doing this right now). Every morning, after my second sip of coffee, I sneeze, twice. And without fail, my elder statesman cat, Mr. Chubs, is greatly alarmed by this and makes a squawking noise, twice. This is the only time he makes said squawking noise. He runs over and gives me the stinkeye until he's satisfied, then scampers off. What is this all about?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've had similar experiences, and ultimately, I believe it's just how they say "bless you" in cat. I suspect that it also might not be stinkeye that you're getting, instead, perhaps it's a look of concern?
posted by radwolf76 at 3:34 AM on April 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Does he squawk when you sneeze at other times as well or is it only your morning sneezes?

I used to have a skittish cat who was alarmed by sneezes, I think she identified the noise as close enough to the sound of a startled cat (like if a tail gets trod upon) or a hiss to come running to see the source of the noise but not to come fully close to it because omg what if scary???? She didn't have a special squawk noise for this, though.

If he is only doing this in the morning, maybe you have accidentally trained each other into the habit? Him into responding to the sneeze sound as some kind of wake up alarm complete with complaining, you into paying him a few minutes of attention at the same time each day? You could be mistaking his desire for non-invasive attention gazing for the "stink eye".

If you only ever sneeze at the same time every morning and at no other times, tell a doctor and get into a medical journal or something.
posted by Mizu at 4:27 AM on April 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe he's imitating you. You sneeze twice. He squawks twice.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:02 AM on April 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a childhood cat, a Siamese, who would go "mraa-mraa-MRAA!" indignantly whenever someone sneezed in front of her. I never had another cat who did that. She was a rather quirky and high-strung cat, and maybe the sound of a person sneezing sounded like a cat hissing, and upset her. Is your cat part Siamese maybe? Just very reactive? Not a morning kitty?
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:05 AM on April 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We have a cat that squawks when anyone coughs. He doesn't seem terribly upset or anything and is usually just chilling on the cat tree while he does it. Cats are so weird.
posted by meepmeow at 7:03 AM on April 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a cat who does this. He also does it when the dog's barking reaches annoying limits. I suspect it is a "stop that loud noise, I don't like it!" commentary.
posted by Nyx at 8:01 AM on April 2, 2017

Response by poster: I suspect that it also might not be stinkeye that you're getting, instead, perhaps it's a look of concern?

I will pay a handsome reward to anyone who can show me the difference. And yes, I sneeze twice every.single.morning and it is the only time I sneeze, in general. Mr. Chubs probably looks at me and thinks, "Giant cats are weird."
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:04 AM on April 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I'd say 90% or more of my sneezes occur just before I fall asleep in bed. In my case it's my spouse that gives me the stink eye.
Humans are weird too.

Anyway, the only thing for you to do is test this out in more detail. Invite friends over for a morning sneeze, see what the cat does.

Since you sneeze so reliably, you can easily record it, and play it back at other times, ideally simulating a real sneeze visually too.

Finally, see what he does with a recording of A CAT sneezing. It strikes me that sneezes are one sound that is rather similar between cats and humans, and Mr. Chubs may be picking up on that.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:41 AM on April 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

My cats sleep with me in the bed. I can toss, turn, watch movies on Netflix, talk on the phone, whatever--they're either conked out or peacefully lazing about. Firetrucks or ambulances can go by with sirens wailing--no response. Thunderstorms? Nothing. But if I sneeze, one of them chirps at me repeatedly, as if I've done something unforgivable, and the other one leaps off the bed and runs away. Morning or night, regardless of whether they're asleep at the time or not, a sneeze sets them off.

I have wondered about this for years, and I hope you get a legit answer from a vet or something and it gets posted here, because I want to know too!
posted by tzikeh at 11:10 AM on April 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

I will pay a handsome reward to anyone who can show me the difference.

In my own experience, the cat who would do the sneeze squawk would come seek me out and gently paw at me afterwards until I specifically told her I was ok. This could be interrupted by another member of the household telling the cat the same thing if she hadn't gotten to me yet. Mr. Chubs may just be more laid back about it, while still wanting to check in on his thumbed co-habitant whose face just exploded.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:18 AM on April 2, 2017

Weird. I posted a response here last night, with nothing even slightly inappropriate, and now it's gone.

Most of the other posters have gone on to cover my points. I think the likeliest explanation is that he's imitating you, although I also wondered if your cat may be threatened by the sneezes (it can kind of sound like barking) and he's barking back so you won't eat him, or if he's complaining about being startled like that. The double sneezing every morning after your second sip of coffee really jumped out at me and made me wonder if you may be somewhat allergic to coffee.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:22 PM on April 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Human beings sneeze when they go from dark to light, most commonly when coming out of a dark building into day light. There is one theory that this reflex is to clean dusty and mould out of the lungs and sinuses after being in a cave or den. You could be sneezing because you are transitioning from dark bedroom, closed eyelids to staring into bright electronic screen.

Cats hiss and spray spit when they are really angry. It's their equivalent of yelling "Fuck off!"

So every sleepy morning when Mr. Chubs is contemplating breakfast, or the digestion of breakfast, depending on when you feed him, you suddenly drop some vile curse words into his domestic bliss.

Now if your beloved old mother suddenly screamed "Fuck you, asshole!" when you were just coming awake enough to consider if that nice yeasty smell in the distance was morning muffins or pancakes, you too might blunder hurriedly into the room to make sure that there was no house invasion in progress, or that she didn't need first aid, or that she hadn't suddenly thrown the the computer monitor into the hall when Trump appeared on the morning show smugly reporting that he had just launched nukes at Pyongyang.

Cats have ears that are very sensitive to changes in air pressure. They will wash their ears with their paws relentlessly when it is about to rain because their ears can feel the change in barometric pressure. I think it unlikely, but not impossible that they can feel the vibrations in the air when you sneeze explosively. - If you ever want to really annoy a cat blow softly into its ear. It you want it to not get up on the desk beside you where your tea is balanced in a very nearly but not entirely stable location just above your keyboard, but want to deliver an effective deterrent a little less damp than a shot with the water pistol, try blowing at his face.

Cats do not like moving air currents as a rule, and a sneeze is a very forceful movement of air.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:24 PM on April 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

How funny: I've always had cats and never noticed this. Not ten minutes after reading this, I sneezed, and Jordan Catalano looked up at me, wide eyed, and let out two little concerned mews!
posted by mabelstreet at 8:39 PM on April 4, 2017

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