Some cat sounds are pretty self-explanatory. A hiss is short for a step back and a chirp accompanied by a tail in the air is the way many cats say hello.
But why does my cat huff when we’re hanging out or even playing? Well, the answer might be a little more complicated than you might think.
This article mentions some concerning health conditions. But they’re just suggestions to consider for the sake of safety. Read to the end before you start worrying yourself! As it could be nothing.
First though, let’s agree on what a “huff” is precisely…
What Kind Of “Huff” Is Your Cat Making?
A huff is an exhale through the nose. Plain and simple. What differentiates the huff is how your cat does it. And this can tell you how your cat is feeling, and perhaps even how they’re doing health-wise.
If your cat is audibly exhaling out of nowhere while resting – especially if they do it slowly – they might just be sighing. Yes, cats sigh! But for different reasons than we do.
As this great article on cat sighing explains, cats don’t sigh because they’re sad. In fact, when a cat is sad, it probably won’t make any noise at all.
While humans sigh for all kinds of reasons (though usually out of tiredness or frustration), cats will do it when they feel safe, relaxed, and at home.
So think of it as the sigh of relief when you sink into a hot bath at the end of a long day.
This might be obvious, but it’s a good idea to include it anyway, as this could have major implications for your cat’s health.
If your cat is breathing audibly with their mouth open, they are struggling to breathe. This can be harmless in some cases if your cat overexerts themselves while playing or gets overheated. However, if your cat does this regularly, a trip to the vet is in order.
Panting could be a sign of things like heartworm, respiratory infection, or even feline asthma! So err on the side of caution.
A wheeze in a cat is kind of like panting with their mouth shut or labored breathing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this is a sign of respiratory distress.
Any sign of respiratory distress in your cat is something to talk with your vet about. Cats don’t know how to tell us they’re ill, so they could be suffering silently with asthma and be pretty uncomfortable!
A Plain Old Huff
But what if your cat is simply doing a short, quick huff out their nose with their mouth shut? Well, they might actually be mad at you.
It’s not incredibly common, but some cats do huff and puff when frustrated or worked up. This could happen if you’ve done something to upset them (like not feeding them when they want to be fed). Or if they’re trying to catch a bird or toy that they can’t get to.
Another cat behavior you might see in this latter situation is “chattering”. This sort of “akakak” sound is made when a cat is very excited to play or hunt and maybe even a little over-excited. Learn more on the adorable phenomenon of cat chattering if you’ve got the time!
Why Does My Cat Huff At Me? I Love Him!
Accepting That Your Cat Will Get Grumpy Occasionally
It’s all too easy to psychologize our cats and project human emotions onto them. However, remember that the reality they’re living in is different from yours. And they don’t project morals onto people the way we do.
Temporary grumpiness is as expected for them as it is for us.
As long as your cat seems content, curious and relaxed, they’re probably living a happy life. The only time you’d have to worry will be if they’ve lost their “spark”. This could mean a sudden apathy to play or cuddles, not eating, seeming scared, or being overly aggressive.
Your cat will get annoyed at you from time to time. Just accept that and remember: cats don’t hold grudges the way we do.
How Long Does A Cat Hold A Grudge?
If you’ve accidentally sat on your cat’s tail, suddenly gone on holiday, or even had to feed them later than usual, your cat might go in a huff or physically huff at you. They’re annoyed, but it won’t last forever,
As this fantastic article on cat grudges and cat memory explains, cats have pretty poor working memory. This means that day to day events will be forgotten pretty quickly as the cat continues to live in a rather “moment to moment” fashion.
Considering this, along with the fact that cats’ emotions aren’t as complicated as ours, they’re not going to lose sleep over a little transgression.
However, that doesn’t mean your cat has no memory at all. As any cat owner knows, cats learn to associate particular objects, sounds, and actions with positive or negative outcomes. And cats can experience trauma in a similar way to us.
If a cat gets shouted at, they’ll learn to see shouting as painful and become scared of loud noises. Conversely, if you have a friend that always gives your cat treats when they come over, they’ll start getting excited every time they see that friend.
Why Does My Cat Huff Though? I Still Don’t Know!
As we mentioned earlier, you must check with your vet if your cat’s behavior is worrying you. But as long as they don’t seem to be in respiratory distress, it’s probably nothing.
If they do it once out of the blue for no reason, they might just have some dust in their nose! Who knows?
Take a video if you like, and show it to some of your cat parent friends or your vet, and see what they say. And try not to worry if your cat gets grumpy at you from time to time!