Several studies have tried to test whether ‘yawn contagion’ can spread from humans to our beloved canines — and whether that means the dogs feel empathy.
This story starts with a 2008 paper in Biology Letters titled rather wonderfully, “Dogs catch human yawns.” Well, actually it started when my cat yawned and then I yawned and I wondered if animals could pass a yawn to me like a fellow human could. Spoiler: there’s no evidence that cats can cause you to yawn. My alternative yawn hypothesis for yesterday’s false yawn contagion is that sleeping five hours a night causes me to yawn frequently and being a kitten causes my kitten to yawn frequently. Therefore, it is not surprising that we yawned in quick succession.