Why Do Cats Purr? What Do Purrs Mean?

Why Do Cats Purr? What Do Purrs Mean?

Author WCF Staff


A cat's purr is by far the most common sound. Despite this, we know far less about it than other cat sounds like hissing, chirping, or meowing.

When cats are happy, they purr. As they inhale and exhale, you may hear a soft rumble. You might even feel a calm vibration when you touch them. It's as if they're releasing a wave of tranquility.

If your cat purrs, don't be quick to conclude it's necessarily a good sign. Or think that you'll only get to hear purring when cats are happy. Cats purr for a variety of reasons, not just hunger and pleasure.

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If you're a cat owner, you probably heard your cat purr when you held them in your arms. Don't be surprised that many cat owners want to know, "Do cats purr because they enjoy themselves, or are there other reasons?"

black cat in basket

When your cat purrs, you might never know what they're trying to communicate exactly. Still, research from animal behaviorists and consideration of the situation allows us to make a pretty good guess at what your cat means to communicate.

What causes a cat to purr?

In order to fully understand why cats purr, it's important first to understand how they do it. Cat owners may wonder not only why, but how their feline friends purr. In what way do they achieve such a distinct sound? Despite popular belief, cats do not possess a special organ that is responsible for purring, which is an interesting fact about cats.

Instead, rapid voice box movements produce the sound. In order to purr, the cat's nervous system sends a signal that travels through nerves to vocal cord muscles. The cat's muscles contract and relax rapidly to produce the sounds and vibrations we can hear and feel.

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Reasons cats purr

The purr is probably one of the most calming sounds you might hear, so you shouldn't be surprised that purring can actually be healing! Here are the main reasons cats purr


Your cat appears happy: They might be lying on their backs with their eyes half-closed and their tail mostly still. A purring cat is a sign that they are in a calm and satisfied mood. In this case, the purr can be described as a huge cat smile.

cat in blanket purring

Hunger or the cat wants something

When it's time to eat, some cats will purr. Researchers in the UK studied the sounds house cats make while asking for food and when they don't have food on their mind and are not hungry. The sound of the purrs is different.

When communicating hunger, cats combine purrs and unpleasant cries or meows that sound similar to a human baby's hunger cry. It is widely accepted that this sound will elicit a greater response from us than others. Even if they don't own a cat, most people can easily distinguish between these two types of purring.

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Mother-kitten connection

A few days after its birth, a kitten is able to purr. Most feline behaviorists think kittens purr to communicate with their mothers and tell them where they are located and that they're feeling fine.

Purring was proven to strengthen the bond between a mother cat and her kitten. In fact, feline moms use purring as a lullaby. It makes the kittens calm and lets them know they're safe.

Healing and relief

Many cats will purr despite the fact that it consumes their energy to do so when they are injured or distressed. What, then, justifies their time and effort? It could be a cat's way of self-medicating, like a child sucking on their thumb.

cat on table purring

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Purring may help cats heal faster, according to some studies. There are many different vibrations in a cat's body caused by the specific low frequency of cat purrs. Here are some of the effects purring can have on a cat's body;

  • Bone and wound healing
  • Become stronger and repair your tendons
  • Breathe more easily
  • Reduced discomfort, swelling, and pain

The fact that cats can survive falls from great heights and have fewer surgical complications than dogs may be due to the healing effects purrs have on them.

World Cat Finder Team

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