Why do Cats Purr?

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Interesting facts about those good cat vibrations

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A meow is one of the best sounds a cat makes. The second best sound? Purring. The purr of a cat is a mysterious yet soothing sound. That low rumble can mean so many things, but the biggest question is, why do cats purr?

How Do Cats Purr?


Contrary to some beliefs, cats do not have a particular body part or a vocal organ that makes them purr. It actually comes from rapid stirrings in their voice box. How does a purr start? It actually starts with the central nervous system as a signal that travels to your cats’ voice box. The muscles in the voice box tighten and release quickly when the cat inhales and exhales, which makes the vibrations we see and hear.

Why Do Cats Purr?

Cats hear purring from the time they are babies. Their moms use purring to lead them to her for food and love because when they are first born, they are deaf and blind. Kittens show their mom that they are okay by purring in return, which also helps them bond with her. As cats get older, they purr to show that they are happy and content and even to self soothe. Purring is used as a way to communicate with us.

Do Cats Purr For Different Reasons?

Yes, cats purr for many different reasons. Cats purr when they are happy and relaxed but also when they are hungry, stressed, or in pain. How can you tell the difference? You know your cat best, so pay attention to when they are purring. For example, are they purring when it’s close to feeding time? Then they are probably hungry. Did they accidentally take a tumble off the table and you find them purring an hour later? A visit to the vet to make sure they didn’t hurt themselves in a way that’s not visible to you from the outside.

Since purrs release feel-good endorphins, the vet community thinks this is why cats purr to soothe themselves. This could mean being totally chilled out and purring because they are in cat heaven on your lap. Purring can also be a way of soothing their nerves or legitimately healing their pain. Sometimes mother cats will purr while giving birth.

Cats will also purr more if they are frightened, nervous, or feel threatened. What does your cat do when you take them to the vet? More than likely they meow, but if you hold them while waiting for the doctor, chances are they will be purring out of nervousness and uncertainty about their environment.

What Is A Cats Purr Frequency?

Cats have different purr frequencies, some cats purr very softly, and others purr very loud. The typical frequency of a cats purr range is 25-150 Hz. If a cat is trying to get their owner to do something for them, the rate of their purr can elevate to 220Hz-520Hz. This is very close to the frequency of a human baby cry; therefore, it is harder for pet parents to ignore. Some studies have found that purring that resonates throughout the entire body could possibly stimulate bone healing. Since most cats spend their days waiting for their next prey to come into view, they will purr to help their bones stay strong. The thing to keep in mind is, not all purrs are the same.

How Do I Know Why My Cat Is Purring?

Although there are many reasons cats purr, the next time you hear yours doing so, don’t be alarmed. The main reason a cat purrs is that they are happy and content. If you’re concerned about why they are purring, assess what else is going on in your environment. However, if your cat is purring and meowing at the same time for longer than a day (24hours), they should be seen by a vet immediately.

Can Big Cats Purr?

Big cats like lions can roar but cannot purr. Cheetahs and Bobcats can purr but don’t roar. This is kind of surprising, given how large they are. How can this be? It all comes down to the hyoid bone in the throat. If the cat has an elastic hyoid bone, it can’t purr. It’s the flexibility of the bone that contradicts weather a cat can roar but not purr.

Can Purring Help Cats Heal Themselves?

As we know, cats purr to help soothe themselves, much like a child will suck their thumb or carry around a favorite toy. However, some studies suggest that purring can help a cat feel better when they are sick or injured. The healing benefits of the vibration of purring include:

  • The healing of bones and wounds.
  • The building of muscle and repairing of tendons.
  • The vibrations from purring ease breathing.
  • The vibrations from purring also lessen pain and swelling.

Cats can keep their health in check by operating on low energy when they sleep by just purring. It is common for cats to survive high falls and have fewer complications after surgery than their canine counterparts.

A Purr Is Like A Smile

People smile for all different reasons. Sometimes we smile because we’re content and other times we smile because we are nervous. A cat purrs for the same purposes. Either they are happy, they want something, or they are worried about something or someone in their environment. Therefore a cat’s purr is like the equivalent to a human’s smile.

The Solicitation Purr

Do cats really know how to purr to get us to do something for them sooner than usual? Yes! When a cat wants you to do something for them, they will add a high-frequency cry-meow that most owners find incredibly annoying. They use this mostly in one on one households where they are the only cat. This way, their purr cannot be overlooked, and more than likely, they will get what they want.

How Does My Cats Purr Affect Me?

Cats have overtaken our households and our hearts and for a good reason. They are cute, cuddly, and funny, but did you know they have a significant effect on human health? People equate cat purr as calming and comforting. In fact, having a cat can help lower stress and blood pressure. The soothing sound of the purr with the natural calming effects of stroking our cat’s fur is a win-win for our health. In a way, a cat purring is potentially self-healing for all species.

Cats Purr For…Exercise?

Yes, they do. Purring is actually a form of low impact kitty exercise. Cats are experts at conserving energy while sleeping 16 hours a day or just lounging staring at their owners. However, purring could quite possibly stimulate muscles and bones without your cat lifting a paw-literally! The next time your cat sprawls out on your lap while purring, keep in mind that he or she may also be doing some calisthenics. Ah, if only it were that easy for the rest of us.

Deciphering Your Cats Purr

“Happy Purr”-If your cat is lying on their back, curled up with its eyes closed, or isn’t making any movement with their tail, this is a sign of a happy cat.

“I Hurt Purr”-As we have already established, sick or injured cats will purr to help soothe themselves and heal faster. To find out if your cat is purring because of pain, pay close attention to everything they do.

“Hey Mom, I’m Okay’ Purr-If you have a purring kitten, it probably wants its mom. If Mom and her babies are living in your home, return the kitten to its mama. If this is a kitten you have just adopted, make sure it is fed often, kept safe, and kept warm. This is when you want to let your “cat mom” skills shine.

“I’m Hungry!” Purr-If your cat is purring/meowing when you are getting their food around, make no mistake they are ready to eat. My cat does this mostly in the evening when it’s his dinner time. He will watch me and just “talk up” a storm. He will make this sound that’s a combo of a purr and meow and sometimes will even squeak. Obviously, I’m not moving fast enough.

Cats are amazing creatures and have so many different ways of communicating with us. However, purring has been a mystery to most people. We now know how cats purr and why they purr. We also know the different reasons and noises they make when they purr. The next time your favorite feline is making this soothing noise, you will be able to decipher what they want or need and treat them like the royalty that they are. When your cat crawls up on your lap and stretches out for a snooze, purring loudly, you will know that you are the best owner ever.

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