Why do Cats Purr?

Why and how do cats purr?

Source: PetWebMD and Purina

Purring is the most common sound cats make. Yet we know less about it than meowing, chattering, hissing, and growling. We love to hear our cats purr. There is nothing better than a purring cat curled up on your lap, but have you ever wondered just how cats purr and why they do it?

Yes, cats purr when they’re content. When yours is curled up in the sun, you may hear a gentle rumble as he breathes in and out. It’s almost as if he’s sending out waves of calm.

But you shouldn’t assume that sound means your cat is in a good mood. Or that it’s the only time you’ll hear it. Cats purr to communicate other emotions and needs, too.

What if you pick your cat up and hold him? Does he purr because he likes it — or because he’s nervous?

Although you’ll never know exactly what yours is saying when he purrs, research from animal experts, lets you make an informed guess.


She is happy

Your cat looks relaxed: Perhaps she’s on her back, eyes half-closed, tail mostly still. If she’s purring, it’s safe to assume she’s in her happy place. That noise is a big smile.


He is hungry or wants something

Cats have a special type of purr that they use when they want our attention. However, the purrs for food and when food is not on their minds sound differently.

When they wish to be fed, the purr involves a combination of the purr and meow. Cat owners respond to this sound in a similar way that parents respond to the cry of their baby.

Most people are able tell the difference between purrs, even if they are not cat owners.


Kitten – mother connection

Kittens can purr when they’re only a few days old. It’s probably a way to let their mothers know where they are or that they’re OK. Purring also helps a kitten bond with its mother. Mama cats use it like a lullaby.


Relief & healing

Even though purring takes energy, many cats purr when they get hurt or are in pain. So, what makes the effort worth it?

It might simply be a way for a cat to soothe itself, like a child sucks their thumb to feel better.

But some research suggests that purring actually helps cats get better, faster. The low frequency of purrs causes a series of related vibrations within their body that can:

Heal bones & wounds, build muscle and repair tendons, ease breathing and lessen pain and swelling.

This might explain why cats are able to survive falls from high places and tend to have fewer complications after surgeries than dogs.


How do cats purr?

Purring involves the rapid movement of the muscles of the larynx (voice box), combined with movement of the diaphragm (midriff). The muscles move at around 20 to 30 times per second.  As the cat breathes, air touches the vibrating muscles, producing a purr. Each cat’s purr is unique with some high pitched and others emitting a low rumble. Some purrs are so faint you have to be extremely close to your cat to hear it, while others are extraordinarily loud.


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