The Funnies

Why Do Cats Purr?

January 18, 2023

If you have a cat, you are familiar with purring. It’s a rhythmic, calming sound produced by vibrations in the larynx and diaphragm that can lull you into a trance and get you wrapped around their cute little paws. But do you know why cats purr?

It may seem obvious that cats purr when they’re feeling content like when they are resting, grooming themselves, or being pet. Their eyes may be closed or halfway closed and their body language is relaxed. They are feeling blissful and want you to know it.

But cats often purr for other reasons too, including to communicate their emotions and needs - like MORE FOOD. When they’re hungry and it’s dinner time, cats may purr to let you know they’re ready to eat. This purr may be accompanied by some meows to really get you to pay attention to them. 

Cats sometimes purr at each other as a sign of geniality and to let the other know they are not a threat. It can be seen as a friendly greeting - just a little “Hello. How are you?” among friends. 

Purring is also a way for mother cats to communicate with their newborn kittens. It strengthens the bond between them and helps the kittens feel safe and calm. Kittens are born deaf and blind - their eyes don’t open until they are about 10-14 days old - so the sound of their mother purring can also help guide them to nurse on her. In exchange, kittens’ purrs lets their mama know that they are doing well. Newborn kitten purrs are typically accompanied by kneading on their mama, their first attempts at “making biscuits.” 

Since purring is a manner in which cats comfort themselves, cats sometimes purr when they are in pain or feeling stressed. If they are hurt or not feeling well, they may curl up somewhere and start purring. Mama cats may also purr while giving birth in an effort to soothe themselves. Similarly if they are anxious, like during a vet visit, cats may purr to calm themselves down. An anxious purr may be accompanied by panting or baring their teeth. It also can be a higher pitch than their usual happy purr.

The frequency of purrs typically range from 20 to 140 Hz and the vibrations created are believed to promote healing. By purring when they don’t feel so hot, cats may be decreasing their pain and even stimulating tissue and bone regeneration! (since bones respond to pressure by making themselves stronger so as to not become brittle).

By understanding why your cat purrs, you are strengthening the bond between you and deepening your love and understanding for each other. Your cat is communicating their wants and needs, so be sure to listen! They will thank you with more purrs :) 

Love, Nala