Why do cats purr? There are many explanations. Although most people only connect purring to satisfaction, it’s not always the case. Purring is much more complex and interesting than you might think. Keep reading to learn more.
Most Fascinating Purring Stats and Facts
- The cats’ purr frequency is 25–150 Hertz.
- Domestic cats’ purring is 25 decibels loud.
- Cats start purring by week 3.
- The current purring champion can produce a purr of 67.8 decibels.
- Cats can either purr or roar, not both.
How Does Purring Work?
Cat purrs come from their larynx — voice boxes. When cats breathe, their glottis (the space between the vocal cords) expands and narrows very fast in a rhythmic manner. As a result, the air vibrates over the muscles of their vocal cords, creating purring.
Most cats purr but don’t worry if yours doesn’t. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with your cat.
However, if your cat usually purrs a lot and then suddenly stops purring entirely, it may signify that something is wrong.
Why Do Cats Purr?
Cat’s purring and meowing are mainly connected to showing affection, calmness, and relaxation. However, even if you’ve never witnessed it yourself, you should know that cats purr in many different situations — and not always positive ones.
Here are some potential causes and meanings of purring:
Pleasure and Happiness
Cats most often use purring to express enjoyment and happiness. So, if you’re petting your cat and it starts purring, it’s a sign that your cat is relaxed and enjoying what you’re doing. Similarly, cats will purr when grooming each other for the same reason.
Some cats might also start kneading you while purring, which is another way to tell you that they are comfortable around you. Finally, cats might purr when playing and eating, and in this case, it just means that they are happy.
Mother and Kitten Connection
For cats, purring is a means of communication. Therefore, kittens will often purr to tell their mom where they are and to show her that they are alright.
Purring also helps them bond, and a mother cat will use purring to soothe her kittens — purring is like a lullaby to them.
Hunger and Attention
When they are hungry or want you to throw something off your plate, cats might combine purring with a childlike whine. The sound is less pleasant than a normal purr, more urgent-sounding, and very difficult to ignore for most people.
However, suppose you don’t ignore it and give your cat attention instead. In that case, you’ll only teach it to repeat the behavior whenever it wants something.
Injury and Healing
When an injured cat is purring, it’s actually healing itself! The purring frequency gives cats healing powers. For example, purring can help cats maintain their bone density.
There are also many other healing benefits of purring, some of which are:
- Pain relief
- Bone healing
- Easier breathing
- Reduced swelling
- Muscle relaxation
Pain and Stress
Surprisingly, when cats are stressed out or in extreme pain, they’ll also purr. This kind of purr is loud, raspy, and deep. It also tends to last for a long time, so if your cat looks distressed and keeps purring in the described way, take it to the vet.
The scientists have a number of theories about this, some of which are:.
- They’re pretending to be okay by purring, which signals the predators to stay away from them.
- Another reason might be that cats are simply asking for help.
- They might also be trying to calm themselves down.
When they’re dying or getting euthanized, they produce the same deep and loud raspy purr for probably the same reasons.
If your cat is purring while sleeping, it’s probably because they’re actually dreaming.
However, as we mentioned above, it might also mean that they are stressed out — if the dream they are having is a bad one. Or it might mean that they are in pain.
On the other hand, if they purr while sleeping next to other cats, it’s probably a sign of close bond and comfort.
Anger or Fear
Surprisingly, cats may also purr when angry or afraid. When angry, purring will be accompanied by other signs, such as wide-open eyes, bent whiskers, and raised tail. They can also be seen purring after a scary encounter with a dog, as they are trying to calm down.
Sometimes, they might suddenly bite you just moments after they’ve been purring comfortably. Some people call them “love bites,” but these bites are actually signs of overstimulation (not aggression).
In other words, they mean that your cat has had enough, and you’ve been ignoring the other signs that usually come before the bite. Such signs include twitching fur, ears folding, and tail swinging hard. They might also push you away with their legs.
Other Reasons Why Cats Might Purr
- Greeting — A study has found that cats welcome their owners with purrs after being separated for a longer time.
- Communication — Cats use purring to communicate with other cats. Similarly, when talking to them, they might respond by purring instead of meowing if they’re really relaxed.
- Exploring new environments — They will purr loudly during their house explorations.
- Pregnancy and giving birth — When they are ready to give birth, cats will start purring a lot to calm themselves down. Also, after giving birth, purring is one of the ways of communication and calming down their newborn kittens.
Purrfect Stats and Facts You Need to Know
We’ve collected some numbers and most interesting facts about purring. So, let’s dive in.
The cats’ purr frequency is 25–150 Hertz.
(Wild Conservation Network, 2019)
People can hear anything between 20 and 20,000 Hz, so cats’ purrs fall into really low-frequency sounds. Interestingly, this frequency is that it’s healing not just for cats but also for their owners.
Cat purring effect on humans is not yet fully understood. Still, low-frequency sounds have been found to have healing effects, like lowering the risk of heart disease or stroke by 31%. In addition, most owners can confirm that the sound and vibrations they produce are also beneficial for psychological health.
Domestic cats’ purring is 25 decibels loud.
This is an average, and some cats can produce much louder purrs. However, wild cats roar at 114 decibels, so domestic cats are much quieter.
Cats start purring by week 3.
(Hill’s Pet Nutrition, 2018)
However, most cats start purring much earlier. For example, kittens often purr only a few days after they are born, as this is their way of communication with their mother.
The current purring champion can produce a purr of 67.8 decibels.
(Guinness World Records, 2015)
As of 2015, Merlin, the cat from the UK, holds the world record for the loudest purr produced. Since the average purr is only 25 decibels, Merlin is more than twice louder than the average cat.
Cats can either purr or roar, not both.
(Live Science, 2021)
It turns out that purring and roaring are mutually exclusive because of the cat throat anatomy. But, house cats are not the only cats that purr. For example, Bobcat, ocelot, lynx, cougar, and cheetah are wild cats, but they can purr. Lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards, on the other hand, can roar but not purr.
Snow leopards, however, can neither purr nor roar.
Are cats happy when they purr?
In most cases, yes.
However, not every purr is a happy purr. It can be a sign of many other things, some of which we’ve explained above.
What does it mean when a cat is purring?
Purring is mainly associated with happiness and relaxation. But, it can mean that your cat is injured, angry, hungry, or just trying to tell you something.
To know how to differentiate between these purring types, pay attention to other signs that may accompany a purr.
Can cats control their purring?
Yes, they can. Although purring is instinctive behavior, they can control it.
Why do cats purr when they see you?
If your cat purrs when they see you, this shows that they are relaxed around you.
Only if they’re showing some symptoms of distress or are purring in a different way than they usually are it’s a sign that they’re looking for help from you.
As you can see, purring is a more complex matter than was initially thought. Although purring is usually a way of expressing happiness, it can mean so much more.
So, in the end, why do cats purr? — to communicate, heal, and express their feelings.