Why and How Does my Cat Purr?

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Nothing beats hearing the sound of a cat purring next to you.  Sometimes, it’s just relaxing, but if you’re like me, chances are you’ve probably wondered why cats do it.

Sometimes cats will do it for no reason, other times they’ll do it because of a stimulus in their environment. But today, we’ll talk about cat purring, and why it occurs

Cats will purr randomly, and you oftentimes can’t predict when it will happen.  However, there is a reason for why they’re purring, and here, we’ll dive into why and how my cat purrs, and some of the cool reasons why your cat makes the sound like they have bees in their tummy.

How Do They Do It?

Cats purr because of specific wiring that they have in their body. However, they don’t have a special apparatus in their body that causes it, but it actually is due to the wiring of the nerves in their body.

We have nerves that end up being a big part of how we do things. Well, cats are the same way, and it actually involves certain steps in order to do it.

To purr, cats do the following:

  • They move the muscles in their voice box or larynx very fast
  • They also move their diaphragm in their chest cavity very fast, about 20-30 times each second
  • As they breathe, the air then touches these muscles, which creates a purr
  • Some of these purrs will be different, such as those that are a higher pitch, or a lower rumble
  • The air valve in their body does actually open and close at the same time, which creates the purring sound

Just like our fingerprints, all the purring sounds that you hear are different for each cat. That’s why, one cat might be very loud with their purring, while another cat may have faint purrs.

Contented Sounds

Cat purring is very relaxing, because of how it sounds, and usually, cats will purr when they’re happy. It is commonly done when a cat is satisfied with their situation, and what’s going on.

Oftentimes, if you’re sitting around doing nothing, you’ll hear your cat purring up a storm.

However, sometimes cats will purr because they are worried, and cats use this mechanism for something actually. The reason why they do it is because of the following:

  • The roaring cat ancestors would use this to help protect the territory that they have
  • Cats that purr tend to be smaller and are loners who don’t compete, and instead use their scent and won’t use an extended way to communicate
  • Some cats use their purrs to communicate, and it actually is on the same level as a baby’s cry
  • Cats use it to respond to the sounds that humans make, as a way to sound nurturing

That’s why they sound so good. They naturally sound like a child’s cries, and sometimes, they do it to get a humans’ attention and give them love.

Purring and Meowing?

Did you know some cats will actually use purrs combined with meows? How that works is the following:

  • First, they purr
  • Then they meow
  • They do this when they want attention

This is something a lot of cats will develop when they want to get our attention, especially when they want food. Usually, this is supposed to mimic the sound of a baby’s cry in order to be fed.

Of course, not every cat will do this, but some cats, especially those who have developed the concept of meowing will start to do this, and that’s a mechanism they’ve started to input simply because they know their owners will do this and give them exactly what it is that they want.

It’s an evolutionary trait, and it’s quite a cool one that some cats have.

Cat Purring Means happiness

Some cats purr when they’re happy, and you may hear it when they’re sleeping contentedly in a space.

Usually, this type of relaxed manner comes with the following attached to it:

  • The cat is on their back with the belly up
  • Their eyes are half-closed, or fully closed, maybe occasionally blinking at you
  • The tail is mostly still and not moving very much

Usually, this is something that cats who have been in situations where they don’t feel safe will develop. It’s basically their form of smiling, and if they are comfortable like that around you, then that’s a sign that they are happy, and you shouldn’t do anything to disturb them.

So, it oftentimes doesn’t mean much at all, other than they are just happy to be in your space.

They Want Food!

Sometimes, some cats will purr at mealtime, and house cats tend to do this more than cats that aren’t house-trained. That’s because of the following:

  • They know they can emulate a babies’ cry in order to get attention
  • They’re hungry and know that the sound will get attention
  • Sometimes they are different sounds with a meow attached to it, similar to how babies cry

Cats know that if they do this, a human will want to feed them, and sometimes some cat owners will understand the distinction right away.

Cats know about this because they did this with their mother, or maybe they developed it over time. House cats do this more simply cause the following:

  • They don’t have to worry about predators
  • The owner is feeding them, they aren’t getting the food themselves
  • They know how to get the owner’s attention

Even adult cats who are old will do this weird meowing purring combination, and usually, if they’re hungry, they will do this for a while until their needs are met. So, if your cat is being very loud, purring and meowing like crazy, it’s a good idea to do this to help them get fed, and maybe make them a little bit quieter.

The Kitten-Mother Connection

Some cats will purr because it’s something that they did as a kitten, and basically, they still have that connection kind of. In a sense, they may see you as a human-like their own mother, so they may purr whenever you’re around because they want to let you know that they’re fine.

Kittens do this in the following manner:

  • When they’re a few days old, they’ll start to purr towards their mothers
  • It is a way to let the mom know that hey, they’re okay
  • They will use this to bond with their mother
  • The mother cat will sometimes use it with their kittens like a lullaby, and it can make them feel better

So yes, if your cat races over and starts to purr or is just chilling near you and sometimes purring, they may see you as motherly, or like their mother, or maybe they’ll use it on you, and it can help you feel better too.

They Use it To Heal

Yes, cats will use this when they are hurt. This is a bit strange though because oftentimes that takes energy to do, so why do that?

Well, here are a couple of reasons why a cat may do it in order to help provide relief and healing:

  • It’s like a how a child sucks their thumb to feel better
  • The frequency of the purrs can cause vibrations in the body
  • Sometimes, those purrs can help heal the wounds and bones that are there
  • It helps relax the body, and also calm the cat down when they’re stressed
  • It can actually repair the tendons with these vibrations and build the muscle again
  • It can reduce the swelling and pain that they’re in because it helps put their focus and energy on that, rather than on the injury at hand

This is all just scientific speculation of course, but oftentimes this is why cats can survive major falls from higher places and tend to have fewer complications after they have surgery than dogs do.

The purrs of a cat actually can be used to fit the range of different bone regeneration, so yes, it is speculated that cat purring can heal bones. That’s wild!

Isn’t Just for Cats Though!

One cool thing about cat purrs is that they aren’t just there to help the cat, but cats, if they love their owner, they do oftentimes do it for the owner too.

There are some studies that show whenever a cat purrs, it can actually do the following for humans!:

  • Help lower blood pressure in a human
  • Relieve stress in a person
  • Reduce the instance of heart attacks
  • Help calm you down when there is anxiety or a panic attack

Purring does help humans in their own way. That’s because, when we hear a purr, it helps us stay calm and contented, and cat purring also can give us positive reinforcement and it can help contribute to relaxation both in humans and in cats as well.

How Purrs Heal Humans

Cat purring, as we said before, does have healing power, but it isn’t just to calm you down, and it isn’t just for cats either. Here, we’ll highlight a few crazy facts about cat purrs, and how they can help a human heal from situations:

  • Cats will purr in order to release endorphins, and that purring can do the same with humans
  • The lowered stress endorphins will lower your blood pressure, help you cope with illness, and help you heal from the trauma
  • The purring does fall right between 25-140 Hz, and that’s the frequency that can help with healing broken bones
  • It can also help to aid in wound healing, and joint repair, which is why that can help with humans and their healing too
  • Observations have found that those that suffer from upper respiratory issues, including dyspnea or having issues breathing can listen to a cat’s purr and they’ll breathe more easily
  • Heart disease is also reduced in many humans too, and it can help with the heart issues that a human might have
  • Many who have migraines and headaches will have less of them when they put their heads close to cats and listen to their purrs

So yes, cat purrs aren’t just for kitties, but when you listen to it, you can oftentimes heal from the stress and trauma, and it can be a wonderful option especially if you feel stressed after a long day.

Getting a cat doesn’t just benefit you because you have an animal companion, they can even assist you in healing too!

Not Just Cause they’re Happy!

While yes, curling up with your little kitty as they purr is wonderful for many cat owners, but there are actually a lot of other reasons why cats purr.

In fact, nobody is 100% certain as to why cats purr, and oftentimes, some people might not realize that cats purr for other reasons.

Some cats do it because of the following:

  • They are communicating
  • They are vocalizing something
  • They may do it with grooming, which makes them relaxed

Studies in the 19th century on purring have also tried to figure this out, and some people may attribute it to their older ancestors, but cats in this day and age, and on that level of the evolutionary spectrum tend to purr for other reasons, and oftentimes, it isn’t just due to happiness.

So why else could a cat purr? Well, read on below!

They’re Scared

Some cats will purr when they’re in situations that make them scared.

When a cat purrs when they’re scared, they’re doing it because of the following:

  • They want to relax their body
  • They use it to calm themselves down and explain to themselves that they’re okay
  • They use it to tackle a stressful situation, so they’re not as affected by this

But wait, doesn’t that make it sound like they’re happy when they’re scared? Not exactly.

Some cats will use purring in order to relax their bodies when they’re anxious. You may hear a cat purr during the following times:

  • When they’re introduced to a new person or even a pet that recently entered the home
  • They are confronted with something new and scary
  • They are waiting at the vet or groomer’s office

You ever smiled in a situation that in reality made you incredibly nervous? Then you know exactly why a cat would purr then! If you’ve put on a fake smile before when you’re in a situation that makes you scared, then you did that to calm yourself down.

Cats, like humans, do this because of the following:

  • It’s calming
  • It’s reassuring
  • It’s a familiar sound that cats will do in order to make them feel better about something

So, remember this, especially when you’re taking them to an unfamiliar place and start to hear those buzzing bees. They may not be happy, but instead, scared out of their wits and not too keen on this new locale!


They’re stressed

Similar to when they are scared, cats that are subjected to stressful situations oftentimes may start to purr as a response to those stressful situations.

Some examples of stressful situations include the following:

  • A new addition to the family such as a cat or even a child can make them stressed
  • A new space, where you’ll oftentimes see them crawl under the bed and refuse to come out for three days
  • A new place, or one they don’t remember or aren’t familiar with, such as maybe a vet’s office or the like
  • A new person in the home, such as a guest coming over

Cats can get anxious, just like how humans can too. But, unlike increasing their heart rate or maybe having trouble breathing like when a human has anxiety, cats will respond by ell, purring.

Again, cats will do this because of the following:

  • It’s a familiar sound, so they can stay grounded
  • They will feel better about being in the new space
  • It’s a good way to help relax whenever they’re in a new situation

So again, if you do bring your furry little friend to a new place, don’t assume the purring means that they are happy, they actually might be doing it so that they can feel a little better about the situation that they are in.

They’re Upset

Cats that are subjected to new, and sudden stressful situations that oftentimes are too much for a kitty can sometimes purr as a response to the situation at hand. It’s a reflex, but again, it isn’t just for their own sanity and sake, cats will purr because it heals.

If your cat suffered from an injury or recently got a surgery, such as fixing, they may purr a lot.

When you hear that, do understand that the following is going on:

  • They’re trying to minimize the pain
  • They are trying to reduce the instances of pain
  • They are trying to relax the body
  • They are using it to calm themselves down
  • The cat is using it to help heal their wounds too, and even help with their joints and muscles

Yes, it’s their own magical form of healing. While of course if they need surgery or medication, or even first aid to help them, they oftentimes may purr as well to help speed up their own healing

Sometimes, you may even hear a cat purr when they miss a jump or accidentally get an oopsie from falling somewhere.

Usually, the purring after that comes with the following:

  • Walking off somewhere
  • A down casted look from the cat
  • Avoiding others for a little while

Sometimes, if they’re upset about something, or aren’t too happy about being somewhere, you oftentimes can see it from the way that their body language is.

Sometimes, cats that purr oftentimes will accompany other emotions too, including the following:

  • Joy and happiness
  • Derision
  • Discomfort
  • Surprise

Have you ever seen your cat look at something with complete surprise, and then start to purr? My cat loves to do that, and oftentimes, you may be able to tell that’s exactly happening from the way that they look at you or react to something that’s done.

Some cats will purr, but oftentimes they’ll have the following accompany it:

  • A look of disdain
  • Lowered eyes, but not closed and relaxed
  • A swished tail
  • They may look on edge

Some cats will respond to stuff that annoys them by purring. It will help calm them down, and maybe tell them to not be so mad about something that’s going on

How can you Tell the difference though?

You may wonder what in the world you can do to help understand the difference in purrs from a cat. How can you tell whether or not a cat is happy, or upset with something that’s going on?

The answer is the body language

Remember, in humans, you can use body language to tell the following:

  • Their real emotion
  • What’s going on
  • Any tensions or upsets that are going on

Well, cats are the same way. Sure, they might be purring up a storm, but you actually won’t be dealing with a happy cat in some contexts.

Cats will purr for many different reasons, and a cat will do it sometimes when you least expect it. Oftentimes, people are very wrong in what is going on in a cat’s head, will try to touch it because they’re purring, and then get bitten.

It’s an example of hey, you need to watch the other body languages that come with this.

So, what else accompanies a cat’s purr? The following can do so:

  • The movement of their tail
  • How they’re sitting, whether it be with their belly up, or with their body very close together
  • If they’re making eye contact with you or avoiding, you completely
  • If they seem to be moving away from you, rather than closer to you
  • How their eyes look, whether they’re widened in fear if they’re down casted in annoyance, or naturally closed

If you notice that their tail is moving at a fast pace, and they generally give off that vibe of they want to be left alone, it’s in your best interest to actually keep away from them.

Learning from Experience

Some people think that they’ll pick up on why a cat purrs right away, but that isn’t the case. Remember, cats purr for different reasons, and oftentimes, you may want to learn why they’re doing it, so you don’t accidentally upset them. Think about it, if you accidentally step on their tail, and they purr immediately, are they going to be happy if you touch them? The answer is of course, heck no.

However, you can learn why in the world your cat is purring from the responses and their body language.

How you do this, is the following:

  • Look at how they’re responding to you
  • Look at the environment to see what prompted the purring
  • Look at their food bowl, is it empty? They may just want some food
  • Are they rubbing against the leg? Sometimes, they’ll do that when they’re happy you’re home, and rubbing against legs is a sign of affection
  • If they’re pestering you, they obviously want something
  • You may have the cat purring when you’re doing something, which is encouraging you to continue what you’re doing

The last one does happen. Some cats are actually in-tune with what they do, and if they like what they’re heating, they’ll want you to continue.

It’s why my cat likes to sit with me and watch me play video games that she will watch or get close to me. She wants me to continue doing exactly what it is that I’m doing.

Do all Purrs sound the same?

Course not! Remember, cat purrs can vary, and sometimes, you may have a big, hulking cat that barely makes a purring sound, and then a small little kitty that makes a giant purr that’s very loud.

Some cat purrs you may hear include the following:

  • A higher-pitched purr that’s relaxing
  • A lower-pitched purr that’s like a rumble
  • A much lower-sounding purr that oftentimes sounds like they’re grunting
  • Meow purrs, oftentimes heard when there is food to be had, and sometimes some cats will be very insistent and pestering with that sound

So, kind of like how a lot of people sound, not all cats will sound the same. Some of them do have variants, and that’s what makes them who they are.

The same can be said for meows too since some cats will meow lot in order to communicate with humans, others may do the little chirping sound that a lot of people will hear.

Another cool thing to learn is that there are big cats that will purr too. That’s right, some of those big kitties that you see at the zoo do purr.

Some of the examples of big cats that purr include the following:

  • Bobcat
  • Cheetah
  • Eurasian lynx

All of those cats will purr, so maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to hear it next time.

Cats that Don’t Purr?

Of course, there are big cats that don’t purr. Did you know that a cat that is able to purr won’t roar, and of course vice versa?

The reason for this includes the following:

  • The structure of the larynx needs to either be stiff for a purr, or looser for a roar
  • Some cats such as a lion or tiger, prefer to roar as a means to maintain the territory in the world
  • Loud roaring helps maintain it, but purring cats prefer to use scents in order to do this.

Big cats in the wild that do purr actually also do it during labor. You may hear it from queen cats in a group, or even a female cat.

The reason why a queen or female cat will purr during labor is because of the following:

  • It soothes the body
  • It calms them down
  • It helps make birthing easier since the kittens will have to come out and enter the world eventually

Cats have a natural tendency to purr if they are able to, but of course, some of them will not even do it because of the vocal cords. But most cats will purr, and there is a lot that this can mean, and a lot that you can learn about, just from studying your feline friend and seeing how your cat is doing, and also why they might be purring in the first place.

Here is a table of cats that purr, and don’t purr:

Name of CatDoes it PurrDoes it Roar?


Let Them Purr!

If you hear a cat purr, and you want to know what’s going on, what you do is the following:

  • Look at their body language
  • Figure out their environment, and what precedented the purr. Are they just chilling out with you and they’re contented and relaxed, or did they accidentally hurt themselves cause they took a spill trying to make a jump?
  • Figure out from the way their tail is moving, or even the sounds that are uttered from their mouth

As a human, there isn’t one singular reason why a cat will purr, nor is there really just one reason for doing so. All cats will purr for different reasons, some more than others.

The Purrs Heal!

But if there is one thing that we all can completely agree upon, it’s that cat purrs are very healing, and they sound amazing to listen to. If you’re someone that has a cat that loves to purr, remember this article, and learn all about the ways that your cat purrs.

Cat purrs are healing, not just for your furry friend, but for you as well. They can make you feel great!

And there you have it, the comprehensive guide on why and how does your cat purr. Hopefully, these days cat purring is just a natural thing your cat does, and you understand why in the world your cat may be doing it.

Cats will purr for many reasons, and many emotions and remember, it’s up to you to decide what’s going on based on their body language, and how they’re reacting.

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