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What Does It Mean When A Cat Purrs?

Because animals are unable to talk, they rely on other forms of communication to express their feelings, emotions, and bond with their doting owners. You simply have to tune into what your cat is attempting to communicate to you when they purr. 

As you might have guessed, there is not just one reason why cats purr. Instead, there are several potential causes for your cat’s purring. You will have to pay attention to other clues that can help indicate what your cat is attempting to express.  

Continue reading to learn more about what exactly it means when your cat purrs. You’ll learn more about these reasons and why some cats purr extremely loudly.

After, you will get the scoop on how you can decipher what your cat’s purrs mean. Lastly, you will gain more understanding about these fascinating noises. 

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Why do cats purr?

Maybe you know what triggers your cat’s purring, or maybe you have observed them purring in several different situations and are unsure what leads your cat to engage in this behavior.

Either way, you will be interested to learn that your cat could be purring for several reasons. You will have to do some minor detective work to figure out which is the reason why.

Continue reading to learn more about what it means when your cat purrs. 

Happiness

The first reason why your cat might be purring is to express to their owner that they are happy or content. This is often considered to be the only reason why cats purr. While this is now mostly regarded as false, the reality is that oftentimes cats will purr from happiness or to express comfort.

In general, a cat purring (along with most low-frequency noises) will be connected to a positive interaction that they had with another cat or with a human. 

When domestic cats purr, they might also make a show of kneading with their paws, which is also a sign of comfort. Purring releases endorphins in the cat's brain, which makes this activity extra relaxing. Extra signs of a happy cat? Look for narrowed pupils.

Therefore, if you have another cat, and you think your cat is simply purring as a greeting because they’re happy to see you, you might have to think again! It could be due to an interaction with your other cat that is bringing your cat joy. 

Hunger

However, happiness is not the only emotion that is able to be expressed through a cat’s purrs. In fact, your feline companion could be attempting to get you to fill their food bowl with their favorite food with their purring.

Cats purr with urgency when they are hungry, so check to ensure that your cat’s food bowl is full if you notice this more urgent form of self-expression. 

Nervousness

In addition to this, cats also use purring as a way to express that they are anxious or experiencing nervousness. While purring is typically associated with positive emotions, it’s possible that your pet is purring to try and tell you they are nervous. 

If you are concerned that this is the reason why your cat is purring, keep a watchful eye out for other warning signs that your cat is nervous about something. For instance, excessive licking could also indicate that your pet is experiencing nervousness. 

Healing

Did you know that purring could actually be beneficial for your pet? It’s true; cats can engage in so-called “purr therapy,” which could potentially have self-healing properties. 

This is because the frequency that cats purr at frequencies ranging from 25/26 to 100 Hertz. Scientists believe that these vibrations actually work to promote the regeneration of tissues and tendons along with self-soothing properties. 

While purring is always thought to be an external expression of how a cat feels, it’s entirely possible that it serves an extra purpose. Purring might be more about what the purr can do for the cat’s well-being than expressing emotions.

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Solicitation purrs

Think of the solicitation purr as your cat’s equivalent to puppy dog eyes. While these purrs share some of the same characteristics as the others that are mentioned here, they are also markedly different.

Think of the solicitation purr as your cat’s attempt to (gently) manipulate you. If your cat wants you to do something, it’s entirely possible that you will hear the solicitation purr emerge as your cat attempts to get you to do so.

So, how is a solicitation purr characterized? While these purrs are also based on low-pitched sounds that contented cats make, there’s also a high-pitched signal embedded that will sound similar to a meow or a cry. This pitch change makes the solicitation purr irresistible for a human to resist. 

A kitten-mother connection

As mentioned earlier, cats do not only purr with their humans; they also may purr with other cats. A cat’s purr is akin to showing affection, so if your new kitten is with their mother cat, you might notice that they are purring.

This is due to the connection that your kitten has with the mother cat. Mother cats purr as their form of singing a lullaby. Cats may also communicate with each other by chirping, chattering, and emitting trills. 

Why does my cat purr so loudly?

If you have noticed that your cat purrs extremely loudly, you might be curious about why they engage in such a behavior or what they are attempting to tell you with their noisy purring.

It’s essential to remember that while your cat is likely attempting to communicate with you through these verbal cues, it’s also possible that your cat’s purr is simply loud. There may be nothing particularly urgent about it at all. 

In contrast, if you notice that your cat purrs louder in a particular context, such as when they are hungry or are seeking food, you can likely piece together what is occurring. Then, you can surmise that the reason they are purring loudly is to garner your attention.

Keep in mind that you know your cat’s unique personalities the best, and you likely know what makes them tick more than anyone else.  

How can I tell why my cat is purring?

Unfortunately, there isn’t exactly a way to tell for sure why your cat is purring. However, you certainly can make an educated guess.

One of the best ways to figure out why your cat is purring is to notice your pet’s body language. Notice the subliminal clues that they are sending you with their posture, how they are standing, or how they hold their head. 

Additionally, there might be differences in the volume of your cat’s purrs or even the frequency or urgency. Tune into this to better understand why your cat is purring and what they are attempting to communicate. 

Do all cats purr?

According to Pawp veterinarian Dr. Sylvalyn Hammond, there is no cause for concern if you notice that your cat is not purring. This is because cats have their own distinctive personalities, and no two are the same.

Dr. Hammond adds, “All cats are different and express themselves uniquely.  Some cats will purr when they are happy, stressed, fearful, or simply relaxed, whereas other cats may never purr at all.” 

What about the rest of the feline kingdom? Big cats like pumas are known to purr. However, other members of the family Felidae don’t purr, like lions, tigers, and jaguars. These categories are set apart by different vocal cords in their voice box (larynx) and laryngeal muscles. These animals don't purr; they roar. 

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Feline behavior explained

There are so many wonderful aspects of having a pet cat, but one of the more tricky ones can be attempting to decipher what your feline friend is trying to communicate with you. In this instance, you need to consider their usual habits, their personality, the context, and their purr.

Listening to your cat’s unique purrs and acting accordingly can help make your cat feel more appreciated and heard. Of course, if you have any concerns about your cat’s behavior, you can always reach out to a Pawp veterinarian. The 24/7 Pawp telehealth vets can help you figure out why your cat is purring or answer any questions you might have, any time of the day or night. 

Cat Purring Sources:

Why Do Cats Purr? NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine Behavior Expert Explains | NC State Veterinary Medicine  

Why Do Cats Purr? | SiOWfa14 Science in Our World: Certainty and Cont | PSU  

Cats that Lick Too Much | Cornell  

Why Do Cats Purr? - Science in Our World: Certainty & Controversy | PSU 

Reading your cat's “body language” Score Body Postures Head Postures | OSU  

Why do cats purr? | Scientific American

Felidae | NCBI

The Conversation: Why Do Cats Knead with Their Paws? | University of Tennessee

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