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Why Do Cats Purr?

Relaxed, happy and content, you must have felt your cat gently vibrating in its favourite sleeping spot. If your cat comes and snuggles into your lap whilst purring fervently you can take it as being a sign of affection and comfort.

A lovely young tabby cat enjoying being stroked by its owner
A lovely young tabby cat enjoying being stroked by its owner

  • It is believed that purring originally starts in kittens as a way to tell their mother that they are happy and healthy. This is because a kitten can purr and suckle at the same time whereas they cannot meow.

  • Other reasons a cat may purr is if they are stressed or meeting a new cat. Some cats may purr at the vets or if they are in pain, this may be attempting to relax themselves. Other cats will purr when they meet a new cat and wish to give off a friendly, non-aggressive vibe.

  • One theory is that turbulence in the bloodstream causes a vibration in the chest and windpipe, which causes resonation in the sinus cavities of the skull. Another theory suggests that the muscles of the diaphragm and larynx contract out of phase causing the purr vibration. A third theory, that is backed up by scientific studies, suggests that cats use the vocal folds and muscles on the larynx to alternately dilate and constrict the glottis (the opening between the vocal chords and upper part of the larynx). This causes the air to vibrate which produces the purr sound.

  • It is believed that cats purr when they are relaxed and happy, however purring isn’t restricted to happiness. Cats also purr as a way of self soothing in stressful situations, or when they are hurt. Some scientists believe that the frequency of a purr (26 Hertz) promotes tissue regeneration, and that when cats purr they are healing themselves or strengthening bones. Your cat may purr when she is hungry (usually louder purring), and dominant cats will sometimes purr when approaching a submissive cat to signal they come in peace.

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