Cat purring is both voluntary and instinctive. It is most commonly associated with feelings of pleasure and comfort. However, studies suggest that it is also used for communication and self-healing, among other factors. But why do cats purr at any given time?
As a licensed vet and a cat enthusiast, I spent 90+ hours noting my experiences, questioning cat owners at my clinic, and reading several pieces of research. This helped me compile a list of the 8 most common reasons cats purr.
I have also mentioned a hack to know what is causing your cat to purr at any given time. Additionally, I answered questions I frequently get asked about your cat’s purring in any particular situation.
WHY DO CATS PURR – 8 Most Common Reasons:
Some people associate purring with big cats or domestic cats only. There’s also a myth that cat’s may purr only when they see some extra terrestrial beings unkown to human eye lol!
Purring may mean 8 of the below mentioned things:
1) They Are Happy
It is well known that purring among cats is usually associated with pleasure. They tend to use it as a special way of expressing gratitude when they receive love and affection. When cats purr, they release certain hormones called endorphins. Such hormones associate with feelings of happiness, comfort, and social connections.
2) They Are Hungry
Purring around feeding time is very common among cats. It is related to the feelings of content they experience when they eat, which will stimulate at the scheduled meal time. Moreover, cats may use this technique when hungry to gain their owner’s empathy. They use a mixture of signals, including meowing and purrs, to attract their owner’s attention.
3) Kitten-Mother Connection
Cats also purr to developed a form of communication. It mostly occurs when the mother is nursing. Interestingly, the kittens also purr when nursed to stimulate their mother’s milk flow. It is also a communication route used more than meowing that enhances the mother-kitten relationship.
4) Self Healing and Relief
Endorphins released during purring tend to relieve sensations of pain and swelling, discomfort, and stress. Thus are powerful aids in the process of healing. Hence cats make purring sounds after a visit to vet sometimes to make them feel better.
Additionally, Studies have shown that purring vibrations induce a strong bone-healing effect. Purring is not only thought to be therapeutic for cats themselves but also us humans.
5) Stress and Anxiousness
Surprisingly, cat’s also purr with feelings of anxiety and stress. But cats purring when nervous is an adaptive, intelligent mechanism to overcome their anxiety. Signaling chemicals-endorphins- released during purring naturally combat feelings of fear, discomfort, and anxiety.
6) Communication With Other Cats
As it is one of their vocalization techniques, cat’s purr is often used for communication among cats. It is not their main connection route but promotes welcoming and warm behavior.
7) Demanding Something From You
If your cat is purring, it’s likely trying to grab your attention. But, again, purring stimulates feelings of comfort, which radiates to us humans. Thus, making us more empathetic towards our cats and complying with what they are asking.
8) Disease-Related Purring
It can occur due to asthma, respiratory infections, or allergies. See “Disease-related purring” below to know how cats purr in such situations.
Quick Hack – How to Detect Why Your Cat is Purring At Any Given Time?
Cat purring can sometimes make cat parents really concerned. Knowing exactly why your cat is purring would make you feel more relaxed and enable you to address the wants and needs of your cat accordingly.
Assess the ongoing events where your cat tends to purr. Purring sounds are low frequency noises that sometimes indicate the presence of stress or a physiological health issue.
- Hyperventilation (Rapid/Deep Breathing)
- Dilation of pupils
- An alert body
These 2 types of cat purring are associated with respiratory signs (nasal discharge).
- Loud purring
- Thick purring
A Purring behavior presented in other situations can be detected as feelings of relief and happiness.
Other vocalization techniques, like meowing and hissing, indicate different psychological states among cats.
Most common questions related to cats purring:
How do cats purr?
Nervous system stimulating signals sent to the laryngeal and diaphragmatic muscles induce the purring sound as the cat inhales and exhales.
How & When do cats learn to purr?
Kittens do not learn the purring activity but are instinctively born with it. It is a natural behavior exhibited a few days after birth and used for communication with the mother.
Why do cats purr when you stroke them?
Feelings of comfort and joy stimulated while being petted induces the purring.
Why do cats purr when they are dying?
Purring is sometimes used as a mechanism to fight discomfort. Therefore a dying cat will most likely try to relieve itself from pain or agony by purring.
Why do cats purr loudly?
Loud purrs can be an indication of the presence of respiratory disease.
Why do cats purr when they sleep?
Feelings of safety and comfort are a reason for purring during sleep.
Why do cats purr and then bite you?
Petting can overstimulate or overexcite your cat, thus causing friendly biting reactions.
What is Cat purring’s effect on humans?
As purring relieves cats themselves, it also relieves humans. It provides them with a sense of affection and relaxation. In addition, it may stimulate a similar release of endorphins among humans.
Can cats purr heal humans?
Frequent and soft vibrations released by cat purrs stimulate bone regeneration. However, this can never be considered a primary healing factor for humans.
The Bottom Line
Several different reasons can induce purring activity among cats. Purring is related to comfort induction and is a mechanism cats use during happiness and stress. Therefore, detecting these purrs is essential to determine if your cat is happy or needs immediate attention.
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