Why Do Cats Purr? The How and Why of Cat Purring

It can be a fuzzy moment when your feline friend jumps up into your lap and begins to purr – they are content and you feel relaxed too. Sometimes as cat owners, we love nothing more than to just curl up on the sofa with our furry buddy and share some quality time with them – bliss! It becomes even more of a pleasure when they come at times of need – when you are feeling low or mildly sick. It is almost as if they read your thoughts and offer their love and affection. The sound of the purr can vary between cats – sometimes we can hardly hear it, but still feel the vibrations, whereas in other cats the sound is very clear …one of my cats sounds like a rusty gate when she gets going. The big question is though – why do cats purr?

One veterinarian, who went on to write a book about cat behavior, suggests that purring begins as a kitten when they communicate with the mother. It is their way of telling the mother that they are feeling well and happy. The mother will then respond in the same manner to let them know that she is there for them.

This is not the only theory though and there remains some debate on the topic. What we have been told by leading professionals in cat behavioral studies, is that purring is just one of the sounds produced whilst a cat has its mouth closed. Cats also produce grunting sounds and murmurs which act as a form of acknowledgment. All cats, even inclusive of some wild cats, can purr.

When a cat is no longer a kitten, they will still use purring as a form of communication. Most of the time it is communicating with its owner or other pets within the household, to let them know they are in a happy state and experiencing pleasure. Sometimes however, a cat purrs when it is faced with danger or even sickness. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for a pregnant cat to purr whilst delivering her young, or taking care of them. Rather unusual on first thought, but a cat that is nearing the end of their life may also purr. It is not certain if this is due to fear of dying or a state of euphoria – which is also known in humans close to death.

Interestingly, the reason behind a cats purr while in stressful situations is thought to be very similar to when we might sing or whistle when we are anxious. For them, as it is for us, the sound produced is to take their mind off their predicament and try to reassure themselves! It might also be that they are offering peace to another, more aggressive cat.

More recently, further studies of the behavior of cats; have suggested that the happy hormones endorphins are the answer to why cats purr. As we may know, endorphins are released every time we experience extreme pain or pleasure – this would offer some sense to why cats purr in both difficult situations and more pleasurable ones.