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Secrets Behind Cat Purrs

Updated by Amy Granger on Jun 9, 2021

Domestic cats and wild cats belong to the family Felidae. Though they share many common traits, some characteristics are different from one to another. One of these features is purring. Domestic cats are the champions of purring. Apart from domestic cats, some wild cats and their near relatives such as civets, genets, mongooses can also purr. You might have heard this sound when you petted your furball and wondered how and why your cat "purr".

cat purr while sleep

Many scientists have proposed several mechanisms on this subject. Once, people thought that the purring sound is produced by a hemodynamic process in which the blood is surging through the cranial vena cava. However, recent studies have shown that the purr is produced by the intrinsic laryngeal muscles and the diaphragm, which help respiration.

Purr is usually produced during inspiration and expiration, though other vocalizations like meow sound are produced only during expiration. The laryngeal muscles open and close the glottis, which separates the vocal cords. As a result of that, the purring sound is produced. The neural oscillator in the cat's brain stimulates this movement of laryngeal muscles. Therefore, if there is laryngeal paralysis in the cat, the purr will be absent.

Almost every cat owner loves to hear the purring sound of their kitty. But, have you ever noticed that the cat only purrs sometimes? You might have heard that sound when you pet him, tickle him or when he is sleeping. Actually, a cat purr is a way of communication, like a human smiled or dog wags its tail. In most cases, purring is a sign of happiness, but sometimes cat purrs deliver an emotional response such as distress, indicative pain, etc. Moreover, some cats may purr when they are giving birth to baby kittens.

As a result, purring is more like a mechanism that helps cats rest and repair, and this might be a self-comforting behavior that can be seen in cats. The first purring occurs when the kittens are born a few days later, this is a sign of their presence which could encourage their mother to feed her babies. From then, cats will purr in different now and then, and that may contain different meanings.

No one can easily know why do cat purr. However, the studies done by some scientists and animal experts have suggested several reasons why a cat purr. They conclude that cat purr when they are happy, hungry, want for something, create a kitten mother connection, relief or healing.

cat purr for healing

They are happy

Take your furball to your lap and pet him; you might start to hear the purring sound. Sometimes, you might have heard your cat starts to purr when he seems to be relaxed, like lying on a couch or chair or on your lap, eyes half-closed and tail mostly still, your beloved kitty cat purrs when he stays in its happy place. A Joyful purr sound always comes out when he plays with you, plays with a toy, or even when you cuddle and tickle him. You can take that purr like a big smile, the louder the purring sound, the bigger the smile is.

They are hungry or want something

Most cats purr when during mealtime or food appear on their mind. Some British researchers have found that the cat purring sound made during their mealtime is different from those on other occasions. Cat combines its purr with an unpleasant cry or meow when it is hungry. That sound heard likes a human baby cried, yet it is too noisy and sometimes really annoying. Experts say this is what they respond to their starving conditions.

Kitten mother connection

Kittens gain the ability to purr when they are few days old. Kitten purrs to tell their mother that they are living fine. Similar to human beings, the cat mother makes a purring sound to let her kitten go to sleep, just like a human mother will sing a lullaby to her baby. Purring helps to create a special bond between the kitten and its mother.

Relief and healing

Purring requires energy as the contractions of muscles are involved in the process of purring, however, cats also purr when they are hurt or in pain or not feeling energetic. It is normal to see that children suck their thumbs when they are upset. So as to cats, they purr to soothe themselves and will let themselves feel better. Some studies have shown that purring assists cats in getting better.

Low frequency of purr initiates a series of related vibrations within a cat's body. These vibrations can heal bones and wounds, ease breathing, build muscles. repair tendons, reduce pain and swelling. This might explain why cats have fewer complications after surgeries than dogs and why cats can survive even though they fall from higher places.

Q1. Why do cats purring while sleeping?

Cats purr during their sleep is probably because he is dreaming. All mammals can dream while they are sleeping. When they reach the REM stage (Rapid Eye Movement) in the sleeping cycle, they might start dreaming. Cats express both good dreams and nightmares by purring. When getting nightmares, cats purr to release their stress or anxiety.

Q2. Why do cats purr and then bite you?

This is not an abnormal thing. Most cat owners call this a 'love bite', while others call this 'petting aggression'. If your cat bites you for no reason, it could probably because your cat is being overstimulated. Otherwise, you might be accidentally touched its painful joint.

Q3. How does purring in cats affect humans?

Purring can lower the stress hormones in humans, which will be helpful in healing, lowering blood pressure, and helping to cope with diseases. The frequency of the cat purr is 25-140Hz which is the same frequency that is used to heal broken bones, wounds, joint and tendon repair. A person with respiratory problems can breathe easily when a cat is nearby.

Q4. How do I get my cat to stop purring?

As I mentioned above, cats purr is a usual thing. Purring means your cat is happy and comfortable while living in your house. Also, cat purr helps to soothe our minds too. Therefore, it is better to let your cat purr.


In a nutshell, purr is not a weird thing appears on cats. Purring is a way of cats for expressing their emotions which produced by the contraction of the laryngeal muscles and the diaphragm during respiration. There are many reasons behind a cat's purr and it has many good impacts on human health too. Therefore, many people love the purring sound of their kittens.

Amy Granger
Amy is an editor from iPetor, owns a 4-year experience in writing tips and tutorial for users. As a pet owner, she will share more pets care methods and recommend more useful products for all pet owners.
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