Why Do Cats Purr? And How Do They Do It?

Purring is one of the most distinctive sounds a cat can make, and one of the least understood.

Why Do Cats Purr? And How Do They Do It?

Although we don’t know for sure why cats purr, we know that it’s a form of communication used by cats to calm themselves, reassure others, and maybe even express themselves.

So today, we’re going to look at how cats purr, and why they do it.

How Do Cats Purr?

The sound of a cat purring is a little bit like the purring of a cat engine. Cats purr by moving the muscles of their larynx in a specific way, which causes the vocal cords to vibrate.

how do cats purr

The speed of the vibrations determines the tone of the purring. Cats can purr at a frequency anywhere from 25 to 150 Hertz (Hz) with an average of about 100 Hz in the domestic cat.

Why Do Cats Purr?

It isn’t known exactly why cats purr. It is believed it is a way for cats to reassure themselves or to calm themselves down. It is also believed that cats purr to communicate with humans.

purring cat

Here are a few reasons why your cat might be purring:

A Purring Cat May Be In Need Of Attention

So if your cat is purring a lot, it is most likely that they are trying to get your attention.

cat attention

Studies suggest that a cat’s purr is a solicitation purr, which means it is intended to attract attention and care from its owner. It is a signal to its owner that the cat is in need of something, whether it is food or attention.

The solicitation purr is often accompanied by a head-to-tail wag of the cat’s tail. To your cat, this solicitation purr conveys: I need something; I want something; I want you to come here.

In response to this solicitation purring, a human companion is more likely to respond with the cat’s favorite reward: petting and stroking of the cat’s head, back, and sides.

This can make the cat feel as if he or she is the center of attention, and makes the cat feel very loved.

Cats Purr to Attract Their Kittens

One of the big reasons why cats purr is because they are trying to communicate with their kittens. Purring is a way for a mother cat to call her kittens to her.

cat with kitten

As kittens are born blind and deaf, they rely entirely on their mother’s vocalizations and smell to help them find their mother, to feed them, and to keep them warm.

If A Cat Is Blissful, It Purrs

A cat sometimes purrs when they are content.

happy cat

It helps them to relax and feel comfortable. The vibration of the purr helps the cat to push out all the tense of its body.

They often have a purr when they are content, and it will be like a one-way communication between the cat and its owner. 

Distress Can Lead to Purring

Some cats can purr when they are in pain or distress as if they are trying to reassure themselves.

cat vs dog

This purring is a form of self-soothing, which may indicate that your kitty is suffering from anxiety or depression. This purring can also happen when a cat is experiencing some sort of physical discomfort.

Purring Promotes Healing

Purring is what cats do when they’re healing from an injury.

cat sitting

This behavior is instinctual and it’s intended to keep the feline calm, stable and reduce the risk of infection. When a cat purrs, they are generating a low-frequency vibration that is transmitted through the bones of its chest.

This frequency is in the range of 25-150Hz and is linked to a state of relaxation and a reduction in stress.

Several studies have shown that these frequencies can also support your cat’s muscle growth, flexibility, and wound healing.

How Can You Determine Why Your Cat Is Purring?

All cat owners want to know why their cats purr, and whether or not this behavior is normal. You can determine why your cat is purring by asking these questions: Is your cat purring because he feels safe and secure in your presence?

Is your cat purring because he is hungry? Is your cat purring because he needs something from you? Is your cat purring because he is happy? Is your cat’s purring a sign that he is afraid? Is your cat purring because he feels pain?

Since cats cannot speak, humans must use their own experience and intuition and try to figure out what the cat is trying to communicate by his purring, or if his purring is even significant.

Why Doesn’t My Cat Purr?

If your cat doesn’t purr loudly enough for you to hear, he may be trying to tell you something else with his body language or facial expressions. Or perhaps he has a vocal cord or respiratory problem that inhibits him from purring loudly enough for you to hear.

a cat stressed

You can watch your cat’s behavior and body language to try to determine whether he’s hungry, stressed, in pain, or trying to tell you something. If you’re not sure, ask your vet.

It is noted that kittens born to feral mothers, tend not to purr as much as kittens born to a mother who was not feral. This is due to the fact that feral mothers teach their kittens to hiss, growl, and spit. When the kittens are taken from the feral mother, they learn to communicate with humans through purring and not hissing and growling.

Do Any Other Types Of Cat Purr?

Most large cats, such as lions, jaguars, and leopards, do not purr. Only the small cats, such as house cats do.


The reason for this is that purring is a way for small cats to communicate with each other, and the large cats have different methods of communication such as roaring.

At What Age Do Cats Begin Purring

Kittens usually start to purr when they are around 3 weeks old. Before that, they communicate through small mews.

cute kitten

The purring tends to get more louder and frequent once they start to walk around and play.

The purring is likely to express contentment, or even frustration, after playtime. The purring is also likely to be heard when something startles them at night.

Why Do Cats Purr While Sleeping?

The most likely reason why they sometimes purr during sleep is simple.

sleeping cat

They are dreaming.

Just like when they are awake, the reasons for their purring could be that they are dreaming about hunting, chasing, playing, being with their owner, or even eating.

How Do Cats Purr While Eating

Just like us, cats need the use of their mouth, teeth, and esophagus to eat.

cat eating

As purring occurs in the larynx, they are able to happily purr away while eating and drinking.