Why Do Cats Purr?

Why do cats purr? It's one of the most frequently asked questions in Internet searches, and I can see why - it's a very strange and unique thing to do. Most people assume that cats purr only when they're happy. Is this true, or are there other reasons? This page will tell you. However, first I thought you might like to meet Smokey, who purrs rather loudly...loud enough, in fact, to get into the Guinness book of Records.

It's fairly widely accepted and understood that cats purr when they're happy and contented. This is undoubtedly true, but there are also other reasons which are less obvious and may just surprise you!

Purring for Kittens

When kittens are very young, they can't see, and they can't smell or hear very well. You'll notice that nursing mother cats purr a lot. This is because the vibrations from her purring allow the kittens to find her more easily when they can hardly see her or hear her.

It's also thought that the mother's purring acts as reassurance for the kittens. She's letting them know that she's friendly, happy, there for them and ready for nursing them.

Memories of Very Early Days

Why do cats purr? Memories of early kittenhood may well be one of the main reasons that cats purr throughought their lives - it's taking them back to the time when they were with their mother, and gives them both pleasure and reassurance. If you've ever observed a cat kneading, where they are imitating getting milk from their mother, this is usually accompanied by loud purring - again signalling pleasure and memories of their very early days - awww!

Here's a video of a cat kneading and purring - note the look of sheer relaxation and pleasure!

Reassurance for Themselves

It's said that cats sometimes purr when they are feeling anxious, ill, or even when they are in pain or dying. Cat purring is sometimes an act of reassurance for Kitty herself. She associates it with nice experiences, so purring when she's feeling sick, stressed, in pain or even dying, helps her to feel calmer.

I've never seen a cat in a lot of pain purr, and I've only seen sick and dying cats purr when they've been made relatively comfortable. If Kitty is relatively comfortable and calm, she may purr to de-stress herself, but if she's under a lot of stress and / or in a lot of pain, I believe that takes over and she'll be less likely to purr.

Reassurance for Humans

Why do cats purr when their owners are unhappy? I've noticed, with absolute consistency over the years, that my cats rush to my side when I'm upset. They get really close to me and purr. Some seem to even have a sixth sense, so even if I'm not outwardly upset but inwardly something is bothering me, they'll come up, settle themselves down and purr like mad.

I believe that again, this is an act of reassurance, but this time it's for me. It's like they're saying "We know you're upset, but we're here for you." I find it incredibly touching, and it reminds me how clever and caring our feline companions really are.

Other Reasons

happy relaxed ginger cat

More reasons Kitty may purr include if she's:

  • Acknowledging she likes you and wants to be your friend
  • Telling you she's friendly
  • Over the moon about something
  • Enjoying her food
  • Settling down for a sleep
  • Having a nice dream
  • Pleased to see you
  • Playing and enjoying herself
  • Basking in the sun
  • Being groomed by another cat (or even the dog!)
  • Being generally fussed over!

So, why do cats purr? I believe it's for a variety of reasons, based on the circumstances at the time. I think cat purring is mostly associated with positive experiences in Kitty's life. Purring during negative experiences is, I believe, Kitty's way of trying to make herself feel better.

Please click on this link if you're interested in how cats purr.

Go from why do cats purr page to cat sounds page

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