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Why Do Cats Purr?

24th Jul 2022

There’s nothing like the soft purr of a cat, especially when they’re curled up in your lap. But do cats only purr when they’re happy, and are all purrs the same? Read on to reveal the reasons for this interesting cat behavior.

The Science Behind the Sound

It’s been discovered that felines not only purr both voluntarily and instinctively, but they do so for more than one reason.

When they were a helpless kitten, your cat’s purr served a very important purpose: to maintain that essential kitten-mother connection. Kittens purr to remind the mother cat when to feed them, and to let her know where they are. Their purr accompanies them into adulthood, where its uses expand.

Various studies have revealed that domestic cats and big cats alike can:

  • Purr at different frequencies
  • Use their purr to communicate different things at different times
  • Combine their purr with concealed cries that elicit a desired response

Now that we know how cats use their purrs, let’s talk about why they purr.

Reasons Cats Purr

It’s true that a cat will purr for multiple reasons. How can you tell which reason is behind your cat’s purr? Observing what’s happening at the time and your cat’s reaction to it will tell you a lot.

Happiness

If your cat is curled up in a favorite spot or playing with a toy as they purr, you can be certain they are happy. Your cat may also purr when you brush them. Regardless, in this situation, a purr is their version of a big, happy smile.

Stress

Although it may seem ironic, stress is another reason why cats purr. But purring during stressful times is actually a way for your cat to help themselves calm down. Two ways to detect stress purring: your cat shows their teeth or pants while purring, or their purr is at a higher pitch than when they are content.

Needs

Purring is a very effective tool for the cat who wants something from you. For example, they may purr when it’s time to be fed. In fact, research has revealed that when cats purr at a higher pitch (called a “solicitation purr”), it makes their humans more likely to react and meet their needs, whether it’s mealtime or they just want you to interact with them.

Healing

Just as felines purr to calm themselves when stressed, they will also purr when injured or in pain. But in this case, their purr can actually help repair physical damage! The secret is in the frequency of their healing purr; it’s low enough to cause other vibrations in their bodies. Together, these can:

  • Reduce pain and inflammation
  • Repair tendons and build muscle
  • Make breathing easier
  • Heal wounds and bones

In fact, the assumption that a cat seems to survive the impossible or has “9 lives” may actually have its roots in their miraculous ability to self-heal.

Greeting

Your cat can also use their purr to communicate that it’s safe to approach. They may purr at you when you arrive home from work, and will also purr when they see a familiar cat. If your cat’s tail is straight up when they do this, you can be sure they’re saying, “Hello, it’s so nice to see you again!”

Why It’s Important to Recognize Different Purrs

With all of the reasons cats have for purring, recognizing different purrs is important for cat owners. Felines are notorious for hiding their illnesses and injuries; it’s a survival mechanism. Unfortunately, this can also mean that a cat’s illness has advanced beyond repair by the time their human sees that anything is amiss.

That being said, it’s a good idea to listen closely to your cat’s purrs, and maybe even record them. Note the differences between purrs for contentment, calming, healing or solicitation. Hearing something different doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat is ill, but knowing the difference can provide you with an early warning that something needs the attention of your vet.

Furniture That Keeps Cats Happy

Purring can be the sound of a happy and contented kitty. Keeping your cat healthy means providing them with lots of ways to stretch, exercise, rest and relieve stress. Armarkat cat furniture helps support all aspects of your kitty’s health.

We have over 180 amazing cat trees , beds and scratchers to choose from, so there’s one for every room and furbaby family, from one to multiple cat households. Browse our cat tree, scratcher and bed collections at the Armarkat online store today.