Skip to main content

What Does It Mean When A Cat Purrs?

What does it mean when a cat purrs? A purr is the sound produced vocally by all forms of feline and is an integral part of communication for cats.but why DO cats purr in the first place?

The purr itself varies between different species and breed of cat, in terms of tone, decibels (loudness), amplitude, and frequency.  Domesticated cats purr at roughly 30 to 170 vibrations/sec, while the purr of larger felines vibrates at a much lower (deeper) frequency.

While these and other statistics are well documented, the actual mechanism used by cats to purr remains something of a mystery.  Interestingly, cats are the only mammal known to produce the unique sound of the purr, but they possess no unique body part, internally or externally, that could be associated or deemed responsible for the purr.

What does it mean when a Cat purrs?


Some theorize that the purr is produce by the muscle folds of the larnyx that constrict and un-constrict very, very rapidly, and the vibrations of air being inhaled and exhaled cause the undulating sound.

Also unproven and still of a speculative nature is the exact reason why cats purr.  Cats seem to purr under a variety of circumstances and in many differing scenarios, further muddling the question.  For example, cats not only purr when relaxed, happy, comfortable, and content (conditions we normally associate with purring), but sometimes also:

  • while giving birth
  • when injured
  • when sick
  • while dying


Researchers speculate that purring may have developed as a method for cats to communicate to their offspring, especially while nursing.  From that, it further evolved into a general signal of non-aggression to specify to potential enemies a friendly or submissive intent.  

Obviously, from a survival standpoint, a cat’s ability to potentially diffuse a confrontation with a dangerous rival via this mechanism would be very valuable.  Some also theorize that the act of purring releases a specific hormonal compound in the cat’s brain that may serve as a natural pain suppressor.

Further, cats as pets have learned to use the purr as a way to communicate with their human caretakers. Studies have shown that as the relationship between a human and their cat progresses, the owner inadvertently comes to learn what their cat specifically needs/ wants by associating the different frequencies of purrs in different contexts.  In other words, the cat has trained you vocally!

Why do some cats purr louder than others?

Why do cats purr loudly sometimes, and others, not?  The answer, it seems, is physiology.  Why do some people talk louder than others?  Why do some people have deep voices, while others a re shrill?  It is the same with cats.

Cats are born with differing physical attributes, just as people.  Usually it is genetic, but environment and nutrition also play a role.  Also, cats have differing personalities and psychologies, and as the cats purr is often an emotional response and indicator, your cats overall mood and outlook affect the frequency and intensity of how the cat purrs.

It is always important to maintain a happy cat lifestyle to maintain a happy cat purr. Ensure that your kitty has plenty of toys and attention, and that they are content with their food type and supply.


So next time your cat is purring, trust your instincts, especially if you have a deep relationship with the cat in question you've been trained well!

Comments