Nothing is more adorable than a happy cat curled up purring in your lap. But how does a cat purr work exactly? And why do they do it? Read our guide to find out!

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How Do Cats Purr?

When a cat purrs, the brain sends a signal to the laryngeal muscles and they start to vibrate. As air passes through them, you hear the soft purring sound. What’s interesting, is that cats purr both as they breath out and in. They can literally go on forever.

Do All Cats Purr?

No, not all cats purr. Most big cats, like lions, tigers and leopards, don’t purr. They do growl, however, which is something your house cat can’t do. Domestic cats, wild cats, ocelots, lynxes and even pumas all do purr, but don’t growl.

So, in general: if it growls, it doesn’t purr. If it purrs, it doesn’t growl.

Can Cats Control When They Purr?

As of yet, researchers haven’t been able to figure out whether purring happens voluntarily or not. Some believe that cats initiate the purr through a neural signal sent to the brain. Others believe that the action is initiated within the brain by either a neural oscillator or a rush of endorphins to the system.

Why Do Cats Purr?

The first and foremost reason that a cat purrs is to express joy or contentment. In most cases when your cat purrs, it means that she is satisfied and wants you to know it. Just enjoy the soothing sound as a reward for your love and care.

Cats start to purr when they are tiny kittens nursing with their mother. The soft purrs as they are suckling her teats is their way to let mommy know everything is good.

Another reason for cats purring is one you might not expect. Cats purr not just when they are happy, but also when they are sad, in pain or injured. In a situation like this, the purring has a soothing effect and helps them to stay calm.

Researchers have also found that the vibrations of a purr can speed up healing processes and increase bone density. Studies show that cats heal from fractures much faster than dogs and humans, which is thought to be related to this unique ability.

Why Do Cats Purr When They Sleep?

If your cat purrs while she is sleeping, take a minute to enjoy the cuteness. She is probably having a really nice dream.

There’s also a chance that she isn’t sleeping at all. Cats spend only about 25% of their napping hours in a deep sleep. The rest of the time they are in a light sleep or even just resting their eyes. She likely knows you are there and feels safe having you around.

Why Do Cats Purr When You Pet Them?

Similarly, your cat can start purring when you pet her. If she seems receptive to the attention, smelling your hand, maybe reaching for it with her furry little head, you can be sure she is enjoying getting some love from you.

On the other hand, if she looks to be ignoring you and retreating completely into her own world, it could be a sign of pain. Take a step back and look at her body language. Does she look comfortable? Are her eyes small and soft, or wide open and dilated? Are her ears pointing forward, or laying flat against her head? In the latter case, take your cat to the vet to make sure she is okay.

Why Does My Cat Purr And Then Bite Me?

Cats have a lot of nerves running down their spine. Whenever you run your hand along your cat’s back all of these nerves get stimulated. Repeatedly petting your cat sort of works like charging a battery. Energy rises with every stroke, until your cat can’t contain it anymore and lashes out at you. This is usually just a momentary freak out, but not a good experience either way.

You can prevent a kitty overload by adjusting the way you pet her. Instead of going all the way down her back in one motion, break it up in smaller, slower strokes. Cats also find it super relaxing to be stroked on the cheek and neck.

If she starts flapping her tail, puts her ears back or starts to stare at your hand, call it a day. She has had enough and is about to pounce. Always try to end any interaction with your cat on a positive note.

Why Do Cats Purr When They Eat?

Most cats are highly motivated by food, but can be picky about what they eat. Some meals, no matter how carefully selected, will be met with disinterest and maybe even a snub. But when you get it right and manage to find the right thing to tickle her taste buds, she will let you know. Not only will she eat every little piece, she will do it with a content purr.

Why Does My Cat Purr So Loud?

If your cat purrs a bit louder than usual, she is probably just extra happy. Whatever you are doing, keep it up!

A cat’s purr can get louder as they grow older. If it happens all the time and sounds more like snoring than purring, it could be a sign of infection or damage to the respiratory system. Keep an eye on your cat’s breathing and take her in for a check-up if it has you worried.

Why Does My Cat Purr All The Time?

Generally speaking, there are only two reasons for cats purring: happiness or stress. This implies that a cat that is purring all the time is either very happy, or highly stressed out. Which of the two is the case for your cat depends on the rest of her behavior.

Is she affectionately rubbing up against you, looking at you with soft eyes and just strutting around confidently? Then she’s a happy cat, indeed.

Is she huddled away in a corner, not interacting with you much or even running away when you approach her? Those are all signs that you are dealing with a stressed out kitty. Stress can be caused by many things, including illness. Consult our guide on feline stress versus illness to help you determine whether your cat’s problems are mental or physical.

Why Does My Cat Purr When She Sees Me?

Cats are sensitive creatures that are very open to bonding with their humans. And why wouldn’t they be? You are pretty much their entire world, feeding them and caring for them. If you’ve been out all day going to work or out with your friends, your cat is at home alone waiting for you. She will likely spend most of this time sleeping.

When you finally walk through the door, she gets a jolt of energy and excitement because she is just so happy to see you! She’ll be purring and rubbing up against your leg to reconfirm your bond.

Does Cat Purring Have An Effect On Humans?

The frequency of a cat’s purr ranges from 25 to 150 Hertz. The purr is strongest at 25 and 50 Hertz, which happen to be the frequencies that have proven to be the most healing to human bones. This has led researchers and product manufacturers to think there might be something to harnessing this power for our own health, as suggested by this patent for a cat purr-like armband.

If that all sounds like science fiction to you, you’ll be glad to know that there are further benefits to cats purring. The low frequency sound is very soothing to listen to and has a meditative quality that can lift you up, just as it does her. Many studies have shown that taking care of cats has a positive effect on mental health and reduces stress hormones.

So next time you want to order kitty off the bed because she’s purring too loudly, give her another cuddle and thank her for keeping you healthy!