Exploring the mystery behind this distinctly feline behavior.
Every Pet Parent of a cat knows the sound: a low, rumbling vibration that our feline friends make as they lie in the sun or get scratched under the chin. A cat’s purr is one of the more mysterious behaviors that a feline exhibits — nobody knows exactly what its purpose is. There are some very interesting theories though, and we break down a few of them here.
One theory behind purring is one that most Pet Parents would agree with — it could be a sign that your cat is happy! If your cat is purring while she’s lounging and relaxed, or when you’re cuddling on the couch, chances are she’s telling you she’s happy and at ease.
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Researchers have observed that when cats are hungry, their purrs take on a different sound. Hungry purrs might also be mixed in with a cry that Pet Parents may be more likely to pay attention to.
Stress or fear
“Even though purrs can be a sign of happiness, cats also purr when they are feeling stressed or frightened. You might notice your furry friend purring at a visit to the veterinarian or when she’s nervous or agitated.”
— Dr. Vickie Carmella, Director of Veterinary Scientific Affairs, Blue Buffalo
Purring might be a way for your cat to soothe herself. Mama cats purr to soothe their kittens, and kittens purr while they nurse — kittens learn to purr by the time they’re two days old! Purring might also be a way to show deference and submission to their people or other cats.
Scientists and researchers who have studied cat purrs have found that the frequency of the purr (between 25 and 150 hertz) is an ideal range for improving bone density and promoting healing. So, the purr might (amazingly) be something felines use to help their bodies heal when they’re injured!
All of these reasons for purring may be valid. Like meowing, this behavior seems to serve more than one purpose for cats. While nobody knows exactly why a cat purrs, one thing is certain: It is an amazing example of communication and function unique to our favorite felines!