What Makes Cats Purr?



Cats are known for their unique ability to purr. This delightful sound is often associated with contentment and relaxation. However, have you ever wondered what actually makes cats purr? In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of feline purring, delving into the reasons behind it and debunking some common myths.

The Physiology of Purring

Before we dive into the reasons behind purring, it’s important to understand the physiology behind this behavior. Purring is a result of the contraction and relaxation of a cat’s laryngeal muscles, combined with the movement of the diaphragm. This causes the vocal cords to vibrate, producing the characteristic purring sound.

The Frequency of Purring

Cats typically purr at a frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz (Hz). Interestingly, this falls within the range of frequencies that promote healing and tissue regeneration in humans. It is believed that the vibrations produced during purring may have a beneficial effect on a cat’s overall health and well-being.

Myths About Purring

There are several common misconceptions about why cats purr. Let’s debunk some of these myths:

Purring Means Happiness

While purring is often associated with contentment, cats can also purr when they are anxious, stressed, or in pain. It’s important to consider other behavioral cues and context to accurately interpret a cat’s purring.

Purring is Exclusive to Domestic Cats

Contrary to popular belief, purring is not exclusive to domestic cats. Big cats, such as lions and tigers, also have the ability to purr. However, they cannot roar and purr simultaneously due to differences in their vocal anatomy.

Reasons Behind Purring

Now that we have a better understanding of the mechanics of purring, let’s explore the various reasons why cats purr:

Contentment and Relaxation

One of the most common reasons cats purr is to express contentment and relaxation. Purring can be observed when a cat is being petted, cuddled, or simply enjoying a comfortable environment.

Bonding and Communication

Cats often purr as a means of bonding and communication. Mother cats purr to their kittens, creating a sense of security and comfort. Similarly, cats may purr to establish a bond with their human companions, conveying a sense of trust and affection.

Self-Soothing and Stress Relief

Cats may also purr as a self-soothing mechanism, especially when they are feeling stressed or anxious. The vibrations produced during purring have a calming effect on the cat, helping to alleviate feelings of distress.

Healing and Pain Relief

There is evidence to suggest that purring may have healing properties. The vibrations produced during purring are believed to promote the healing of bones, reduce pain and inflammation, and even aid in the recovery of muscle injuries.


Purring is a complex behavior that serves various purposes for cats. While it is often associated with contentment and relaxation, purring can also be a result of stress, anxiety, or pain. Understanding the reasons behind purring can help us better interpret a cat’s emotions and provide appropriate care and attention. So, next time you hear your furry friend purring, remember that there’s more to it than just a simple expression of happiness.

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