Why Do Cats Purr?

Purring is one of the most delightful things about cats and also one that makes them unique as animals and pets. Feeling a cat purr when you pet it is probably one of the best feelings in the world.

We all enjoy the cozy atmosphere it creates, but why do cats purr? How does it happen, and, most importantly, what does it mean when they do it?

We’ve made a list of the most frequently asked questions about purring and we hope to unravel all the mysteries behind this delightful phenomenon.

Blue Lynx Mitted Ragdoll cat Trigg hamming it up on the bed IMG_6591

What is purring?

Is purring a noise? Is purring a feeling? The answer is both. Purring is a vibration that cats can create inside of their voice boxes with very rapid movements.

It all starts with a signal from the nervous system, which then goes to the muscles in the voice box causing them to tighten and release rapidly as the cat inhales and exhales, thus creating the vibration we can feel and hear.

Purring is an important means of communication between kittens and their mother. Right after they are born, kittens can’t yet see or hear anything, so purring is their mother’s way of letting them know where she is and where they should go for food and water.

Blue Lynx Mitted Ragdoll Cat Trigg upside down on a bed IMG_8609

They feel the vibration and come towards it and then, they respond with purring to let their mother know that they are ok.

This is one of the central elements that could explain the role and purpose of purring. From this early age, they associate purring with a pleasant activity – drinking milk from their mother, being cuddled and washed by their mother.

Based on this association, cats will purr as adults during various moments that they find pleasurable.

Another purpose of purring is establishing a line of communication. Kittens also purr when they want to get their mother’s attention because they are hungry or not feeling well.

This is also something that cats continue to do later on during their lives. So, purring may be a sign that they need attention, that they are in trouble.

Seal mitted Ragdoll cat Caymus bathing pause IMG_5928

Does a cat’s purr promote healing?

Yes, it does. And it’s all connected to the frequency of the vibration. Purring has been measured to be between 25 and 140 Hz, which is a frequency that promotes healing in broken bones, cell and dermal regeneration, and joint and tendon repair.

The vibration is beneficial for the cat, which is why cats are renowned for their ability to heal quickly after orthopedic problems.

But it is also beneficial for other animals or the humans who are close to the purring. So, if a cat purrs on you, the effect of the frequency is also transferred onto you.


Why do cats purr when they are sick?

The beneficial effects of the vibration in the purring can help cats through virtually any health issue they might be facing. So, when they are sick, they purr to make themselves feel better.

It is all instinctual, so they will know how to do it when the time comes. On the other hand, if you notice your cat purring for an extensive amount of time, then you may want to take it to the doctor for a checkup because it might its way of letting you know that something hurts.

Does purring help humans?

Yes, it does. When a cat purrs on you, the effect of the vibration is transferred onto you. As such, it will help your wounds, broken bones, or joint problems heal faster as well.

Blue Lynx Mitted Ragdoll cat Trigg profile in chair IMG_4823

Aside from that, the frequency spectrum of purring also has a calming effect on humans. It has been proven that cat owners are significantly less likely to develop stress-related health problems (cardiologic issues or anxiety) because they get a chance to unwind with their cats.

How does purring in cats affect humans?

The overall effect that purring has on humans is a calming one. When a cat purrs while you are petting it, it is very easy to build a connection with the animal. You don’t have to be a cat owner to build such a connection.

This is why cats have been used in some hospitals or other health facilities to lift the patients’ morale. Cats are excellent pets because the connection they have with their owners is a very strong one. In fact, getting pet cats has proven to be extremely helpful for people suffering from depression.

Why do cats purr and knead?

Both purring and kneading are things that cats learn from their mothers after they are born. Both of these behavioral patterns are deeply connected to a kitten’s feeding process.

Caymus Heaven

The kittens communicate with their mother through purring, which also calms them down while feeding. As for the kneading, the kittens do this instinctively. They knead the area around their mother’s tit while feeding to stimulate milk production in the mammary gland.

Moreover, the effects of the vibration in the purring also contribute to this, thus linking these two behavioral patterns.

What does it mean when a cat is purring?

While purring can mean a number of things in cats, in most cases it means that the cat is having a positive experience. However, it can also mean that it is not feeling well, that it is in a convalescence period, or that it is angry.

If you want to understand what your cat is trying to tell you though its purring, you have to pay attention to the entire context. See what’s happening while it is purring and after that. This way, you will learn to interpret its various purring patterns.


Does a cat purring mean its happy?

In the vast majority of cases, yes, it does. Cats purr when they feel safe, loved, excited, grateful, or happy.

You may hear your cat purring when you come home from work, when you are about to go to sleep, when you are petting it, when you are about to feed it, or during other moments that it enjoys.

Why do cats purr when you stroke them?

Your cat purrs when you stroke it because it is enjoying itself and it wants you to know it. This is a moment of closeness between you and your cat, which makes it feel safe and loved, as it did when its mother was nursing it as a kitten.

Ragdoll Cat Murphy as an adult

So, it will respond with purring to this. Moreover, cats purr louder when their masters pet them compared to when other people do it. This happens because the connection they have with their masters is far more intense.

Why do cats purr and then bite you?

This usually happens while you are petting the cat. Even though it seems to be enjoying the moment, it suddenly starts biting at your hand. The biting is a sign that the cat is no longer enjoying the petting.

In fact, cats can get hyperexcited as you are purring them and this is an unpleasant feeling, which is why they will bite you to let you know that you have to stop. To prevent this from happening, you should learn your cat’s petting habits.

See how much petting it enjoys and learn to stop before the pleasure turns into pain for it. You can also try stopping periodically. If your cat wants you to keep petting it, rest assured that it will let you know.

Why do cats purr when they sleep?

Cats can purr when they sleep because they are having a pleasant dream or simply because they are in a very comfortable position.

If you notice your cat purring on its own while sleeping, it is most likely because it is having a very nice dream. Just like people sometimes talk in their sleep or smile or laugh while they are dreaming, cats purr.

Why do cats purr at night?

Cats often purr at night because they are happy to finally be close to their masters. If you usually sleep with your cat, it certainly enjoys the closeness you have just as much as you are.

So it purrs to get even closer to you, to let you know that it really likes it. Sometimes, cats jump into bed even before you do and start purring and kneading on the blanket.

This is a sign that it is very excited to be sleeping next to you. As for the rest of purring, it is a sign that being close to you feels great. In fact, the sound of the cat’s purring might help you sleep better as well, so it is a mutually beneficial pattern.

Seal Mitted with a Blaze Ragdoll Cat Charlie on a bed IMG_8456

As you can see, there are many things that your cat is trying to tell you when it is purring. While in most cases, it is that it is happy and enjoying itself, there are some instances when the purring actually means that it is hurting or that it is in trouble.

We hope that the answers to these questions will help you get a better understanding of what your cat is trying to tell you when it is purring.

Do you have any purring stories you would like to share with us? When does your cat usually purr? Does your cat purr before you go to bed? Does it only purr when you pet it?

Tell us about your experiences with your cat’s purring in the comments section below so that we can find out more about this behavioral pattern together!

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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One Comment


    Our beautiful, silly, quirky Miss PSB purrs at bedtime, when greeting us for the day, anytime we pet her and during her snuggle & snoozy winkle time in our recliners with us. And, of course, during treat time & playtime. She's become a purring machine over the last few years! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle:) <3 <3 <3

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