Why do cats purr?

Believe it or not, a cat’s purr isn’t just indicative of happiness! Here’s a few additional reasons why your kitty might be purring.

Everyone knows that cats purr. Most people think that a purring cat is simply a happy cat, but is this always true? In fact, cats purr for several different reasons. Let’s take a look at a few of them!

Common reasons cats purr

Cats purr when then they’re happy, obviously. But they also purr when they’re frightened or sometimes even if they’re ill. I’ve met many unfortunate cats who have been hit by cars. Very often, they’re purring by the time they get to the clinic.

However, cats also purr for a number of positive reasons.

Happiness

Happiness is probably the most common reason cats purr. If you own a cat, you’ll have experienced the pleasant vibration cats make as they sit on you, or as you stroke them.

You can tell when a cat is purring out of happiness. They relax and half-close their eyes. They usually keep their tail mostly still. This kind of purring has been described as “the sound of a cat smiling”.

Communication

Cats also purr to communicate with other cats and humans. Purring is a low volume and frequency sound, and sounds like this are associated with positive social situations in mammals.

Cats start to purr as tiny kittens, only a few days old. It is believed that they do this to communicate with their mother and help her find them to feed them.

Some cats continue to purr to ask for food into adulthood! Cats actually have two different types of purrs. One is their “regular” purr, the other is called a “solicitation” purr.

Cats use solicitation purrs specifically to communicate with humans. Solicitation purrs are a higher pitch than regular purrs. They are actually a similar frequency to a human baby’s cry. Noises in this frequency are hard for humans to ignore.

This means that cats are manipulating us! They use solicitation purrs to subconsciously manipulate their owners into feeding and looking after them!

Self soothing

Cats enjoy purring. So they purr not just because they are happy, they also purr if they want to feel better.

This is why cats will purr even when they’re frightened or stressed. They are trying to make themselves feel better and braver.

Healing

A very interesting theory about purring is that cats purr to increase their healing rate. Research has shown that vibrations of the same frequencies as cat purring cause bones and wounds to heal faster, and also provides pain relief.

It is thought that cats may have evolved this ability because of the way they hunt. Cats spend a lot of time not doing much – they are ambush hunters. Unfortunately, prolonged inactivity causes reduced bone density. The vibrations from purring may keep cats’ bones strong.

NASA is actually researching how to use a similar technology for astronauts on the international space station!

Final thoughts

Cats don’t just purr when they’re happy. Next time you hear your cat purring, have a think about what they might be saying to you.