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Why Do Cats Purr?

For cat owners, sitting on the sofa with your cat curled up on your lap is the best feeling. But do you know why your cat purrs? It’s something a lot of cat owners wonder about and animal behaviourists want to understand. It’s true that cat's purr when they are happy and satisfied, but they also purr when they are unhappy or uncomfortable.

There are could be many reasons as to why cats purr. Kittens purr when they are just a few days old, researchers think they do this to communicate with their mother and tell them they are OK. It’s also likely to be a bonding behaviour between the mother and kitten.

Cats are blind when they are born, but their mother can guide them with the vibrations generated from purring. Purring is also a very quiet sound, so cats could have evolved this behaviour because it is more discreet than crying which might attract the attention of predators.

It’s not just domestic cats that purr, there are other wild cats that also purr. Cheetahs, Pumas and Bobcats also purr in their own way. Cats make a range of other sounds too such as meowing, hissing, growling and chirping but purring is one of the sounds we notice the most. It can be beneficial for both cats and humans as it is a very relaxing sound.

Scientists have been trying to work out exactly how cats purr for centuries. The most recent and likely theory is that they purr by using their diaphragm muscles and larynx while they are inhaling and exhaling. Here are some of the main reasons that cats might purr:

When they are feeling good

Purring could be a cat’s version of smiling. Dogs wag their tail when they are happy and cats purr. When you are stroking their cat and they respond by purring, it probably means they are enjoying it.

When they are hungry

Research has shown that cats have developed a specific purr for mealtimes. They have learn’t that humans can tell the difference between this purr and their standard one, and realise that they want to be fed. They know that if they purr it might help them get fed sooner.

When they are injured or in pain

Cats can also purr when they are experiencing discomfort and it can be self-soothing for them. It’s a natural healing mechanism, and purring has been shown to help strengthen bones, heal wounds and relieve pain. The low frequency of their purrs triggers vibrations in their body that can help with a number of different things.

When they are frightened or stressed

Some cats will purr when they are frightened or scared. It helps to calm them down and make them feel a little less stressed.

In positive social situations

Cats purr in positive social situations such as when they are being groomed, stroked or communicating with other cats. A purr can be a signal to another cat that it is OK to approach them.


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