Why do cats Purr?

Also in Cat Psychology and Behaviour : -


More info...


For as long as there have been domestic cats, possibly longer, one question has come up time and time again - Why do Cats Purr? To this day, no one can say for certain, but there are a number of popular theories.

Some are quite convincing, some are verging on the ridiculous, there are even a few that go way past ridiculous and well into the crazy ramblings of the stereo-typical feline obsessive. (...and I'm not talking about me with that last one, despite what you may have heard!)

In this article we'll discuss some of the more popular theories - maybe your own experiences can add to the already extensive volume of speculation on the subject, if so we'd love to hear about it.

Purring to show contentedness.

We all know the scene. A cat curled up on a lap, enjoying a fuss and purring away without a care in the world. Contentedness is the most likely reason given by the general populous when asked 'Why does a cat purr?' - but most cat owners realise there's more to it.

There are a number of other occasions when a cat can be heard letting out a loud purr, so although contentedness may well be one of the reasons for purring, there must be others too. This theory also doesn't fully answer the question of 'why?'- Why would a contented cat have any reason to demonstrate their contentedness?

This leads us to the second theory; maybe the reason they show their contentedness in this way is their affection for those around them?

Purring to show affection

Cats will often approach their favourite people purring loudly and proceed to nuzzle, nibble, drool and roll all over them, in a great show of affection. Undoubtedly in this instance the purring is part of the affectionate behaviour.

Although proof still remains elusive, it is fairly logical to draw the conclusion that the purring here is an audible means of communicating that affection, as if to say 'I love you'.

Purring To show passiveness

Blowing the satisfaction theory out of the water, cats can often be heard purring after a serious trauma, accident or injury. In fact it seems that the more imminent death is the louder they will purr. This is certainly not a show of contentedness or affection, and a much more reasonable explanation would be to demonstrate passiveness.

The common thinking is that this might be a message to a carer translated as 'please look after me', or to a predator saying 'please don't hurt me any more'.

The healing properties of a Purr

My favourite theory, possibly because I'm an idealist or possibly because it is the most scientifically explainable, is that purring has healing qualities and cats take every opportunity to get a bit of healing.

Unlike the other theories, this one also doesn't preclude any of the other situations in which you might encounter a loud purr.

Cats purr at a frequency of between 25Hz and 150Hz. Low frequencies such as these have been proven to have strange effects on the physiology of most animals.

Effects range from altering mood to the involuntary relaxing of muscles to increasing the speed of recovery from an injury. One of the most compelling effects is that some low frequencies can, over time, increase the strength of bones.

It is well noted that cats are tenacious and tough little critters, surviving illnesses and injuries that would have killed a human many times over. They can fall from great heights or consume deadly poisons and recover without showing any lasting effect.

One of our cats even seems to enjoy the odd meal of hazardous substances, to the point that we now lock away anything we know to be toxic.

In conclusion

In conclusion, there are still no firm conclusions! All of the above theories, and some others, certainly have some merit. My own feeling is that purring has more than one purpose; these may include all of the theories mentioned here and more.

Either way, purring is certainly an endearing quality and just one more reason to love your cat.

This article was first published in The Purr Company's regular Mews-letter, visit us for more cat stories and articles, a gallery of our visitors cats , cat videos and our online shop.

You may reproduce this article free of charge in any free newsletter or on any free web site on the condition that this resources box is included with any reproduction.

© copyright The Purr Company

Click here for a printer friendly version of this page
If you enjoyed this article please link to us


nat said:

My kitten does that too he walks towards me purring very loudly and then clibs up and nuzzels into my neck and round the back of my neck...scares me lol

simon said:

Its strange ive only just got a kitten When it purrs is when its sitting on my chest And as soon as he starts purring he will then proceed to start licking around my neck