why has my cat stopped purring?
Cat Health and Wellness

Why Does My Cat Not Purr Anymore?

A cat’s purr is usually associated with the animal being happy and content. So, when a cat suddenly stops purring, it can be worrying. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why a cat will stop purring, and it can be difficult to determine which one is affecting your cat.

Painful conditions like laryngitis can cause a change in vocalization and are usually painful, making it hard for a cat to purr. Other factors include age, anxiety and stress, blockages of the vocal cords, and injury. If left untreated, your cat may stop purring permanently.

In many cases, when a cat stops purring, it’s because of a treatable reason. However, any changes in a cat’s behavior or demeanor should be taken seriously, as they are often signs of an underlying issue.

Why Has My Cat Stopped Purring?

According to Scientific American, most felid species produce a “purr-like” vocalization. It’s most noticeable in domestic cats when the animal is nursing its kittens, or responding to social contact, including petting, stroking, or feeding.

When a cat purrs, its body starts to generate serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates a cat’s happiness or sadness. Cats with low levels of serotonin in the blood are more likely to suffer from depression.

A cat will supply itself with serotonin because it is either happy or sad. When happy, purring expresses this joy and signals that the cat is feeling comfortable and relaxed. If the cat is sad or injured, purring placates the pain. Therefore, if a cat doesn’t purr at all, an underlying issue is most likely at play.

There are a surprising number of reasons why a cat may no longer purr. Health issues are usually to blame, but behavioral problems might also be a factor. It’s natural to feel worried when your pet stops purring, especially if it has always done so. But in many cases, a lack of purr is either temporary or treatable.

If you can’t see an apparent reason why your cat doesn’t purr, it’s best to seek professional help. In the meantime, these are the most common reasons why your cat has stopped purring:

cat lost its purr

Anxiety

Stress or anxiety can stop a cat from purring. If a cat is anticipating danger, its body will react in fear, which may cause it to go quiet. If you were to compare this reaction to a human’s, it would be like a person going quiet and refusing to speak because they are feeling scared or nervous.

The problem is that potential causes of stress and anxiety are wide and varied. Anxiety can be caused by injury and illness, or pain and trauma. Alternatively, it could also be caused by separation.

This is especially common in cats with a history of abandonment. Cats who are attached to their owners sometimes have a hard time being away from them and will become fearful while they are gone.

If your cat has lost the ability to purr, look for abnormal behaviors that signify something is wrong. Exaggerated, compulsive, or aggressive behaviors are giveaway signs that your cat is feeling somewhat unhappy. 

Age

As older cats become calmer and calm down, their vocalization becomes less frequent. Many cats meow and purr a lot less.

This is simply part of a cat’s natural lifespan and will differ from animal to animal. Some geriatric cats actually vocalize more. It’s always best to keep an eye on your cat in their older years for changes in behavior or health.

Injury

Cats tend to hide their distress. If your pet has recently suffered an injury or trauma, it will hide itself away and remain as quiet as possible. This is a tactic passed down from wild cats, who would stay as quiet as possible in the event of injury to prevent predator animals from detecting them.

Animals who are injured are vulnerable and more suspectable to attack. Wild cats will find a spot that offers concealment and silently hide from predators until they are fit and healthy enough to recover and move on safely.

Domestic cats adopt this behavior, so they’re not seen as prey. Therefore, they might suspend their purr temporarily until they have recovered from their injury. If you notice your cat has stopped purring for an extended period due to an injury, it’s probably time to get your pet checked out in case something is slowing down the healing process.

Tumors or Polyps

Much like laryngitis, cancerous tumors of benign polyps in the throat and vocal cords can stop a cat from vocalizing. This is because they block the nasal congestion and decrease airflow through the nostrils. This obstruction can make it difficult for a cat to breathe, let alone meow or purr.

Hoarseness, sneezing, coughing, or a significant change in the voice’s sound are symptoms of a nasal or throat blockage and should be examined by a veterinary professional.

Laryngitis

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx that affects a cat’s voice box or larynx. It’s usually more common in older cats, but younger cats can be affected too. Symptoms of laryngitis include a painful cough, harsh breathing, hoarseness, or a lack of sound. Laryngitis can also cause a cat’s purr to stop completely.

A cat’s voice box and larynx function in the same as a human’s. The air that passes through the larynx causes the vocal cords to vibrate, producing sound. As described in MSD Manual, fluid build-up and swelling of the mucous membranes is often a key part of laryngitis. In severe cases, the upper airway may be obstructed. This is the most common reason why a cat’s purr will stop if the animal is suffering from laryngitis.

The first noticeable sign of laryngitis is a dry, harsh, short cough. In time, it becomes soft and moist but can be very painful. Vocal changes may be evident, as well as noisy breathing and bad breath. Physically, your cat may stand with its head lowered and mouth open, signifying pain or distress.

Types of Purring Sounds in Cats

It’s understandable to think that purring is the sign of a contented cat, but that’s not always the case. Purring can also signal when a cat is stressed, sad, or in pain. An injured cat will purr to both soothe itself and reach out for comfort from someone. The main types of purrs are as follows:

Contented Purr

A cat that is happy will make a contented purr. This is when it is at its most comfortable. You’ll find a cat making this sound if it is resting or in a relaxed state. Try not to disturb your cat during this stage because you might disrupt its contentedness.

Affectionate Purr

This an expression of affection and is a fundamental communication tool. It’s best described as the cat equivalent of a human smile.

Cats don’t purr alone and will so in the presence of people to convey happiness and to show that it isn’t a threat. In return, the cat will receive affection and attention.

Passive Purr

If a cat endures an injury or trauma, then you may hear it make a passive purr – if it purrs at all. As described in the Library of Congress by Dr. Elizabeth Von Muggenthaler, it’s suggested that cats purr with low-frequency vibrations as a way to heal itself, and is a way to strengthen and repair the bones while providing natural pain relief.

Signs That Your Cat Is Stressed

Stress can be directly linked to a cat’s lost purr. A cat will usually stop purring as the first sign, before displaying other symptoms and behaviors that indicate there’s an underlying issue causing problems.

The problem is that cats are experts at hiding pain or emotions because, in the wild, they would become easy targets for predators. However, stressed cats display a range of common symptoms and behavioral traits that can give away that something isn’t right.

Stress must be managed and reduced as much as possible in cats. If your cat becomes too stressed, they can become emotionally and physically unwell, and illnesses may start to develop. Some cats will also begin acting up, displaying unwanted behaviors around the home that are hard to control.

Getting to the bottom of a cat’s stress prevents a range of issues from getting worse. It will also help you to understand why a cat has stopped purring and may help a cat find its lost voice. Some signs can be difficult to spot, so watch out for the following:

Physical Symptoms of Stress

The most common physical stress symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive eating or drinking
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Pica, where a cat will eat non-food items, such as plastic
  • Lethargy or sleeping more than normal
  • A dull or oily coat
  • Bad, flaky skin
  • Bald patches or red sores on the coat due to over-grooming
  • Constipation or a reluctance to go to the toilet
  • Painful urination that contains traces of blood
  • Cat flu, which is often determined by a runny nose and eyes

Symptoms will appear worse in cats with a chronic health condition. Stress can also cause recovery from an illness to be slower than in a healthy cat, as stress affects a cat’s immune system and can hinder the process of fighting off disease.

Behavioral Symptoms of Stress

The most common behavioral stress symptoms include:

  • Any significant change to a cat’s usual routine or behavior
  • Aggressive behavior directed at humans or other animals
  • Having accidents around the house
  • Spraying urine on walls or furniture around the house
  • Excessive scratching on furniture
  • Frequent meowing
  • Excessive neediness; always needing attention
  • Hiding or tucking itself away in hard-to-reach places
  • A lack of awareness about what is happening in its environment
  • Nervousness – jumping at every sound or movement
  • Reluctance to play
  • Stays outside for long periods
  • Refusal to go outside
  • Excessive grooming, to the point where its skin becomes sore
  • Panting or mouth openness
  • Excessive pacing around the home
  • Frequent head shaking
  • Crouching
  • Flattened ears
  • Exaggerated swallowing

If any of the above behaviors seem out of character for your cat, even if they’re subtle, it’s best to investigate the underlying cause.

How Can I Reduce My Cat’s Stress?

To get your cat purring again, stress management is vital, so try to find out what is causing your cat’s stress. Once you know, you can take measures to ensure your cat feels comfortable once again. These tips will also help:

  • Maintain your cat’s health by booking regular check-ups. Don’t skip wellness visits and make sure the basics are covered, like flea treatment and nail clipping. These treatments will help your cat feel comfortable.
  • Provide plenty of hiding places throughout the house that your cat can go to if it’s feeling scared or anxious.
  • Play with your cat and regularly change its toys to provide enough stimulation.
  • Hide treats throughout the house so your cat can enjoy a pleasant surprise.
  • Keep the litter tray clean at all times and put it in a quiet spot where your pet can do its business in peace.
  • If you have other animals, make sure they have separate places where they can get away from each other if they need to.
  • Provide access to the outdoors.
  • Always provide fresh food and water. Hungry and thirsty cats can become grouchy.
cat no longer purring

Do Cats Stop Purring When They Are Dying?

Any time your cat’s behavior changes, it’s wise to monitor its health and temperament for any signs of pain or distress.

If your pet’s behavior remains mostly the same and it eats, drinks, and goes about its day to day life as usual, there’s probably no reason to worry. Some cats naturally stop purring and may communicate in other ways instead. For example, a cat may offset purring by meowing more frequently or pawing at its owner.

However, if your cat’s mood or behavior changes, an underlying issue might be causing your pet problems. The most common signs of illness or distress are a lack of appetite, lethargy, and bad temper.

Your cat might also frequently hide away. If your cat displays any of these, then a lack of purr is most likely a symptom of a health problem. It’s best to get this checked out by a veterinarian.

How to Make My Cat Purr?

If your cat isn’t a natural purrer, there’s not much you can do to make it start. Cats communicate in different ways and may choose to vocalize their emotions in other ways – like meowing, for example.

However, if you’ve heard your cat purr before and have noticed that it has recently stopped, there are some things you can try to encourage it to purr louder and more often. Try the following tips:

  • Gently rub its most pleasurable areas, which are under the chin, behind the ears, and at the base of the tail. Your cat might have a particularly sensitive spot so give that a rub.
  • Cuddle your cat or lie next to it when it’s asleep. Give it a gentle stroke while your pet is at its most relaxed.
  • If your cat enjoys kneading, provide a pillow, cushion or other soft furnishing that it can knead into as you stroke it.
  • Talk softly to your cat as you do any of the above to encourage your pet to be comfortable and relaxed.

Even if your cat doesn’t purr after you’ve followed the above steps, your pet is bound to enjoy it, and any form of affection will strengthen your bond.

My Cat Has Never Purred

Cats communicate in various ways, and each animal is different. Some cats prefer to vocalize, while others communicate through their facial expressions and body language and don’t associate purring with communication.

On the other hand, some cats purr so quietly that it doesn’t seem like they’re purring at all. To find out, place your hand on your cat’s chest to see if you can feel a gentle vibration. If you can, your cat is able to purr – you just might not be able to hear it.

Wild cats or felines that were once feral are less likely to purr. This sound is likely to attract predators and put the animal in danger. A lack of purr is only something to worry about if accompanied by troubling symptoms or changes in behavior. Otherwise, your cat is simply not a natural purrer and nothing will change that.

So, it’s clear that while there is a wide range of factors that will affect a cat’s purring abilities, it’s not always the worst-case scenario. It’s normal for cat owners to worry when something changes in their cat’s demeanor – but it’s always best to get these things checked out just in case something is wrong. Cats are notoriously tricky creatures to read, so try not to assume that the problem will sort itself out in time.