A purring cat is considered to be a contented cat. If your cat starts to vocalize while being petted, many experts believe that she’s expressing her gratitude for the attention. Like many feline behaviors, purring is often misunderstood by pet owners.
It’s often a cat expressing her happiness. A purr is the feline equivalent of a human smile or dog wagging its tail. However, cats also purr to self-soothe discomfort when in pain.
If your pet purrs and squirms when she’s being held, there could be a health problem that needs medical attention from a veterinarian. We must seek to understand better why cats purr, and the real message that a feline is attempting to convey to you.
Is a Cat Purring a Sign of Happiness?
We’ve all seen a feline purring to express her happiness. Cats will curl up in their owner’s lap and purr contentedly. Many cats also mingle their purr with a meow when they want food or attention.
However, we shouldn’t just assume that a purring cat is a healthy and contented pet. A cat’s purr is not always a conscious verbalization. It can be an involuntary action and an attempt to self-soothe.
Does your cat loudly purr in the waiting room of the vet? If so, she is not expressing her excitement at the prospect of being prodded and poked.
If your cat purrs and dozes off around you, then she’s likely expressing her serenity. A purring cat that paces agitatedly or continually verbalizes in other ways is typically in discomfort.
Does My Cat Purr Because She Likes Being Stroked?
In most cases, a cat purring while being stroked will be expressing her pleasure. A human will smile when he experiences a positive physical sensation. A dog will wag its tail and lick the hand that provides such a stimulus. A cat will purr.
However, a cat may purr when she’s uncomfortable, even while being stroked. Feline skin and fur are very sensitive, so your cat may find that stroking and petting become sore after a while.
Your cat may also be uncomfortable due to a pre-existing medical problem or injury. Arthritis and joint problems are common ailment older cats. Once your pet reaches senior status, she’ll likely experience pain in her joints.
Your cat will purr in an attempt to soothe and repair that discomfort. Also, she may purr with increasing volume as the physical interaction increases her pain. Watch closely for a reaction.
If you’re unintentionally hurting your cat, she’ll let you know. Your cat may also interrupt her purring with hissing or rapid escapes. Your cat is likely experiencing a health concern that she’s trying to hide from you.
Why Do Cats Purr?
Purring is the most common sound that any housecat makes, yet it’s among the least understood.
When we hear our pets hiss, we back away as we realize they are agitated and frightened. When a cat meows, we immediately reach for the tin opener and fill her bowl. Purring remains a mystery.
There are four primary reasons for a cat to purr:
- Happiness and contentment
- Expressing a desire for food, attention or to be allowed outside
- Fear, anxiety, or pain
- Bonding between mother and kitten
Purring doesn’t just offer a cat psychological comfort. A study from the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America claims that purring can be healing. When a cat purrs, it creates vibrations throughout her body.
These bones promote muscle growth and the repairing of any fractures. This has led to a saying among veterinarians. “Put a cat and a bunch of broken bones in the same room, the bones will heal.”
Is Stroking a Purring Cat Good for Human Health?
It’s not just cats that feel these vibrations. By having your cat close to you, you’ll benefit too. If your cat jumps into your lap, start stroking. If purring follows, you’ll feel better. Cat purrs provide health boosts to humans, including:
- Reduced stress levels. Cars purrs fall within a sound range that calms and relaxes the mind.
- Lower blood pressure. If you’re feeling calm and relaxed, your heart rate will slow. This lowers blood pressure.
- Enhanced heart health. Psychology Today claims that purring cats are more effective than cholesterol medication in preventing heart disease.
- Improved breathing. When your cat relaxes and purrs, your breathing will fall into the same routine. This will be a healthy and even breathing routine.
- Healing of bones. Just like a cat purring at particular vibrations heals feline fractures, it assists with the healing of human bones, too.
- Relaxation of muscles. Just as a cat’s purr promotes bone growth, it encourages muscle repair. This means that a purring cat can ease sore and aching joints.
Why Do Cats Purr and Knead?
Kneading behavior is a habit carried over from a cat’s earliest years. When cats are kittens, they knead at their mother’s nipples to release milk.
They will also purr while they do so. This is a kitten’s way of communicating with her mother that she’s hungry. This can also become a purr of satisfaction as they feel their tummies start to fill.
Most cats have been weaned off their mother’s milk by around eight weeks of age. Many cats hold fond memories of this experience for life, however. The closest an adult cat gets to this again is from kneading soft furnishings.
If your cat kneads a blanket, purring as she does so, she is reliving happy memories. Your cat may not be aware of this, as her long-term memory is comparatively poor. She will be following the same instincts that kept her alive in her earliest days, however.
The only time that kneading becomes a concern is when the behavior becomes obsessive. Cats that were separated from their mothers before being weaned can become reliant on kneading.
They will also usually suckle material in such instances. Purring that accompanies this behavior is a result of anxiety, soothed by suckling the material.
If this applies to your cat, speak to a feline behaviorist. Wool sucking is an initially harmless habit, but it can lead to cats swallowing foreign objects.
Why Do Cats Purr and Then Bite You?
There are three primary explanations for this behavior:
- A kitten will bite as a form of play. Some older cats were not trained out of this behavior. The accompanying purr will result from the pleasuring of play.
- A cat that is injured or sick may purr. If you then try to handle this cat, she’ll likely bite.
- Your cat may be purring with pleasure while being stroked. This can turn to pain in an instant if she becomes over-stimulated, and biting will then follow.
Most cats grow out of this biting behavior by the time they reach 12 months. If your cat continues to nip after this, you may need the help of an animal behaviorist.
Discourage the behavior by making a high-pitched yelp when your cat bites you. This replicates the sound their littermates would make, helping your cat understand that she went too far.
If your cat seems to purr when left alone, then bite, she is likely to be in pain. Cats likely mask and hide their physical weakness, so it may not be obvious.
The most likely scenario is that you stroked your cat for too long. Cats have extremely sensitive skin that can become over-stimulated. She could be enjoying a stroke one moment, but it suddenly becomes excruciating. In such an instance, your cat will bite you to say, “no more.”
Your cat will likely also leave your lap at this point. Stay put, and wait for one moment though. It’s more than likely that your pet will return to make friends again quickly. If she doesn’t, her discomfort may be related to a long-term concern.
How Can You Tell if a Cat Loves You?
Purring is a clear sign of feline contentment. However, it can also be misconstrued. If they were unhappy, they would take their chances by running away. If this is insufficient assurance, look out for these classic signs of feline affection from Care2:
- A cat rubbing her face against you is not an aggressive head butt. Instead, she is rubbing pheromones over you.
- A cat that gently nibbles, not bites, your hands is showing affection.
- Being licked by a cat is a sign of affection and acceptance.
- You may wish your cat didn’t bring dead birds or mice home. When they do, they are presenting a gift as a token of their esteem.
- If your cat looks you in the eye and very slowly blinks, you have received a ‘cat kiss.’
- If your cat sleeps in your bed, or just close to you, she loves and trusts you. This goes double for a pet that dozes with her belly exposed.
And, of course, the timeless act of climbing into your lap and purring. If your pet does this by choice, it is almost always a demonstration of fondness.
When Do Cats Start to Purr?
Cats often purr almost from birth as a bonding exercise with their mother. This means that the vocalizations start almost immediately. Most cats start purring at around two days old.
This will be an imitated behavior, as a kitten’s mother will purr to announce her presence. Cats are essentially blind and deaf for the first week or two of their lives. Their eyes and ear canals remain firmly closed until mature enough for use.
Kittens still need to find their mother for warmth and feeding. A purring cat gives off unmistakable vibrations. A kitten will follow these vibrations and find nourishment.
These kittens will then start to imitate this purring behavior. This is partly because cats are natural mimics. It will also be a way of altering their mother to their needs.
If a cat hears her kittens purring, she will ensure that milk is available. This will last until a cat reaches around three months. By then, she will have been weaned and learned a more extensive vocabulary of meows.
Of course, young cats may also purr due to pain and discomfort. Kittens undergo a number of physiological changes in their early months of life.
Their bones grow, and their milk teeth are exchanged for adult teeth. While your kitten will sleep through much of this, she’ll still feel a lot of it. Purring can be a way of coping with these changes.
Why Has My Cat Stopped Purring?
A cat that undergoes a change in behavior is always worrying. If your previously purring pet has taken a vow of silence, it’s no different. There could be several reasons why a cat stops purring.
Assess whether your cat is hunting. This does not necessarily have to mean stalking wild prey. She could be playing with toys. Multiple cats may be playing hide and seek with each other, or you.
Whatever the reason for hunting instincts, many felines learn to control their purring and stay silent. The number one rule of hunting is to remain as inconspicuous as possible
There is also the possibility that your cat is stressed or afraid. The thinking will be the same as when hunting. Your cat will not want to give away her location. Anxious and fearful cats can be silent.
Consider whether your cat is unwell. Laryngitis is quite common in senior cats older than 11, as Pet Place explains. If your cat has stopped verbalizing, observe her other behaviors.
If she is also lethargic, running a fever and struggling to breathe, laryngitis is likely. Treatment for feline laryngitis depends on the cause. If it’s a viral infection, your cat will recover after a week of rest.
Your vet may prescribe a painkiller to make her more comfortable. If there is a serious cause, such as a tumor, this must be addressed.
A cat purring while being stroked typically denotes contentment and happiness. Ensure that the purring is due to pleasure. A cat that is purring to self-soothe should be checked over by a vet.