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Cat communication: why do cats purr?

August 7, 2018
Purring is the most common sound that cats make – and while cats purr when they're content, you shouldn't always assume that it means they’re in a good mood.

We look at the soft, continuous, vibrating sounds of purring to interpret what our feline companions may be feeling.

Does purring mean your cat is happy?

In most cases, cats will purr when they are in a relaxed environment, sending out waves of calmness. This may also occur when you stroke them, and if this is the case, your feline friend is feeling happy or sociable.

However, cats purr to communicate other emotions and needs, too. For instance, if you pick your cat up, he or she will either purr because they like it, or because they are nervous.

Why is your cat purring?

While you’ll never know exactly what your furry friend is trying to tell you with a purr, you can make an informed guess by considering the situation.

Reasons why your cat may be purring include:

A happy mood – If your cat looks relaxed, eyes half closed and tail mostly still, it’s safe to assume your cat’s purring because they are in a pleasant mood.

Food on their mind – Cats may purr when it’sits mealtime and they're hungry. When purring for cat food, they combine their normal purr with a “meow”.

Kitten-Mother bond – Kittens can purr at only a few days old, and is a way that they let their mothers know where they are or that they’re OK.  Purring also helps a kitten and mother bond, and mother cats use purring as a lullaby.

Relief - Many cats purr when hurt or in pain. Purring is a way for a cat to soothe itself, just like a human child will suck their thumb to feel better.

Whatever the reason for your feline friend’s purr, the sound is one that is often welcomed by cat parents. The purr is a feline lullaby that soothes the singer as well as the listener's soul.
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