If your purr-fect little kitty is purring – melodious, vibrating, continuous sounds – it’s a sure sign they’re content. It’s also the most common sound cats make compared to other sounds such as meowing, chirping, hissing, growling, and chattering.
When your feline is all curled up in the sun or sitting on your lap you may hear a tender reverberation as they breathe in and out. It’s arguably one of the most recognizable signs of contentment.
There’s nothing more rewarding than the soothing sound of your furbaby purring away next to you. Stroke your kitties fur, give a gentle rub under the chin, or a scratch behind their ears, and you’ll be rewarded with heavenly sounds.
But, ever wondered, ‘why do cats purr when you stroke them’? Before we dive in, let’s answer the question, ‘how do cats purr’?
- 1 Why do Cats Purr When You Stroke Them? The How
- 2 6 Reasons Why Cats Purr When You Stroke Them?
- 3 A Footnote on Why Cats Purr When You Stroke Them
Why do Cats Purr When You Stroke Them? The How
Purring involves the laryngeal muscles within the cats’ larynx (vocal cords). These muscles move, dilate and constrict, combined with the help of their diaphragm (the muscle at the base of their chest cavity).
As your feline inhales and exhales, the vibrating muscles move at 25 to 150 per second, causing a separation of the vocal cords. This produces a delightful, soothing purr.
6 Reasons Why Cats Purr When You Stroke Them?
Felines purr for a number of reasons. Learning the body language that’s associated with purring can help ensure your furball will continue to enjoy the synergy of stroking her.
Although conventional wisdom assures us that purring is a sure sign your kitty is content, it does not necessarily mean they are always in a good mood. Our felines can purr for different reasons, such as for pleasure or pain.
We may never know what exactly your kitty is saying, but let’s take a look at some reasons why our little furballs purr when you stroke them.
1. They’re in a Happy Mood
More often than not, cats purr when they are relaxed. This usually happens when you stroke them, and in this case, meaning they are happy or are feeling sociable.
If your cat is comfortable, eyes half-closed, are on their back, and tail mostly still, it’s safe to assume they are in a happy mood.
Adult cats purr when they socialize with their brothers and sisters, with people or objects that they love. Another reason for this demonstration of blissfulness is when they do something that feels good, such as stroking or petting.
Our domestic kitties have sweet spots, where they enjoy being stroked and petted the most. These include:
- Between the ears,
- Alongside the cheeks,
- Down the spine (be mindful of overstimulation),
- And under the chin.
If your cat purrs while being stroked and petted in these areas, we can believe they are happy and is feeling content.
2. For Kitten-Mother Connection
Kittens are born deaf and blind and feel for vibrations from their mothers as a form of communication. They start to purr when they are just a few days old to serve as a contact between kitten and mother and form a bond.
These adorable little bundles purr to let their mama cat’s know where they are and that they’re okay.
Because kittens cannot orient themselves, mother cats use purring to lure their kittens closer to keep them warm and safe, or when it’s mealtime. They can also use their soft sounds as a cradlesong to their kittens.
3. It’s a Sign of Distress
Purring doesn’t only mean your kitty is a blissful ball of fluff rolling on its back, sending soft rasp vibrations out for your attention. Some cats purr when they are distressed or feeling anxious.
They could feel stressed from sudden changes in their household, such as a new pet, a new human member, or even home remodeling.
They also make these sounds when they are feeling afraid or need some help. Purrs can help your kitty calm themselves down during a stressful time, such as giving birth.
The low-frequency vibrations of purring can help ease tension and breathing – how nifty?
4. Purr Healing Powers
Apart from feeling stressed, our kitties can also purr when they are severely ill, injured, or in pain. For our loving felines, purring releases endorphins, which in turn can help reduce pain and heal injuries. The Purr has a powerful healing and rejuvenating action.
Cats will often purr on their own, without the aid of stroking. When you think your cat is purring in contentment while dozing off, they may be self-repairing themselves.
Purrs can help your kitty feel better, promote healing, and alleviate pain – that’s magic!
Studies have shown that purrs vibrate at low frequencies between 25 to 150 HZ. These frequencies can act as a natural healing mechanism and treat a range of ailments, such as:
- Bone and wound healing
- Ease muscle and tendon pain
- Ease breathing
- Muscle growth
- Help with joint flexibility
- Assist with muscle growth
- Help lessen swelling
If you suspect your furbaby is in pain or has an injury, you should stop petting them and check for signs of any discomfort, such as hunching over or limping.
They can develop problems from the impact of high falls – though, in contradiction, their purring is probably why they recover so well.
5. They’re Overstimulated
Our felines may purr when you stroke them because they are feeling overstimulated. Keep an ear out for warning signs like abrasive, loud purring, biting, and other hostile actions.
Cats are sensitive to touch and can quickly become overstimulated with your constant petting. They may tolerate your stroking, but when purring becomes aggravated and loud, it’s best to leave them.
Take a look at some warning signs your kitty may be overstimulated:
- The tail is swishing or thumping
- Lowering or flattened ears
- Hissing or growling
- Trying to escape
- The body is tense
- Her pupils are dilated
- Squirming while you’re stroking her
- Claws protrude
- Showing other aggressive behavior
If you pick up on any of these warning signs, you may want to stop petting or stroking your cat.
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6. They’re Purr-Suasive
Cats can use purring to aid in more ways than one. A ‘solicitation purr’ (combined with a cry or meow) helps your adorable kitty obtain something they want from their human – either food, affection, or to play with a toy.
If you’ve ever noticed your kitty is swirling around you purring, becoming especially fervent around mealtimes, it’s no coincidence. Our feline friends have learned to exploit their adorable sounds when they’re hungry or get something they want.
They combine these sounds with a ‘mew‘ that sounds something like a crying baby – how dramatic.
If you suspect your purr-meowing kitty is hungry, stop stroking her and observe her actions. Hungry domestic felines usually approach their food bowls, so pay attention.
A Footnote on Why Cats Purr When You Stroke Them
Figuring out the reason your furball baby is purring is often welcomed by your cat. The pleasant raspy sound that erupts whenever your fur baby is petted leaves countless questions on why kitties purr when you stroke them.
Our kitties may seem aloof most of the time, but they are social creatures and communicate with us through various vocalizations – one being purring.
All these sounds are messages they are trying to convey. Keep your ears out for the next time your kitty is ready to talk.
The next time your kitty curls up next to you and starts to purr away, you might stop to think what your furry friend is trying to tell you.
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⇒ For everything you need to know about taking care of your finicky feline check out my guide to How to Groom a Cat, Ultimate Persian Cat Grooming Guide, the Best Cat Brush, Caring for Cats guide and my quick cat check up guide.