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Why Doesn’t My Cat Purr? 6 Reasons You Should Know

reviewed by a veterinary box

For many cat owners, that luxurious, cheerful purr is one of the best reasons for owning a cat. In fact, studies show that people who have felines have less stress-induced health issues, which may be linked to our kitties’ purrs.

No wonder, then, that you’re upset and asking, “Well, just why doesn’t my cat purr?” I get it; it’d be hard for me, too, to lose out on this adorable trait.

Once you’ve understood the function of purring, you’ll see that there are various reasons for a feline to stop making the sound.

In most cases, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Where there is cause for concern, there is treatment. So, let’s take a closer look at the mysterious purr.

ginger exotic short hair cat why doesn't my cat purr


Why Doesn’t My Cat Purr – What is Purring?

Kittens learn to purr early to bond with and locate their mothers (they’re born blind and deaf). The exact mechanisms of the purr aren’t fully understood and there are many hypotheses on how the sound is produced. It seems to be like a quick vibration from the larynx (voice box), laryngeal muscles, and a neural oscillator.

There are different variations of this sound. The ordinary purr has a higher frequency and sounds like a normal meow.

cat purring while being stroked

You know when your cat is extra affectionate, purring excessively, and next thing you know, you’re feeding her?

That purr is similar to the distressed cry given out by kittens and babies, so it pulls at our heartstrings. It’s been specially developed over the centuries to get humans to dish out the good stuff.

cat with dark face being tickled under chin

Why is Purring Important?

Purring has many benefits — for both owner and cat. While purring is a form of communication, it also serves as a calming mechanism and a health treatment. Felines make the sound in stressful situations, such as labor or danger, to calm themselves.

Cats use different frequencies to promote bone, skin, and soft tissue regeneration. So when your fur baby is purring away while sleeping, she is actually undergoing a form of self-repair.

grey cat sits on woman's lap with blanket reading

These soothing qualities apply to humans, too, and have a positive effect on our health. That’s why some cat owners may feel cheated when their four-legged friend doesn’t purr!

6 Potential Reasons Your Cat Doesn’t Purr

Now that we’re clear on why cats purr, it’ll be easier to address the “why doesn’t my cat purr” question.

1. Different Communication Style

Just like humans, felines are unique and we can’t have blanket expectations for their behavior. If your cat doesn’t purr, maybe that’s his idiosyncrasy.

Sometimes it’s just not in the cat’s behavior to purr. It’s also possible that a cat can purr, but because it has never heard the mother’s purr, it doesn’t purr. The mother plays a huge role in what a kitten learns and how it is socialized. It might hear other cats purr, and you can encourage purring, but because it hasn’t learned this from its parents, the cat won’t purr.

There can also be variations across cat breeds. Bengal and Siamese cats tend to be very vocal and are likely to purr more frequently.

tabby cat growling why do cats growl why doesn't my cat purr

Cats have many tools in their communication arsenal. Maybe your cat feels he can get his point across better through body language, facial expressions, or other vocalizations, such as a normal meow.

2. Feral Origins

Some people have noticed that cats born to feral mothers tend not to purr. The theory is that feral mothers discourage purring in their young because they don’t want the sound to attract predators.

While this isn’t universally true of such cats, scientists do know that feral cats tend to be much quieter in general than domestic cats.

tabby cat arches its back

This is because, unlike domestic cats who rely on a social bond with humans, feral felines are not socialized to interact with humans.

3. Vocal Cord Injury

Since the larynx (voice box) produces the adorable purr, anything that injures it may prevent your cat from making the iconic vibration. The laryngeal muscles are important as they control both the true and false vocal cords.

tabby cat growling 2

There are a multitude of medical conditions that can affect the larynx. These include trauma, cancer, and abscesses. Neurological issues, such as autoimmune disease, muscle disorders, and hereditary paralysis, can also have an effect.

Fortunately, most injuries to the larynx can be treated.

4. Stress or Illness

If your feline friend used to purr away happily and has suddenly stopped, then (as with any behavior change) this is a cause for concern. Consider if anything else has changed in your cat’s conduct so you and the vet can narrow down the issue.

Cats who are ill or injured tend to go silent. This is an evolutionary strategy to avoid predator detection while in their vulnerable state. This tends to be paired with hiding away. So, if your cat is silent and avoiding you, he’s not cheating, something may be hurt.

Veterinarian listening to cat's heart

Stress is generally accompanied by aggression or withdrawal. Cats are incredibly sensitive to change.

A new partner, a  new home, a new pet, a change in routine, a different food…all these things can cause your feline to go from purring to sulking.

The good news is that general stress in cats can be treated. Short bouts of stress, caused by moving house or a visit from a noisy contractor, can be alleviated with oral treatments.

Cat in a veterinary clinic hairdresser doing beauty care

5. Older Cats

Since senior cats are generally calmer than they were in their youth, this may also affect their use of vocalization. Their purrs may become softer or stop completely.

Certain medications, such as pain medications or sedatives, may lead to a decreased ability to purr in cats, as they may cause drowsiness or reduce their capacity to purr.

On the other hand, some older cats may talk more in their old age to signal their discomfort. It’s important to get to know your cat so you can tell what’s unusual for them from what’s unusual for most.

cat in picnic basket with food

6. You’re Just Not Hearing It

Why isn’t my cat purring? Well, maybe he is but just so softly that you can’t hear it. However, you may be able to feel the vibrations.

Go ahead and gently press your hand against his chest or throat, just under the chin. You’ll probably feel a soft rumble against your palm.

Cat rubs the hand

How Can You Encourage Cat Purring?

You’ll find it hard to transform a non-purring cat into one that does. However, if your cat purrs occasionally or softly, you can try a few things to promote the practice. Just remember, even if your cat doesn’t purr, that doesn’t mean it is unhappy.

1. Touch Your Cat

Our whiskered friends enjoy the occasional petting bout. This can cause your cat to feel content and lead to purring. Try softly scratching the head, ears, and chin. Cats purr the most when they are physically and mentally happy. Cats love physical contact in the form of chin rubs and petting.

grey and black cat sits on woman's lap whilst she uses laptop

Some felines love to cuddle. Instead of bringing your cat to you when you want a hug, wait for her to fall asleep and gently snuggle up beside her.

When you play with your kitty, look into the cat’s eyes, talk gently, and try to develop a bond.

The combination of sleep (a time when many cats purr to self-repair), her human’s scent, and some soft strokes may induce a purr.

2. Create the Right Environment

Cats are territorial animals. Out in the wild, they can choose where they live and their environment, but in domestic settings, it is the pet parent’s responsibility to create a suitable environment. Having toys, soft surfaces, a soft blanket to sleep in, and a good diet all play a role in the quality of life that the cat experiences.

Felines love to knead soft surfaces. Often this may be your legs, but it could also be a soft blanket or a comfy spot on the couch. Find a suitable place for your cat and stroke her while she kneads away.

You can also create a happy atmosphere by talking gently to your cat. You may even try singing a lullaby. Just remember not to maintain eye contact too long in one go since that’s a feline sign of aggression.

woman with blanket and two cats on her lap why doesn't my cat purr

Final Thoughts on Why Your Cat Isn’t Purring

Now that you’ve got your answer to “why doesn’t my cat purr”, you can get going on treatment, where appropriate. Understanding our cats and knowing their habits is key to looking after them.

Our felines are experts at communicating with us, but they also use a variety of languages to do so. The purr is just one of these.

So, while it may be disappointing that your cat doesn’t do so, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a strong bond or are unhappy.

As much as we may want our kitties to make this vibration, what matters most is that they’re healthy and happy, living their best 9 lives!

ginger and tabby cat sit on lap

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Wednesday 30th of November 2022

I adopted two 1.5 year old barn cats who wouldn't let me so much as touch them for an entire month after I took them in. I guess that's feral enough.

Judith Shea

Tuesday 15th of November 2022

Do you choose the advertisers on this comment about purring? Because Dearonces may be it is a scam company. From China. I was intending to buy something from them and I happened upon a site that takes criticisms and comments on online companies, and there were many complaints about deerD Dearonces. They only ship one thing, it's very shoddy not like the pictures, they won't cooperate with returns etc. The pictures of the clothes are beautiful. That's for sure but... And I don't know if the advertisers are specific to me or you.

I enjoyed the article on purring. Somebody suggested that it was genetic. This article does not say that.

Amanda OBrien

Wednesday 16th of November 2022

Hi Judith - the advertisers are specific to you and the websites you visit. kind regards Amanda

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