Any cat owner will tell you that nothing beats cuddling with a cat, especially if it purrs. There’s something relaxing and almost hypnotic in this unique and strange sound. But what does it mean when a cat purrs? Does it show love and attention? Or is it just asking for a treat?

Purring is a more complex phenomenon than it seems, and there are many reasons for it. So let’s dive deeper into the mystery of cat purrs and gain a better understanding of these magnificent pets.

We’ll discuss:

Let’s get started.

The Biology of the Purr

We know that roaring serves an evolutionary purpose, but why do cats purr? People have long perceived purring as a sign of pleasure and contentment with our company. 

We have no explanation of why cats can purr, but one possible reason is that a mother’s purr helps her find the newborn without being heard by predators. Purring also allows her to understand that kittens need feeding. When kittens grow up, they continue purring out of contentment or stress.

And not only small cats can purr. These sounds are typical for cheetahs, leopards, tigers, and pumas, too. It’s a consistent characteristic that stayed with the evolution of cats.  

Domestic cat purr frequency is about 26 Hertz. Some believe that purring is caused by a vein that carries blood to the heart. Others link it to the unique structure of the hyoid bone. Even though you’ll find many views on how a cat purrs, no one knows with certainty. 

Reasons Behind the Purr

Cats have their way of expressing contentment, much like humans smile when they’re happy or dogs wag their tails. But there’s more to it than that. So what does it mean when a cat purrs? Here are the reasons you need to know about.


Purring can often signify that your cat is in a good mood. When cats are happy, comfortable, and content, they usually half-close their eyes and keep their tail still and ears forward.  

Cats will also purr when they are in a quiet environment where they feel safe and calm. Your little furry companion might purr when you pet it because it’s in a state of pleasure. An old carpet, pillow, or cat tree for large cats can become subject to your cat’s purring by helping them feel relaxed. 

Petting & Cuddles

Why do cats purr when you stroke them? Your cat can purr while getting some gentle cuddles or petting. Also, it might help calm their nerves or heal their pain. Remember the areas that every cat will gladly offer for petting — behind the ears, cheeks, under the chin, or on the back. 

When cats cuddle up in your lap and purr, it’s often your furball’s way of telling you they love you. But why do cats purr on your chest? It’s a sign of trust, and the sound of your breathing can make your cat fall asleep. 

Hand caress the purring cat isolated on a white background.

Pain Relief

Purring can also be a sign that cats need pain relief. When cats are injured, in pain, or even scared, purr vibrations have a calming or healing effect on them. In these cases, a cat purr frequency ranges from 20 to 140 Hertz, and it’s considered therapeutic for bone density, fracture healing, and pain relief.  

Ill at Ease

Purring has been observed in cats experiencing stress, nervousness, or fear. The vibrations help to release endorphins in cats’ brains, which relaxes stressed pets. Some studies on cats purring and its effect on humans show that it helps lower cortisol levels. Decreased stress hormones help recovery, lower blood pressure, and prevent infections. 

Maternal Bond

Kittens usually begin to purr just a few days after birth. They do it to show their mother that they need attention or food. For mothers, purring also signifies that the kittens are doing well.  Female cats use purring as a built-in mother instinct. The sound has the effect of a lullaby and helps the kittens to relax and sleep.

Grooming Time

Many cats purr while being groomed. What does it mean when a cat purrs at that moment? It means that it’s in a relaxed environment and that it feels like being patted. Grooming can have a calming effect on cats, especially if you use scents or the best CBD oils for cats. If your cat feels comfortable while grooming, you’ll both enjoy this time together.


Hunger is one of the main reasons cats purr. According to some British researchers, there’s a difference in purring when cats want food and when they don’t think about food. So the sound varies depending on the situation. When cats ask for food, they might also use their normal purring with an unpleasant meow, which sounds like a baby’s cry.

Going Into Heat

Cats into heat purr very loudly and become incredibly affectionate and flirty. The vocalization is usually stronger than their regular meow. Rather than indicating pain, this purr aims to attract a partner.

Giving Birth or Nursing

What does it mean when a cat purrs loudly?  When your cat is ready to give birth, it can start purring more loudly than usual. In this case, purring stimulates cats to produce endorphins that help ease the birth pain. After giving birth, cats purr to create a bond with newborn kittens.

On the Deathbed

If your cat is old or has recently been diagnosed with a serious disease, you need to stay alert for every sign. Many cats start purring when they’re dying. They also prefer being alone so that they can relax and remain calm. Some can come back to a favorite bed or pillow to make themselves comfortable if they feel their time has come.

Cats That Don’t Purr

Do all cats purr? Some cats don’t purr much or at all. If your cat doesn’t purr, you shouldn’t worry too much about it. Perhaps your cat has other ways to communicate and doesn’t need to purr. Each cat is unique in its habits and temperament, so you might meet both extra purring and super silent cat breeds. 

But what if a purring cat suddenly becomes silent? We recommend you visit the vet as it could be due to an upper respiratory tract infection.

Cats That Purr and Bite

What does it mean when a cat purrs and bites you? Cats can purr and bite when they’re upset, frightened, anxious, or threatened. 

It might be giving you cat love bites because it feels overstimulated by the constant petting, which many owners mistakenly think cats always enjoy. If your cat is old, it also may have painful areas that you touch while stroking. Whatever the reason, purring and biting are a combination that serves as a defense mechanism. 

Final Thoughts: Can a Cat’s Purr Change Our Well-Being?

The presence of a cat positively affects our well-being and helps us cope with everyday difficulties. 76% of participants in a Mental Health Foundation survey confirm that. Cats distract their owners from gloomy thoughts and cheer them up. So what does it mean when a cat purrs? Cats can purr in many situations, whether they’re happy, stressed, or in pain. Every cat owner should learn to recognize the reasons behind their cat’s purring as they can differ. Still, the vibrations may have calm-inducing benefits for us, too. So next time you hear your cat purring, just enjoy it.

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