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Do Feral Cats Know How to Purr? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

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	Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Hearing your cat purr is usually a sign you’re doing something right. Whether they have a full belly and are thanking you, or they are simply enjoying the affection you’re providing their contentment is heartwarming. But have you ever wondered about feral cats? Do they purr? Do they even know how to purr?

If you’re curious about the community cats in your area, the answer is yes, feral cats know how to purr. Let’s take a deeper look at purring and why cats do it.

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What Is a Purr?

In the simplest terms, a purr is the sound we hear when our cat’s vocal cords are vibrating and air passes over them as the cat breathes. This system is controlled subconsciously by your cat’s brain. The vibrations are done by the muscles around their vocal cords, not the cords themselves. This is why cats can purr as they inhale and exhale, and they can meow and purr at the same time.

Meows on the other hand are vocalizations cats use, usually to communicate with humans. Unlike a purr, these are conscious sounds your cat makes using their vocal cords.

Cats normally purr when they’re content, nursing kittens, trying to relax, and in some instances, when in pain. The frequency of a cat’s purr is unique to a cat and doesn’t change throughout their life.

feral calico cat
Image Credit: Twinschoice, Shutterstock

Do Feral Cats Know How to Purr?

Feral cats are not the same as stray cats. These cats have never had human contact, were born in the wild, and in most cases, aren’t tamable. Considering how these cats like to hide away from humans, it only makes sense that people would be curious as to whether they purr like other cats. Unfortunately, in most instances, purring in feral cats isn’t well observed by us, in part due to their tendency to avoid humans. However, it is safe to assume that they know how to purr.

Although born wild, feral mothers still bond with their kittens like any cat. They nurse them, show them love, and teach them about the world they live in. The world a feral kitten lives in is very different in comparison to a tamed cat. There are lots of predators and dangers around them. Nonetheless, they still purr, as the behavior is instinctive and not unique to pet cats.

There are other instances where feral cats may purr. If you see feral cats in your community, you’ve most likely noticed they live in colonies. Often, this group of feral cats is all part of the same family. This is thanks to the uncontrolled breeding that takes place with these cats. While there are lots of dangers feral cats face, there are still instances where they are happy and content around their families. With it being so difficult for humans to approach feral cats, it’s hard to determine how often they may purr to show this happiness.

vocal semi-feral cat
Image Credit: museumsmaus, Pixabay

Why Do Domesticated Cats Purr?

As cat parents, we instantly think our cats purr to show they are happy. There’s much more to this vocalization that meets the eye, however. Let’s take a deeper look at why cats purr to help you better understand the importance of this sound.

It’s Time to Eat

We all know how motivated cats are by food. When your cat knows it is mealtime, it may start to purr instead of meow. This is especially true if they see you are already making their meal. It’s your cat’s way of showing they are happy and appreciative of the meal you’re giving them.

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Most cats will purr when they are content. This is a cat’s way of showing you they feel safe, happy, and relaxed with you.

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Motherly Bond

After having kittens, a mother cat will purr. This is her way of forming a bond with her young. Instinctively, the kittens will return the gesture. This beautiful display is how they bond and communicate as the kittens grow.

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Purrs aren’t only soothing to humans but also to cats themselves. When your cat is sick or hurt, they will purr in hopes of healing themselves quicker. This also happens when your cat is feeling stressed or anxious. The frequency of a cat’s purr has been experimentally noted to promote recovery rates and expedite bone healing.

mother cat and its kittens
Image Credit: Esin Deniz, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, the lives of feral cats aren’t easy. More often than not, these cats who have lived their entire lives without human contact are doing all they can to stay fed and safe. However, it is safe to assume that feral cats know how to purr and do purr. The reasons they may purr are fundamentally similar to the reasons to a domestic house cat may purr.

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Featured Image Credit: Krishna777, Shutterstock