Cats are known for their independent nature, hilarious dislike for water, and their ability to slide underneath even the narrowest door opening. Another thing that’s synonymous with our furry felines is their ability to purr. You may notice your cat purring at weird times and sometimes for extended periods of time, which can be a bit confusing. The reason behind purring can go from being happy to being stressed or just a therapeutic behavior for them. So why do cats purr exactly, and why might they do it all the time?
How Exactly Do Cats Purr?
Let’s first start by discussing how cats actually purr from a physiological standpoint. The sound that you hear originates from the muscles of the cat’s larynx. They constrict and dilate their glottis (the portion of the larynx surrounding its vocal cords), and when they move the air vibrates, which results in a purring sound.
Essentially, the purring is the sound of the larynx vibrating. There is a similar mechanism that happens in large wild cats, though it results in a deep roar and not a tiny purr like those of domesticated (and much smaller) house cats. So that explains how they purr, now let’s discuss why they may do it.
The 5 Reasons Cats Purr All the Time
1. The Cat Is Content
When cats are relaxed and content (and happy overall), they’ll often purr. At some point, you’ve come across your cat lying down on its back with their belly exposed (which is an indicator of trust). This indicates that they are relaxed and feeling pretty good – which explains why you may often see this a few minutes after a meal, or right in the morning when they wake up. These are signs that your cat is happy and enjoying their best life.
2. They’re Communicating Maternally
Purring also has a maternal purpose. Newly born kittens start to purr as soon as they are a few days old. In the wild, purring is a quiet way for kittens and mothers to communicate with each other without being heard by predators – something essential for their survival. Mother cats can tell their kittens that they need food by purring.
This behavior can (and usually does) continue into adulthood. You may have noticed your cat purring during or before feeding, which often indicates that they’re hungry.
3. The Cat Is Experiencing Stress
A cat that is stressed can also purr a lot. For example, a cat might purr after being chased by a dog or when they’re startled by loud sounds in the home. Similar to people who can calm themselves by crying or laughing, this is what cats do. It’s possible to tell if your cat has stress by looking at its other visual cues. Is the cat in a defensive position? Did it retreat to another room or beneath a piece of furniture?
Sometimes cats might need some alone time in a quiet place if they’re stressed. They might even want to simply cuddle up with you in the bed or on the couch. And in some cases, they may simply retreat to their own bed and hang out for a while until their stress levels decrease – and you may hear purring as they do this.
4. They Want Something
Cats don’t understand our language, so they have to learn other languages to talk to their owners. Did you know that your cat’s purr might sound different depending on the situation? You might hear a different sound in their purr when they’re hungry.
Studies have shown that cats may be mimicking human babies in their purr, appealing to our nurturing instincts. They might be more insistent or less frequent in their purring – they will try everything to get what they need, which is usually food.
5. Purring May Be Therapeutic
Cat experts have seen cats cuddle up and purr when injured to speed up the healing process. The frequency at which your cat’s purr vibrates is between 25 and 145 Hz. The vibrations within cats’ bodies may provide pain relief and serve a protective, soothing, and comforting function.
Wrapping Things Up
Cat purring is not only a characteristic of domestic cats, but also a feature found in other cat species such as cheetahs and bobcats. Although purring is believed to be a sign of contentment and happiness for a long time, cats will often purr to self-soothe, communicate, and express their emotions to you and their feline family.
Featured Image Credit: Gadzick, Shutterstock