Excited Cats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Will a Cat Purr When They’re in Pain? What You Should Know

Vet approved

	Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM

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

Learn more »

As cat parents, most of us see a cat’s purr as a sign that our feline is happy and content with its life. In most cases, that’s true, but cats purr for other reasons, including when they’re in pain. It’s thought that your cat’s purrs might have healing qualities that help the cat feel better when it’s in pain or sick. Of course, that’s not an alternative to taking your cat to the vet, so make sure to schedule an appointment if you feel your cat is sick or injured.

In this article, we’ll examine pain in cats, clinical signs associated with it, and how purring relates to it.

cat + line divider

How Does Purring Help Cats in Pain?

Various studies have shown that cats in pain do purr, and we know that it helps with the cat’s stress levels and ultimately may help the healing process. How does purring help cats in pain?

tired sick cat lying on bed
Image Credit: Natata, Shutterstock

Purring Is Vibrational Therapy

Purring is a form of vibrational therapy for cats. It is the rapid movement of your cat’s vocal cords, which occurs at 25 to 150 vibrations a minute. Similar to the vibration therapy used in humans, purring may improve bone and joint health, stimulate osteoblast production, and thus contribute to fracture repair (albeit slowly). While this trait of purring may have evolved as a low-energy means of stimulating muscle and bone repair, it should not be relied upon for sole therapy for an injury; we still advocate you bring your cat to the vet if he or she is lame on a limb after a fall!

Purring Releases Endorphins

As with humans, cats’ endorphins are responsible for feeling happy and content. Many pet owners don’t know that endorphins also help with pain management. They work as an analgesic, which in turn diminishes the perception of the pain.

Purring Makes Breathing Easier

If your cat is in pain because of a respiratory issue, the cat may find it hard to breathe. Believe it or not,  purring may make breathing easier for your pet. Stress and pain make breathing difficult, but purring may send signals to the diaphragm to expand the chest, ultimately returning respiration to normal.

yarn ball divider

Signs that Your Cat Is Sick or in Pain

It’s hard to know when your cat’s in pain just by their purring because cats purr for various reasons.

British shorthair cat hiding
Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

Breathing is Labored

When a cat is sick, sometimes it affects its breathing. Normal breathing for a feline is around 30 breaths per minute. If your cat is in pain, it could be breathing 100 breaths per minute.

Loss of Appetite

Cats that are in pain often don’t feel like eating. A healthy cat will eat and drink many times throughout the day. If you think your cat isn’t eating like normal, try presenting the food and water to them personally. If the cat refuses it, it might be in pain or sick. If your cat exhibits this symptom for very long, it’s best to take it to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.

orange cat eating wet food
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

Hiding in Dark Spaces

Injured or sick cats try to get away from everyone by hiding in small, dark spaces to be alone. The cat feels more in control of the situation if it’s not out in the open, making it easier to deal with the pain.

Being in the dark also makes them feel better because predators can’t find and prey on them in their vulnerable state. While that’s not the case with indoor cats, it’s an instinct that cats exhibit in the wild.


If your cat is in pain, it will become more lethargic. While most cats are laid back, lazy creatures, there are always times throughout the day when the cat is active and playful. Healthy cats have sudden bursts of energy where they run, jump, pounce, and play.

If your cat is in pain, it will not be willing to do any of those activities.

Sick cat in animal hospital
Image Credit: Kachalkina Veronika, Shutterstock

What to Do for a Cat in Pain

It’s hard to see your beloved pet in pain, especially when there’s nothing you can do about it. While waiting for your vet’s appointment, keep your cat as comfortable as possible. Make sure to put its bed in a place where it’s out of the way in a quiet room. You can set its food and water within reach and place toys and stuffed animals nearby for comfort.

3 cat face divider

Wrapping It Up

Although it seems strange, cats will purr when they’re in pain. However, purring isn’t the best way to tell that your cat is in pain or sick. If your cat exhibits any of the symptoms above, contact your vet immediately for an appointment.

thematic break

Featured Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock