When Cats Purr What Does it Mean?

When cats purr what does it mean? Could this behavior be associated with calmness and relaxation only? And what if that isn’t the case?

This question is completely justified since there’s always more than one reason for any animal behavior, cat’s purr included.

The main cause of this beautiful sound is indeed happiness and peace that they feel.  That’s why they usually purr when the owners pet them and while they’re sleeping peacefully.

Having said that, you should be familiar with other reasons why cats purr so that you know when your cat needs help. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you should panic every time you hear the car purring.

Almost always, the cause is completely harmless. If a certain illness causes purring, you’ll also notice other changes in your cat’s behavior.

Before going into details and explaining all of the familiar causes of your cat purring, we should answer the following:

How do cats purr?



Many people think that cats can purr because they have a special apparatus in the body, but this is far from the truth.

The reality is that cats only use their voice box and diaphragm. While they breathe, the air together with the vibrating muscles produces purrs.

If that’s the case, why can’t people purr, too, you wonder?

Well, the cats’ muscles of both larynx and diaphragm are very fast, and they move up to 30 times in one second. Sounds crazy, right?

Another interesting fact is that every cat has a unique purr. Some of them are very quiet and almost unnoticeable, while some cats’ purr is loud.

These movements allow cats to produce purring sound and vibration which can be very calming even for humans.

You surely notice it every time your pet curls up on your lap and purrs happily. It’s actually scientifically proven that those vibrations are very calming to cats and cat owners.

When cats purr what does it mean?

As said, there are numerous different reasons why cats purr. Let’s talk about the most frequent ones so that you more or less know how to understand what he/she needs.

Keep in mind that some causes of your cat purring may be followed by other behavioral changes. These will make the understanding of your cat’s needs easier.

Also, you’ll be able to tell if and when your cat is in pain and requires medical help. Check them out!


  • They’re happy

Everyone’s first assumption, when they hear cat purring, is that the animal is happy. More often than not, this is actually true.

You’ll notice this kind of purr when you come back home after being away for a couple of hours.

Your pet will be super-happy that you’re home and he/she will start to nestle around your legs and purr.

If you also notice that your cat is still while purring, he/she is 100% happy and calm.

  • They feel relaxed


Similarly to being happy, cats almost always purr when they are relaxed and peaceful.

Your cat will calmly be lying in its bed or on your lap. He/she will have a slow breath and eyes half-closed while enjoying your strokes.

This means that your feline pet is very relaxed, calm, and stress-free. That’s when quiet and cute purring occurs.

  • They’re hungry

Cats’ purring can actually be compared to babies crying when they are hungry. This will be highly noticeable as soon as your cat hears the bag of food opening.

Also, once he/she smells the food in his/her bowl, the purring is often inevitable.

It’s your cat’s way of expressing he/she is hungry but also excited because the meal is ready.

In these cases, your cat won’t be still but a bit nervous because of hunger. Your pet may even point to the empty food bowl and try to give you clues to feed him/her.

  • Form of relief 

The reasons behind the question “When cats purr what does it mean?” can be very important.

One of those is the cat’s way of calming itself and relieving any sort of pain and discomfort.

Similarly to children who suck their thumb to feel better, cats have the habit of purring.

If your feline pet is in pain, he/she will purr because those vibrations are calming to them. Purring is very beneficial as pain relief. It is also calming for cats when they feel nervous.

  • To promote healing

Yes, you’ve read it right. Cat purrs are proven to be very beneficial not only for their relaxation but also in promoting tissue and bone healing.

This statement has been scientifically proven, and the vibrations are being used for the healing of humans too. They utilize vibrating devices on the feet and legs of the astronauts to prevent muscle atrophy. 

Since the purring is caused by the rapid movement of cats’ diaphragm that creates vibration, it’s no wonder why it promotes healing. That’s why cats heal very quickly and usually don’t have serious complications after the surgery.

  • The bond between kitten and mother 

Have you noticed even your kitten pets purring? This means that they are signalizing to their mother that they are fine and happy.

Also, cat mothers very often use purring as a way of helping their little ones with orientation.

Since kittens are born blind, this helps them a lot to feel secure and taken care of.

Another function of purring is like a form of a lullaby that mothers use to help kittens sleep peacefully.

This is a very important part of their bond.

When do cats start purring for the first time?


As described in the previous paragraph, as soon as they are born, kittens start to purr.

This type of purring is usually used as communication between kittens and their mothers. From this, we can conclude that purring is a pure reflex that cats have, just like breathing and meowing.

Similarly to babies that suck their thumbs when they’re upset, kittens will also use purring to calm down. It’s interesting to think about the importance that purring really has and when cats purr what does it mean. Of course, it is the indicator of whether or not your cat is relaxed and happy.

Other than that, it also has healing properties and creates a crucial bond between kittens and their mother.

Frequently asked questions about cats purring

Let’s list and answer the commonly asked questions that cat owners (and not only) usually have when it comes to cat purrs.

Since purring is still a mystery for the majority of people, it’s understandable that these questions appear often.

Hopefully, you’ll know more about this topic after you finish reading this article!

  • Is purring a sign of happiness?

Most of the time, yes – your cat does purr because he/she is happy.

You should keep in mind that you’ll probably easily notice when happiness is the cause of the purring.

How? Well, your cat will not only purr, but it will also be very calm and relaxed. It will enjoy your strokes and lie peacefully on your lap.

That way, you’ll know that he/she is happy and satisfied with everything.

As soon as you notice extremely loud purring and other behavioral changes that are unusual, take the cat to the vet. In those cases, happiness most likely isn’t the cause of purring.

  • Does the cat’s purr healing effect exist?

As said earlier in the article, cats can heal themselves with the purrs because of the vibrations.

These will heal their muscles, bones, and scars. Purring is also important for your cat’s mental and heart health because it’s calming and reduces stress.

  • How can you tell if a cat is purring of pain?

Even though purring caused by pain may seem tricky to detect, your cat will show other signs of discomfort.

Those other changes will be the best indicator of the pain that your cat may be feeling. Needless to say, if you notice your cat purring louder than usual, it is most likely the sign that he/she is in pain. In these cases, the visit to the vet is necessary.


  • When cats purr what does it mean?

To conclude this article, let’s give a sum up of the main question – what does it mean when cats purr.

You had the opportunity to read about the most common causes of this lovely sound.

We tried to describe the majority of them, such as happiness, relaxation, kitten-mother bond, and even healing. 

Still, don’t avoid visiting the vet if your cat is showing strange behavior.

Cat’s purring can also be the way of him/her trying to tell you that something is bothering him/her. Some of the indicators that your cat need professional help can be:

  • Loud purring
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Loud meowing
  • Vomiting

Read Also: Why Do Cats Eat Ants

Bottom Line

No matter if your cat purrs because she is affectionate, happy, or excited, it’s just normal activity. You don’t need to worry. She will purr every time while sleeping on you.