Why do cats purr when you pet them?

Updated at 19 Dec 2022

Cats' most frequent form of communication is purring. Most cats purr in the company of their feline friends rather than meow.

There are many types of purring. Understanding your cat's purring habits is essential.

Cute kitten in human hand

Cats love to be stroked and will often purr when touched. This is a sign that the cat is having fun with the attention. However, through purring, a cat may try to remain calm when faced with fear or pain. Even though most cats will purr throughout the day, it is still a voluntary behavior.

Respiration Physiology states that the neural oscillator transmits messages to the laryngeal muscle. The larynx opens and closes, separating the sound from its voice box. This allows the cat to purr and make other sounds as needed.

Learn how to communicate with your feline companions when purring. Also, pay attention to the other vocalizations accompanying purring.

This will allow you to determine if your cat enjoys being petted. If it is uncomfortable, cats will eventually start to scratch and bite.

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Happiness and Relaxation

We assume that a purring kitten is happy and relaxed. This is most often true.

From an early age, cats learn to purr. Cats begin to purr within a few days of their birth.

This is a form of communication. This is a way for the kitten to notify its mother that it's safe and close by.

This will often encourage the mother cat to approach the kitten. Mother cats will make sure their kittens are well-fed and warm.

This stimulates endorphins in the kittens' brains. This makes purring more positive.

Suppose you have a solid bond with your cat, you can take on the role of its mother. Although cats are independent creatures, they need to be reassured from time to time.

Your cat may purr when you pick him up. This is a sign that it's okay to be petted.

When they are in blissful relaxation, cats purr. These feelings of contentment are magnified if your cat is petted in a favorite spot. Every cat has a sweet spot where they love to be touched. These are:

  • Between the ears
  • Under chin
  • Alongside cheeks
  • On the back, this could lead to excessive stimulation

It's safe to assume that your cat is happy if it purrs when it's being petted in these areas. Cat purring is most often due to contentment.

During this time, you can observe your cat's body language. If your cat displays these signs, it is likely to be relaxed.

  • Complete absence of tension in the body
  • Limbs stretched out
  • Eyes closed or lightly blinking
  • Ears in a relaxed, forward-pointing position
  • The cat is curled up or still posing, similar to a question mark
  • Whiskers pointed away from the face
  • Claws sheathed

Your cat's purring can be compared to a lullaby in these situations. Sometimes, the cat may even fall asleep because it is content.

The cat's sound may change in volume and speed at this point. This could be an indication that your cat is snoring and not purring.

Is My Cat Purring or Snoring?

Your cat will not purr if it is asleep. As discussed, purring requires a conscious effort.

Your cat will not be able to purr if it is deep asleep. However, it could be snoring. Untrained ears may confuse cat snoring with the cat purring.

Woman hugging a cat

Of course, some cat breeds snore more than others. The most frequent snoring is seen in brachycephalic cats, such as Persian, Burmese, and Himalayan. These cats have smaller nostrils which make breathing while asleep slightly more complicated.

The sound pattern is what makes purring and snoring different. The volume and speed at which the purring occurs will be constant.

Changes will be gradual unless they are sudden. Snoring will be less frequent and more intermittent. It will be louder.

You can also observe your cat to determine if it is snoring. If a cat is deeply asleep, it will snore.

Petting can cause some cats to doze off. These are signs that your cat is asleep:

  • Twitching ears
  • Rapid pupil movement in closed eyes
  • Silent sounds

Continue doing what you are doing. Your cat will fall asleep if you continue to give it physical contact.

If your cat suddenly wakes up, stop petting her. Otherwise, it can cause the cat to become disoriented and aggressive.

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Discomfort and Pain

There are two ends to a cat's stimulation spectrum: pleasure and pain. They can both be identified by purring. It would help to acknowledge your cat's other behavior while it purrs.

Apart from pleasure, self-soothing is another reason cats purr. This purring is the equivalent of taking a deep, long breath when you're under pressure.

A cat may be uncomfortable or hurt while being petted. There are many reasons. It could be that you are aggravating an existing condition. You may find that the cat is trying to avoid physical contact.


Some cat owners often get bitten when petting their cats. It's confusing. The cat will purr contentedly and happily sit on your lap while you stroke it.

Then he bites without warning. This is a sign that the cat is overexcited.

Cat skin is fragile. It can only take so much touch before it begins to hurt. Some cats will make a warning sign, while others will respond immediately.

The first sign that your cat is overexcited is her purr. Your cat's purr will become louder, sharper, and less gentle.

  • Fidgeting during petting
  • Growling or hissing
  • Attempting escape
  • Swishing tail
  • Flattened ears
  • Dilated pupils

Stop petting the cat as soon as you notice these signs. The cat should be let go. If you keep stroking it, the cat will bite.

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Pre-Existing Pain

Your cat may have an underlying medical condition that is causing her pain. This is a common problem, especially among older cats.

Child on mom's lap petting a black cat

Such subtle diseases may include arthritis and certain infections or illnesses that make the cat uncomfortable. To cope with his pain, the cat will constantly purr. Just because your cat isn't screaming or crying doesn't mean she's healthy and happy.

According to studies, cats do not show any signs of pain. From a feline point of view, this is a sign of weakness. Here are the most common symptoms that a cat is in pain:

  • Hide from contact
  • Uncharacteristic aggression
  • Curling in a ball
  • Refusing to groom
  • Louder purring and other unusual verbalizations

The cat might still be able to tolerate being petted. However, the cat will start to purr loudly and become more agitated. If this happens, stop petting the cat and examine the cause of the cat's pain.

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Muscle Healing

Sometimes a cat purrs to help its body heal faster. A fall or impact may have caused skeletal or muscle damage to your cat.

While cats can fall from heights without injuring themselves, you should never assume that this is the case. There are a number of studies from the acoustic society that describe how purring can help heal broken bones in cats.

The vibrations created by purring at frequencies from 25 to 150 Hz promote bone healing. Therefore, the self-soothing effects of purring help cats soothe any pain.

Stop petting your cat if you suspect it is injured. You can watch your cat from afar and check for signs of injury.

Don't wait for your cat to call if it's in pain. Watch out for warning signs like lameness, for example. At the first sign of injury, contact your veterinarian immediately.

What Can People Get from Purring?

What can people gain from purring? We love hearing our cats purr, especially when petting them. Do you know that a cat's purr is good for us too? This is true!

To date, there is a sufficient number of studies on the therapeutic effects of these vibrations. Some studies show that the vibrations emitted by cats can:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Help you fight swelling faster
  • Help from muscle, tendon, and joint pain
  • Promote bone growth and healing
  • Improve your breathing
  • Reduced risk of developing a heart attack
  • Lower your stress levels

You can even make fun of your friends who don't like cats by claiming that dogs have more benefits. Could you ever dream of having a natural healing system in your home to help you through painful and difficult times?

Cat owners often notice that their pet is lying on a sore arm or leg when joints or muscles ache. And all because the cat knows how the power of vibration can help heal.

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Anxiety and Stress

Some cats don't like being touched by humans. Although you might be trying to help your cat, it could scare him.

Human hand scratching a white cat under the chin

Some cats are fearful of their shadows and naturally nervous. These cats will be cautious around you. Don't take it personally.

You are just a giant cat to your pet. This fear is amplified by your ability to grab the cat and trap it in your arms.

As you stroke, your cat, pay attention to its body language. If your pet is showing any of these signs, it is likely that she is stressed or scared.

  • Dilated pupils
  • Flatten the ears against the back of your head
  • Tense body
  • Attempting to make the body as small and compact as possible

Don't hesitate to let the cat go. The situation will not improve by any amount of purring. The cat wants to escape.

Do not pet the cat force. If the cat approaches you asking for attention, be open to it. If it does, give petting in controlled, short bursts.

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In fact, most cats are very fond of petting. However, they like it even more, when they are fed.

Your cat may purr to let you know that she is hungry. Of course, at first, your cat may prefer to be stroked, but eventually, her patience will run out.

You will recognize the sound of a hungry purr when you master it. Current biology defines it as "a scream embedded in a purr."

It will sound louder, more dramatic, and less pleasing to your ear. It will sound more like a baby cry than a lullaby.

This is done on purpose. Domestic cats know how to manipulate people. The kittens quickly learn that crying attracts the attention of their owners, who offer comfort and food.

If your cat cries and purrs, she is sending a message. Release the cat immediately.

Pay attention to what your cat does next. If your cat is hungry, she will most likely look for an empty bowl of food and then meow.

Heavy Breathing

It would help if you didn't confuse heavy breathing with purring. If your cat's mouth is open, it means it's hard for her to breathe. You may need to resolve this issue immediately.

Older cats may choke during physical activities. Don't panic right away.

If your cat comes up to you for petting after play, she may need a break. After a few minutes, the cat's breathing should become normal. After that, the cat will continue to purr.

A cat with a history of heavy breathing may be at risk. Cats will purr when they are trying to cope with their discomfort.

When the cat is relaxed and enjoying petting, she should not breathe deeply for too long. This may be due to many reasons. Some of these reasons are minor.

For example, a mild respiratory infection can temporarily cause your pet to have difficulty breathing. Contact your veterinarian and he will prescribe medication for you.

The cat will purr with pleasure when petted. This should be kept.

Your cat should see petting as a source of pleasure, not pain or fear. Stop petting your cat if you suspect that she is not expressing joy.

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