Purring is the most common sound cats make, yet we know very less about it. It is commonly believed that they purr when they’re content, but it is not always true. They purr to communicate other emotions and needs, too.
Your cat looks relaxed: Perhaps she’s on her back, eyes half-closed, tail mostly still. If she’s purring, it’s safe to assume she’s in her happy place. That noise is a big smile.
Hungry or Wants Something
Some cats purr when it’s mealtime. British researchers studied the sounds that house cats make when they’re hungry and when food isn’t on their minds. The purrs don’t sound the same.
When cats purr for food, they combine their normal purr with an unpleasant cry or mew, a bit like a human baby’s cry. Experts believe that we’re more likely to respond to this sound. They’ve found that people can tell the difference between the purrs, even if they aren’t cat owners.
Kittens can purr when they’re only a few days old. It’s probably a way to let their mothers know where they are or that they’re OK. Purring also helps a kitten bond with its mother. Mama cats use it like a lullaby.
Relief and Healing
Even though purring takes energy, many cats purr when they get hurt or are in pain. So what makes the effort worth it?
It might simply be a way for a cat to soothe itself, like a child sucks their thumb to feel better.
But some research suggests that purring actually helps cats get better faster. The low frequency of purrs causes a series of related vibrations within their body that can:
- Heal bones and wounds
- Build muscle and repair tendons
- Ease breathing
- Lessen pain and swelling
This might explain why cats are able to survive falls from high places and tend to have fewer complications after surgeries than dogs.