What Do Those Cat Purrs Really Mean?

Photo Credit: Pxhere

Few things are more relaxing than your sweet pet cat curling up in your lap and letting out a nice, low purr.

But do you know what that sound really means?

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

Most house cat behaviors are habits that have been with these animals since before they become domesticated thousands of years ago, which makes what they are telling us when they purr even more intriguing.

Experts speculate purring comes from the voicebox where vibrations originate as cats breathe.

Fun fact: lions and tigers don’t purr. This may have to do with how they roar, but no one knows for sure why, and the lions and tigers certainly aren’t explaining themselves. However, other big cats like cheetahs and snow leopards do purr. But they don’t really roar.


Something most people agree upon is that among all the cat behaviors (like hissing, growling and scent rubbing) purring seems to signify happiness. It’s probably a behavior passed down from the mother who used the purr to show safety and security.

The kittens, in turn, purr as they get to feed from the mother. Then, when they’re older and they have human owners to feed them, cats may purr to say, “feed me.” Or, they may purr to show other cats safety and security, as in, “I’m not going to cause you any trouble.”

Purring has also been observed in cats as they give birth and in other distressing situations. This leads some behaviorists to say purring may release hormones that minimize pain or bring about calm.

Photo Credit: Pxhere

Strangely, this may work on humans as well. Research shows owning cats, and dogs, as pets offers many benefits, such as…

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased cholesterol levels
  • Decreased triglyceride levels
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness
  • Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
  • Increased opportunities for socialization

So that’s awesome!

Even though we may never know for sure, purring is understood almost universally to be a sign of happiness and calm. For that reason, simply hearing a cat purr puts people in that frame of mind. Humans may even respond to cat purrs like baby coos as the sounds are said to be similar in pitch.

So, we don’t know for sure why or how cats purr. But we know we like it and we know it makes us calmer hearing it.

And that’s probably enough.