The 10 Reasons Cats Purr All the Time

Cats communicate, meditate, and heal themselves by purring. In this article I am going to show you what it means when your cat purrs all the time.

Cats purr when happy and content, but they also purr when nervous, afraid, stressed-out, in pain, and when healing from an injury or illness. Some individual cats don’t purr at all, and some purr all the time for reasons we don’t fully understand.

We can’t say exactly why your cat purrs all the time, but here are the 10 reasons cats make this unusual sound, along with some other interesting facts about cats and purring.


 1. Cats purr a lot when happy

For humans, a cat purring all the time is likely to make us think the animal is happy. And this is often true.

Cats do purr when they are content, peaceful, and happy.

If your cat purrs all the time when you hold and pet it, or when it’s sleeping lazily in the sun or on a comfy bed, your feline friend is likely feeling happy, serene, and relaxed.

You can look for other clues in the cat’s body language to know if it’s a happy purring sound that you’re hearing.

For example, purring is likely to mean happiness if you also see that your cat is:

  • In a relaxed pose
  • Lying on its back
  • Its eyes are partly or entirely closed
  • Its tail is still and not twitching

Happy purring might be a form of meditation for cats, or simply signify feeling peaceful and calm.

However, there are also quite a few other reasons a cat might constantly be purring, and many of these reasons have nothing to do with being happy or content.


2. Some cats purr all the time when they’re hungry

You might notice your cat purring loudly when you’re putting food into its dish and even while it is eating or after finishing its meal.

Purring at mealtime might make you think the cat is telling you it’s happy about being fed, but there could be more to it than that.

Cats frequently purr when they feel hunger. Making this sound might be one way a kitten tells its mom it wants to eat.

Some signs to look for that purring is a sign of hunger are:

  • The cat is rubbing its body against your legs
  • It’s looking up at you expectantly
  • It’s looking at or moving toward the refrigerator or cat food storage area
  • It quickly runs to the bowl and starts eating as soon as you set the dish down.
  • The purr is mixed with a meowing sound.

If you see these signs at mealtime along with loud purring, it’s a solid sign the purr has to do with hunger and the anticipation of a meal.

Many cat owners and scientists have noticed that the purr of a hungry cat is different from a happy purr.

When they are hungry, cats often mix their purr with a meow, a mewing sound, or a gurgling noise. Some cat owners can tell the difference between a ‘hungry’ purr and a ‘happy’ purr.

If your cat is purring a lot and you want to figure out why, listen closely to the sound and see if it is mixed with other cat vocal sounds. If it is, the cat may be purring a lot due to hunger or the anticipation or enjoyment of eating.

If your cat is purring when you are feeding it or after it eats, it could also mean there is a problem with the diet. Be sure you’re giving your pet high-quality cat food in sufficient quantities.

Cats are natural carnivores, and they cannot stay healthy on a vegetarian or low-quality meat diet. Be sure the food you provide contains an abundance of healthy meats and a good balance of vitamins and minerals for cats.

Feeding a cat low-quality cat food could make it feel hungry, even if it eats an adequate amount of food. A poor diet could lead to a cat purring a lot to say, “I’m still hungry!” or, “I need better food!”


 3. Cats purr when they’re nervous or afraid

Purring can also signify that a cat is nervous or afraid. We don’t know precisely why a cat makes this sound under this circumstance, but it might be because the sound and vibration help the animal relax.

If your cat is purring a lot and you can’t figure out why, check to see if there is anything that might be causing it to feel nervous or scared. Loud noises, unfamiliar people, or strange animals in the house could all be sources of nervousness or fear for a cat.

You could also try putting the cat in a quiet room with familiar toys, food, water, and a litter box and see if doing this changes how much it purrs. If it does, it’s possible the excess purring has to do with anxiety.


 4. Purring all the time can indicate stress

Cats get stressed out just like people do. The stress could be related to an injury or illness, which we’ll discuss later.

But a cat could also be stressed due to the room temperature being too hot or cold, a lack of comfortable places to sleep, inadequate availability of food or water, a dirty litter box, loud music, or many other reasons.

If your cat won’t stop purring, look around your home and see if any potential sources of stress could be causing the vocalizations.


 5. Purring all the time can mean a cat is sick

Lots of evidence shows us that cats purr when they are sick. Researchers suspect that purring is a healing mechanism for cats, and some evidence shows purring can relieve pain, help wounds heal, and even strengthen bones.

Purring when sick might also be a way for the cat to soothe itself and relax. Relaxing and staying comfortable helps the body heal more quickly.

My cat once ate a toxic insect and got sick all of a sudden. She could not stand up, had a bizarre look in her eyes, and was purring more loudly than ever for hours on end.

It was a holiday, and the vet’s office was closed, and she got better quickly without any ongoing problems. But it was interesting to see how much more loudly and continuously she purred when not feeling well.

If your cat looks ill and starts purring all the time, this could be a sign it’s time for a trip to the veterinarian for a health check-up.  


6. Purring might mean a cat is injured or in pain

An injury that leads to purring all the time could be apparent, like a broken leg or an open wound. But an injury can also be harder to see.

For example, if a cat gets bitten by a spider, snake, or scorpion, the injury might be hard to spot.

If your cat purrs non-stop all of a sudden, the source might be an injury that is not too obvious. Try gently touching different areas of the cat’s body to see if it reacts like it’s in pain. Doing this might help you locate a hard-to-see injury.

Cat researchers have measured the frequency range of purring when cats are sick and injured, and they find that the range is usually between 20 and 100 hertz.

We know from human medicine that sound frequencies in the 25 to 50 Hz range stimulate bone growth, and sounds around 100 Hz help soft tissue and skin to heal.

If your cat is purring all the time, even while sleeping, it might be giving itself a good vibration therapy to heal an injury or sickness. In this case, a trip to the vet’s office might be a good idea.


7. Cats sometimes purr when dying

Veterinarians, cat owners, and animal researchers have discovered that cats often purr when they die. Some cats probably purr at death for the same reasons they purr when injured, sick, or scared: The vibrations are soothing and comforting for the creature in this stressful moment.

Wild feline species are also known to purr at the time of death, and it might also be a way of communicating to predators that they pose no threat.

So, if your cat is dying and purrs a lot, be grateful that it has this method to keep itself as comfortable and serene as possible.


8. Some cats purr more than others, and some don’t purr at all

For unknown reasons, some cats purr a lot more than others. Some individuals purr little or not at all. These are typical differences between cats.

If your cat purrs all day and all night long, and it’s not injured, sick, or stressed-out by anything, it might be that you have a cat that likes to purr a lot.

On the other hand, if your cat seldom or never purrs, that does not mean it isn’t happy. Some individual cats just don’t make this sound, and that is part of their personality.


9. Kittens purr to communicate with their mothers

Kittens start purring when they are only a few days old, and it’s likely a way of communicating with their mother. The sound tells mom, “I’m here. I’m okay.” It may also indicate to mom that the kitten is hungry, scared, or not feeling well.

Mother cats might be able to distinguish between different purring sounds their kittens make, helping them know what their cuddly babies need at the moment.

The purring of a kitten could also be a way that mother and baby bond together, and the sound of mom purring could be like a lullaby for the kittens, making them feel safe and secure.


10. Cats purr when they are curious

Many cat owners notice their cat purrs when exploring a new environment. Is this because they feel happy? Does the new territory or experience make them nervous, causing them to purr? We don’t know.

However, if you notice your cat purrs loudly when going outside, or when you find it behind the couch or under the bed exploring, don’t be alarmed. Purring in these situations is normal for many cats and an expression of their curiosity.


11 Purrs That Cats Use to Communicate With You

Cats can express many things to their human companions by purring. This message is often one of love, acceptance, and appreciation, like saying “Thanks for feeding me that lovely dinner!” or, “I sure enjoy sitting in your lap and having you pet me!”

However, the message behind a cat’s purr can also mean something else, such as “I’m sick,” “I’m injured,” “I’m scared,” or “My water bowl is empty.”

A cat purring to communicate that something is wrong may still jump up in your lap and want to get petted. Or, the creature may go off by itself and purr alone in a corner.

By paying attention to other signs in the cat’s demeanor, such as posture, tail position, energy level, and appetite, you can gain more clues about what your cat might be trying to communicate to you by purring.


Changes in Cat’s Purring

If you have recently acquired a cat or kitten for the first time, you may be surprised by the frequency, volume, or variations of this unusual sound felines make.

Getting to know a kitten’s or cat’s purr is one of the joys of living with these creatures. Listen closely, and you will discover that not all purrs are the same for many cats.

With time, you can learn to tell the difference between types of purrs, what they mean, and whether or not a particular purr implies something is wrong.

If the quality, frequency, or volume of a cat’s purring changes suddenly, there is a chance that there is a problem, and it might be time for a trip to the veterinarian.

Spending time with your kitty friend and learning its purring habits is a good way of tuning into and learning to understand this form of cat language.

Then you’ll know if your cat is purring all the time because of its personality, feelings of happiness, excitement, or curiosity, or because something is amiss.


How Cats Purr

It’s only recently that scientists figured out how cats make a purring sound. In the past, people thought it was caused by blood flow in the heart, but this turns out not to be the case.

We now know that purring involves the vibration of a ridged bone in the cat’s throat called the hyoid bone. This bone is attached to the larynx (also called the voice box,) and the tongue.

Muscles around these structures constrict and relax, causing the hyoid bone to resonate and vibrate when the cat breathes, creating the purring sound.

Unlike other sounds that cats make, like meowing, chirping, hissing, and growling, purring is produced during both the inhalation and exhalation of a cat’s breath.

When a cat meows or makes other sounds, the sound only comes out during exhalation, similar to how humans talk most of the time.

The trigger for starting up purring is still mostly a mystery. However, scientists who study felines have discovered an area in cats’ brains that activates during purring and otherwise does not have a known function.


Cats Also Purr when No One is around

You might wonder if your cat purrs all the time only when you are nearby to hear it. The answer is no. Scientists who have attached microphones to cats find they purr even when no one is there to listen to them.

Of course, not all cats purr the same amount. So, some probably do not purr much when they are alone. But it’s also possible that some cats don’t purr around people but purr when they are by themselves.

There is still a lot we don’t know about cats.


A Purring Cat is Good for Human Health

The sound and feel of a cat’s purr are not just good for the cat. Human health can also benefit from these mysterious frequencies.

In one study, 48 stockbrokers with high-stress jobs were given blood pressure medication, and half of them were randomly also given a pet cat.

Later, when researchers measured the participant’s blood pressure, the people with cats had lower readings than those without pets.

In another study, owning a cat was strongly associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Other researchers have noted that women outlive men by an average of five years, and women are 80 percent more likely to have a pet cat. So does the purring and companionship of a cat help a person live longer? More research is needed to say for sure.

But if you are a cat lover, you don’t need a Ph.D. or a research grant to know that your feline friend purring helps you relax and communicates love and acceptance.

For many of us, cats and their purring are good for our health and happiness and theirs as well.   

Writer: Mary Innes

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