7 Ways to Know When Kittens Purr

Kittens purr when they are:

  • Happy
  • Excited
  • Scared
  • Investigating a new environment
  • Hungry
  • Injured

Kittens learn to purr at three weeks of age. They purr to let their mama know they are ok.  

Not all kittens purr loudly. Others may do so in a low volume, and you have to touch their neck to feel the vibration.

You must agree that the gentle rumbling sound we often hear our kittens make gives us some sense of peace.  

So, today, I am here to talk about this puzzling type of vocalization; the purr.

Is there a particular environment or situation that triggers your kitten to purr? Read more to find out when kittens purr.

Here are different situations that make your kitten purr:


1. Kittens Purr When Happy

Purring is usually a sign of contentment. Your kitten purrs when they are happy. It could be because you pet them where cats like to be touched.

The purr is a vocalization meant for those near and dear.

Since cats purr at a volume and frequency too low to travel far, the vocalizations are associated with positive situations near them, such as when you groom or massage them.

Cats purr when they are content. As you sit in the sun with your kitten, you may hear a gentle rumble as they breathe in and out.

You can tell your kitten is happy just by observing their body language when they purr. Usually, they are lying on their back, eyes half-closed, and the tail is mostly still.

It means your kitten is happy interacting with you as their favorite person.

That purr is a big smile.


2. Kittens Purr When Hungry

Some kittens purr when it’s mealtime. Perhaps your little furry friend has seen you walking towards their food bowl, and they are excited that it’s time to eat.

British researchers studied the sounds that house cats make when they are hungry and when food is not on their minds. The purrs don’t sound the same.

When your kitten purrs for food, they combine their normal purr with an unpleasant cry. It is similar to a human baby’s cry.

We are more likely to respond to this sound. Experts found that even non-cat owners can tell the difference between these two kinds of purrs.


3. Newborn Kittens Purr to Communicate With Mom

Kittens are born blind and deaf. The only way they can communicate with their mothers is through purrs.

Kittens can purr when they’re a few days old. This is probably the only way to let their mother know they are ok.

Mama cat purrs to lure her kittens closer, keep them warm, and direct them to their first meal.

Purring also helps a kitten bond with their mother. It is like a lullaby that soothes the young one and makes them feel safe.


4. Kittens Purr to Seek Attention

While most adult cats meow loudly to seek attention, a kitten might use subtle forms of vocalization to seek your attention.

For example, your kitten might play with your feet while purring. They are asking you to be their playmate in the game sessions.

Or, they may purr next to you because you are too absorbed in your favorite T.V. show, and they are hungry.

A kitten may purr to solicit petting or treats.


5. Purring Soothes a Kitten in an Unfamiliar Home

If your kitten is newly-adopted, it could be that they purr while investigating the new environment.

A new home, with new sights, sounds, and smells, can be overwhelming for a kitten. However, they normally settle in nicely after a few days.

Before then, you might notice your kitten purrs a lot when investigating your home. They may walk around the sofa, peep in the kitchen, or just smell your feet.

Purring helps your kitten feel safe in a strange place. It is a self-soothing behavior, the same way you would fidget with your fingers when nervous.


6. Purring May Be a Sign of Distress

We often associate purring with contentment and happiness. However, a purr does not always equal happiness.

Sometimes a distressing situation can make your kitten purr, such as when they go for a vet’s visit.

Remember, when your kitten was with their mother, they used to purr to solicit care from her.

So, when your kitten purrs, it may be their way of telling you they are in distress. They need your help.


7. Kittens Purr When Injured

Domestic cats purr at a frequency of about 26 Hertz, a range that promotes tissue regeneration.

Purring may help your kitten heal after being injured. Perhaps you have accidentally stepped on their tail.

Or, your kitten fell when trying to climb the kitchen counter. Kittens are playful (if not naughty), and they can injure themselves in their escapades.

Some refer to the kitten’s purr as “purr therapy.” This is because purr-like vibration devices have been patented for potential use in therapy.

When your kitten has a body injury, the purrs cause a series of vibrations in their body which can:

  • Heal bones and wounds
  • Ease breathing
  • Lessen pain and swelling

Perhaps, this might explain why cats sustain fewer injuries when they fall from a high place.


Kittens Begin to Purr at Around 3 Weeks

While some kittens may purr immediately after birth, they mostly respond to their mother’s vocalization using tiny squeaks and meows.

Kittens normally begin to purr when they reach around three weeks of age.

Purring helps them create a sense of calmness as they snuggle on her belly during feeding time.


Some Kittens May Not Purr Loudly

Each kitten purrs in a different way and at a different volume. Some kittens’ purrs may not be that audible.

You may have to touch their neck to feel the vibration.

Some kittens may not purr at all. This is just a matter of personality type, and there is nothing to worry about.


How to Know Your Kitten Is Happy

When your kitten purrs, it is almost always a sign of happiness and contentment. Sometimes your kitten will combine purring with these other signs and signals to show you they are really happy:  


1. Chirping

Sometimes this vocalization is known as a chirrup or a trill. It is a short, peep-like sound similar to a songbird’s warble.

The International Cat Care notes that cats generally chirp when greeting, seeking attention, or approving their favorite human.

Your kitten may also chirp and trill at toys. Perhaps as you play with your kitten, they get excited, and their hunting instincts kick in.

Attach a feather toy to a string and let your kitten chase it. Keep an ear out for some fun chattering.

When your kitten chips or trills, they might be asking you to offer them a treat, seeking affection, or wanting to play.


2. Greeting Meows

You might have heard your kitten meow while purring in between. This kind of meow is often a happy greeting.

It means your little one is happy to see you. Perhaps, your kitten is using trills and meows to show they are excited as you walk toward their food bowls.


3. Grooming in Front of You

If your kitten comes out into the middle of the room and begins to groom in front of you, they feel comfortable at ease.

Regular grooming is a sign of a happy and healthy kitten.


4. Kneading

You have probably seen your kitten knead their paws into soft blankets or your stomach. Sometimes we jokingly refer to this feline behavior as “making biscuits.”

Your kitten purrs while kneading. This shows that they are happy and feel safe in your presence.

Kittens learn kneading when with their mothers. They do so to stimulate milk production. There is one theory that cats that knead were separated from their mother or weaned too early.

However, nearly all adult cats knead regardless of when they were weaned. It is more likely that kneading is simply comforting to cats.


5. Playing

An important part of a kitten’s growth and development is playing, which is why they have a reputation for being hyper.

It helps them learn vital adult skills for both communication and hunting.

If your kitten purrs while playing, it means they feel good and are content. In fact, if you had a kitten that wasn’t interested in playing, you would probably get worried.


6. Sitting on Your Lap

If your little furry friend is the cuddly type, you have probably seen them jump on your lap to sit wherever they have the opportunity.

A kitten will rarely approach someone they don’t rust. The fact that your kitten comes close to you for some snuggles means they are happy.

When you reach out to pet them, you can hear them purr, a sure sign of contentment.

By sitting on your lap, your kitten is showing affection for you. Every cat is different, though; some want to sit on your lap, while others prefer to lie near you.

In general, though, a happy cat shows it by being close to their human (and probably purring).

Writer: Flora Ojow

flora ojow

Read about me