When Cats Purr Does It Mean They’re Happy?

The sound of purring is something most cat owners are familiar with and they often assume it’s a sign that their cat is happy and contented. But is this always the case? Are there other reasons why our cat might be purring?

Most of the time you’ll hear a cat purring when they feel relaxed, which often occurs when they’re being petted. If you’re gently stroking your cat and feel the vibration, it’s very likely your cat is happy. It’s a known fact that cats purr to express their feelings, just like a when dogs get excited and start wagging their tails and humans smile. 

However, just because a cat is purring it doesn’t mean he/she is necessarily happy. Cats purr for other reasons as well, although there is a certain amount of mystery surrounding this. For example, cats have been known to purr when being examined by their vet. Rather than interpreting this as a sign of being happy, it’s more likely that the cat is using it as a defense mechanism, trying to calm him/herself down by purring.  

Why Cats Purr

Since you can never know for sure what your kitty is trying to tell you by purring, you can probably figure it out by looking at the situation. 

  •  Happy and contented: If your kitty seems relaxed with his/her eyes half closed and tail not moving, your cat is probably purring because he/she is happy and in a good mood. You can be sure of this if he/she is sitting on your lap or lying beside you and getting petted. 

  •  Wanting to be fed: Cats can also purr when they’re getting hungry and want to be fed. Researchers have identified a different sounding purr, which they’re calling a “solicitation purr” that has more urgency to it, kind of like a crying baby. And as a cat parent, we instinctively want to feed them or hand them cat treats. 

  •  Kitten bonding with mommy: Kittens can purr when they’re just a few days old. They do this so their mom will know they’re okay and where they are. Mommy cats purr to calm their kittens down, much like we sing lullabies when putting our babies down for a nap. This helps the mom and kitten bond with each other. 

When kittens are first born, they are deaf and blind, so the purring vibrations coming from their mom are vital for their survival. At only two days old, they can communicate with their mom and siblings by purring back and forth. 

  • To soothe him/herself when in pain: Many cats purr when they’ve hurt themselves or are in pain. By purring a cat can comfort and soothe him/herself, which is similar to a baby sucking his/her thumb to relax and feel better. 

  • To help healing: Purring has been found to help cats heal and get better more quickly. Their low-frequency purrs cause their body to vibrate from within. Experts believe these vibrations assist in healing wounds and bones, repair and build tendons, and reduce pain and swelling. This may be why cats can survive high falls and recover from surgeries more easily than dogs. 

What all this means is that when your cat purrs, it could indicate they’re happy, but they could also be hungry, stressed out or in pain and trying to soothe him/herself. It’s up to you to evaluate the situation and figure out what your kitty is trying to tell you. 



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