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  • Molly Weinfurter

Why Do Cats Purr so Loud? (And Other Reasons for Cat Sounds)

Cats purring is one of the cutest sounds I’ve ever heard. It’s such a good feeling to be petting a cat and hear a soft little vibration sound coming from them to let you know they’re comfortable around you. Some cats have a soft purr that you can only hear when you’re next to them while others are so loud you can hear them across the room. So, why do cats purr? And can cat purring have more than one meaning?


cat sleeping and purring on couch

Why Do Cats Purr?

Purring is a soft, vibrating sound that’s commonly associated with a happy cat. It can be both voluntary and involuntary, depending on the situation.


To purr, your cat’s brain sends neurological signals toward your cat’s throat. Then, your cat’s throat will twitch quickly (up to 100 vibrations per second) to make the vibrating sound we recognize as purring. As your cat breathes, air travels through the vibrating muscle, causing them to purr.


What Does a Cat Purring Mean?

In most cases, purring is a happy sound. It’s like a cat’s way of smiling. Yet, like a person smiling or a dog wagging their tail, a cat’s purring isn’t always related to joy. To tell what your cat’s purring means, pay attention to their behaviors and the context.


Happy

Most of the time, cats purr when they’re content. If they have a relaxed body posture with a still tail or their eyes partially closed, they’re likely happy and calm. They’re purring because they’re in a good mood and they enjoy being near you.


Hungry

If your cat is purring while looking alert and/or staring at you, it probably means that they want something. In most cases, they’re hungry and looking for food. They may pair this type of purr with other sounds like meowing. Your cat will usually learn what sound gets your attention the best and use that one.


Soothing

Some cats purr as a way to soothe themselves. If they’re dealing with any pain or discomfort, the vibrations that occur while purring might feel good to them. If your cat purrs frequently for seemingly no reason, keep an eye out for signs of injury, such as scratches, irritation, and limping. Contact your vet if you suspect something is wrong.


Kitten Seeking a Mother 

Young kittens may use purring as a way to communicate with their mothers. Kittens are born blind and deaf, but they’re able to purr after only a few days. They may purr to let their mother know where they are and lead their mother toward them when they’re hungry. Some cats display similar behaviors even as adults, using purring to guide humans and pets toward them.


kitten playing with pink toys

What Do Other Cat Sounds Mean?

In addition to purring, cats make lots of other sounds. Below are a few common cat sounds and what they could mean.


Meowing

Other than purring, meowing is the most common cat sound you’ll hear. Cats make a variety of meowing sounds, including short, repetitive meows and long, drawn-out meows. Each type of meow could have its own meaning, but in general, cat meowing is simply your cat’s way of telling you something.


Meows could be used as an announcement, question, or command. Paying attention to the context and your cat’s behaviors can help you get to the bottom of it. If your cat meows briefly when you enter the house, they could just be welcoming you home. If they follow you around and repeatedly meow, they probably want something, such as food.


Chirping/Trilling

These high-pitched noises almost sound like bird calls. Cats learn to make these sounds at an early age because mother cats often make chirping sounds to tell their kittens to follow them. If your cat makes chirps and trills as an adult, they’re likely trying to get your attention.


Some reasons a cat might chirp include getting you to follow them or telling you they need more food. Cats may also chirp and trill as a way to communicate with each other (they may also try to communicate with you that way, even if you don’t understand what it means).


Chattering

Chattering sounds often involve a cat chattering their teeth while also pairing it with other sounds like smacking and squeaking. Cats often make these sounds when they’re excited or focused, such as when they’re watching birds through the window or when they know they’re about to get a snack.


In some cases, chattering could indicate stress or frustration. For example, your cat may chatter if they see a squirrel outside but they’re not able to access it.


cat cuddling with person on couch

Growling/Hissing

When cats are annoyed, scared, or upset, they may hiss or growl as a warning sign. They will likely show other signs of stress, such as a tense body, lowered head, and flat ears. Cats are likely to growl or hiss if they feel cornered or if they perceive someone as a threat.


If your cat growls or hisses at you, give them space. Otherwise, their behaviors could escalate to them scratching or biting you. 


Yowling/Howling

Yowls and howls are a form of very long meows. Cats typically make these sounds when they’re in distress and need help. If your cat is in pain or trapped, they may yowl so you can find them and make the pain stop.


Sometimes, unaltered cats yowl as a way to find a mate. Getting your cat spayed or neutered can prevent this issue and provide many other benefits too. In some cases, senior cats may howl if they’re feeling disoriented or don’t know what’s going on.


Frequently Asked Questions


Why Does My Cat Purr So Much?

If your cat purrs a lot and looks calm, they’re likely feeling relaxed and content. However, if they purr a lot while looking alert and following you, they might be trying to tell you something, such as that they’re hungry.


Can Cat Purring Be Bad?

While purring is usually a good thing in cats, some cats purr when they’re not feeling well. Sometimes, purring can help soothe cats, but if they look uncomfortable and keep purring loudly, they may be asking for your help. Contact your vet if you think your cat’s purring could be related to pain.


Can Cat Purring Heal You?

Purring can be soothing for cats, but it may have benefits for humans too. Studies indicate that the vibrations of a cat’s purr could decrease blood pressure and ease stress. However, if you’re not feeling well, you should probably seek medication attention instead of relying on your cat’s purring.


Where Does Cat Purring Come From?

Cat purring comes from the vibrations in your cat’s throat. More specifically, it’s your cat’s larynx and vocal cords.


What Does a Cat Cough Sound Like?

If your cat is coughing, it will likely sound like a dry, hacking sound. It might sound like your cat is trying to clear their throat. If your cat is repeatedly coughing, especially if they’re displaying other unusual symptoms, it’s best to visit your vet.


person giving treat to cat

Cats Purr for Many Reasons

If you’ve ever wondered, “why do cats purr so loud?” the answer isn’t always clear. Most cats purr loudly to express happiness, but purring can also have a few other meanings in different situations. Whenever you notice your cat purring, pay attention to their body language and surroundings to better understand how they’re feeling and what they’re trying to say.

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