To us cat lovers, there are few sounds nicer than a cat’s purring. Not only is it an incredibly soothing thing to listen to, but it’s something we very much associate with our cats being happy. This isn’t a crazy assumption to make: cats do often purr when they’re happy. You also might hear that low rumble when they’re trying to tell you something else though.
Here we take a look at purring, examining what it means and looking at the times you’re likely to hear it, from when your furry friend is eating to when they’re dreaming.
Does purring mean your cat is happy?
The short answer to this is probably. A purring cat will often be a happy one. You might hear purrs when you produce a favourite toy or treat, or when you’re stroking your furry friend. You could also hear them when your cat is snoozing in a lovely sunny spot.
However, a cat’s purr doesn’t always mean they’re content.
Other reasons why your cat might be purring
If you’ve always assumed purring means your cat is happy, it can be disconcerting to realise that, while that is very often the case, it isn’t always. How will you be able to tell the difference between a happy purr and your cat trying to tell you something else?
The answer is to see the purring in the context of your cat’s general behaviour – is their body language relaxed and are they giving off other happy signals? A contented cat might knead and purr, for example.
It’s also useful to understand the other reasons why your cat might be purring:
To communicate with their kittens
Kittens are born blind and deaf and remain this way for the first two weeks of life. A mother cat will use purring vibrations as a form of communication and the kittens will purr in return.
To soothe themselves
Sometimes a cat will purr to self-soothe, a bit like a child sucking their thumb. This means a cat who is stressed, unwell or in pain might make that distinctive low rumble.
To get your attention
A purr can just be your cat’s way of soliciting your attention, whether that’s because they want snuggles, a game or something to eat…
To ask for food
If your furry friend is trying to give you a hint they’d like their supper, they may well purr. In fact, they’ve got a specific type of purr for this…
What does it mean when a cat purrs when they eat?
Cat owners will often hear purring from their feline companions around mealtimes. This falls into two different camps: purring to solicit food and purring when actually eating. A University of Sussex studyI looked at the former and found that these purrs sound quite different to other types. They are more like a cross between a purr and a cry. This is a sound not dissimilar to a baby’s cry and it’s a very good way for a cat to get their human’s attention!
Purrs while your cat is eating sound quite different and are definitely your cat’s way of communicating they’re enjoying their food – especially when they try the new WHISKAS® recipes.
What does it mean when a cat purrs when you pet them?
One of the nicest things for a cat owner is your furry friend purring when you pet them. It means they are enjoying your attention, right? Well, yes and no. Very often it will mean exactly that – your cat is enjoying your strokes and letting you know that. Where it gets a little more complicated is that sometimes a cat might purr to tell you that the petting is making them nervous. To differentiate, look at your cat’s body language. A flicking tail can signal annoyance as can an arched or flattened back. Conversely, a cat who is happy will have relaxed posture and might even slowly blink in your direction. The latter is also thought to be a sign of love.
You’re more likely to get purrs of approval if you pet your cat the right way. Obviously, all cats are unique individuals, but many like being rubbed on their cheeks or behind their ears, while having bellies or tails stroked is generally less popular. It’s all about getting to know what your cat’s individual preferences are.
What does it mean when a cat purrs when sleeping?
A cat that purrs when they’re sleeping or semi-awake is probably dreaming. Just like humans, and for that matter, all mammals, cats dream during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Your cat could be purring because they’re having a pleasurable dream but, as cats also purr to soothe themselves when they’re stressed, they might purr during a nightmare.
Here at WHISKAS®, we are committed to helping you get more happy purrs out of your cat! In fact, we’re on a mission to find the purr in every cat – even the fussy ones! That’s why we’ve developed a new range of recipes which are sure to get a purr of approval.