There is nothing as soothing as a purring cat. This is an indicator to most cat fanciers that their cats are at ease and enjoying themselves. Cats purr and make several types of vocalizations for a variety of reasons. If you have ever wondered how cats purr and make other sounds, your friends at Union Lake Pet Services are here to explain.

The Mystery of the Purr

You may wonder how your cat gets that purr machine going? It must be fairly obvious, right? Actually, no. The noise that we call purring still somewhat puzzles scientists. The thought is that something signals the brain to make the larynx (opening to the windpipe where the vocal cords are) and the diaphragm contract. This occurs while your pet is breathing in and then out, causing the sound you hear.

Purring sounds are a low rumble that registers between 25 and 150 Hertz.  According to Scientific America, purring stimulates and strengthens a cat’s bones and muscles. It’s also quite soothing to us, as petting a purring cat lowers our blood pressure.

Cats Purr When They Are Happy, Right?

This is another question pet owners ask or assume about their cats’ purrs–a purring cat means a happy cat. There are actually a few reasons why a cat will purr though.

  • Your cat is content. You may notice that your cat likes to purr when you are stroking them or when they are “making biscuits” or kneading a favorite blanket or your lap.
  • Your pet wants something, such as food. Have you noticed your cat purring while you are heading for the kitchen? Wanting something from you is another reason that triggers cat purrs.
  • To stimulate the flow of milk. Young kittens while still nursing emit the purring sound when they are with their mothers. There is some connection between this contented sound and the flow of milk to the newborn.
  • Fear and stress can cause your cat to purr. This may seem counterintuitive, but fear can bring about a reaction that signals to the muscles and larynx the same purr response. 

What About Other Cat Noises?

Naturally, cats meow. Most meows occur due to an exhalation vibrating through the vocal cords. Normal meows that are casual and short in duration are usually a signal that your cat wants something (attention, food, etc.). 

A long, drawn-out meow may mean the same as the normal meows, but with greater emphasis. This sound accompanies something the cat wants, such as to be let outside or onto the patio. They may even be telling you that you are late for dinner!

A high-pitched sound from your cat is like the yelp a dog makes. This usually means they are either excited or startled by something, or they are in pain.

That Chitter-Chatter 

You may have heard your cat make an unusual sound when they are looking at a bird or other prey. This chitter sound is like a stuttered meow or even a trill. Coincidentally, this noise almost always involves wildlife or bird sightings. Researchers speculate that these views of prey, often through a window, frustrate cats, who cannot fulfill their need to stalk the animal. That frustration leads them to click their tongues. 

There are many other noises cats make that may amuse or surprise you. And no one likes the sound of a hissing cat. But for the most part, these meows, purrs, and chatter are all normal sounds from a healthy, happy cat.

If, though, your cat is wailing, purring a lot more, or hissing often, you may want to schedule a wellness checkup. Some chronic cat purrs and other sounds can mean that there’s an underlying medical issue that is causing pain or discomfort. Call us or contact Union Lake Veterinary Hospital for an appointment, or to answer any questions about your feline friend.