Why Do Cats Purr And Meow?

Yes, they’re happy, but that’s not always why they’re making sounds!

By Justyne Yuen-Lee

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Don’t you love to hear a cat purr?


In my limited experience with cats, I have encountered more of the disgruntled-type kitties than the sit and purr in your lap-type kitties. The cats I know have an affinity for swatting my nose and hissing at me while I try to get close to them, but I do not let this discourage me. I do, however, know one cat who does brush against my face and purr affectionately. Unfortunately, he has a doggy brother who likes to have a monopoly on affection and puts himself right in the middle of the moment of love. I take what I can get.

But did you know that when a cat purrs, it’s not just because they’re content?

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First things first, let’s figure out how they make this soothing sound.

How cats purr:

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Purring comes from a combination of rapid movement of a cat’s voice box and movement from their diaphragm. The muscles move about 20-30 times a minute and like snowflakes, fingerprints, and DNA, every cat’s purr is unique.


What it means when they purr:

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Cats purr as a means of communication. Like their doggy counterparts, cats have evolved to be domesticated pets and through their time with humans, have adapted appropriately. The “solicitation purr” is a hybrid of a purr and meow – cats do this purr when they want to be fed. They’ve learned to purr around the same frequency as a baby’s cry, as they’ve been able to observe parents respond to cries with food or some kind of attention like a tummy rub!

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Sometimes cats purr to self-soothe.

Some research into purring even indicated an accelerated healing in bones and wounds and pain relief. According to a study at the University of Minnesota Stroke Center, cat owners were 40% less likely to have heart attacks than those without cats!

What it means when cats meow:

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Well, cats meow for the obvious reason – to get attention! Kittens meow because when they’re first born, they can’t see yet, and need to meow more than adult cats to alert others that they need something. This something could be help, space, food, etc.

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What is your kitty communicating?

Cats will meow when they want attention or when they’re in a bad mood. Try to listen intently for frequency and tone changes in your cat’s meow, then look for whatever may be irritating them!

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And finally, there are some cats who trill, which means “hello.” There are other cats who are noisier than others and make a variety of sounds!

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So whenever you encounter your cat or even someone else’s cat, try to determine if the kitty is trying to tell you something other than that they’re happy to be near you!