online store

FREE SHIPPING ABOVE $80

0

Your Cart is Empty

How Cat Purring Works

December 05, 2022 5 min read

How Cat Purring Works

Let’s look at some things that happen when you put your hand close to a cat’s mouth. For one, you can usually feel the muscles in her jaw contract as she presses her teeth together.

You may also notice a difference in how soft her growl is depending on whether she feels threatened or not. If she does seem calm, though, you will probably not hear any noise coming out of her.

That is because most cats are born with a natural purr. It is this quiet internal sound that they use to express contentment.

When they are young, babies begin to copy this habit. This is why it is so hard to get a newborn kitty to stop crying!

Adult cats sometimes lose their instinctual purrs, however. Sometimes bad experiences hurt them too much and prevent them from feeling relaxed.

If you find that your cat isn’t using his/her voice, it might be due to lack of sleep or stress.

Healing emotional wounds takes time, and play is a great way to help promote relaxation. You can read more about different types of games here.

History of purring

Most scientists agree that felines rely more heavily upon their ears to determine if another animal is calm or not than they do their mouths. This theory was put forward in 1981, when biologist Joyce Poole published her book The Felid Effect: Saving Lives Through Understanding Your Feline Companion’s Behavior.

Poole cites research conducted by ethologists (animal behaviorists) who studied lions in the wild to learn how they perceive other animals. These researchers found that it is the sound made from the cat’s mouth and nose that helps them understand whether or not their target animal is relaxed or stressed.

Only about half of all lion sounds are actually vocalizations — such as growling, hissing, yowling, and meowing. The rest are body movements and nasal exhalations. When an animal makes no noise, the opposite can be inferred.

When cats are under stress, however, they will make some type of noise. For example, when threatened, most species bray or neigh, which is a low-pitched, short roar.

Neurons and hormones


When you put your hand next to a cat’s mouth, it sometimes sounds like they are telling you something funny or interesting. That is because when a body is in pain, it produces stress hormones that activate certain muscles, including those for talking.

When you listen to a purr, you can usually pick up some information about what kind of nuzzles and kisses the animal has just had from the tone of its voice. And while there may be no clear reason why one kitty is always more pleasant to listen to than another, we do know that it is mostly due to luck!

Some cats are naturally louder than others. Just like people, some are born with warmer personalities than others. It is also possible that as individuals, some cats seem to enjoy producing more frequent purrs than other felines.

But aside from these random quirks, there isn’t much else to say about how individual cats manage their vocal cords. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to determine if a specific sound comes from internal sources (like nerves) or external ones (like mucus), so scientists have to make careful comparisons between different purrs to learn anything new.

However, what we can tell you with certainty is that most feline purrs contain low frequencies that last around a half a second and then rise in frequency slightly before stopping.

Cat vocal chords

how cat purring works

When it comes down to it, cats are just really good at giving themselves praise. They know how to use their voice to get what they want!

Most people have heard of the sound that some animals make when they're content or happy. That's called purring.

Some experts say that cat purrs contain small vibrations that help soothe stress and relax your mind.

But what makes a cat actually start purring?

It isn't always about feeling relaxed and/or comfortable. Sometimes it's for self-confidence, to show off certain behaviors or skills, or even as a way to push others away by saying "Nope, not this time."

When you give a good performance, like singing a song or playing an instrument well, you often feel more confident in yourself. It can also help motivate you to practice more since you'd seen the result from spending hours on it before.

That's why we sometimes hear someone slowly humming a tune to themself as a motivation tool. By the way they play and sing along with their own music, they can see there's no reason to be nervous anymore.

For this article, we'll focus only on the parts related to the mouth - the area where most people think the sounds come from.

The nasal cavity is another place some of the air goes after passing through the oral cavity, but we won’t talk much about it here.

Cat tongue

catsforlife.co

When cats purr, they use their tongues to vibrate in a low frequency between 20 and 50 Hz. This is called resonance or tremolo effect. The longer the tongue is pressed into a space, the lower the tone of the sound.

A small amount of saliva helps produce this tremor by acting as a conductor. This means that as the tongue moves up and down faster, more saliva is gathered at the surface and thus produces a higher pitch.

When a cat is experiencing stress, it often will swallow its tongue. By doing so, it can’t produce enough saliva and therefore doesn’t have enough conductivity for the resonance to occur. If a person were to do this while crying, it would actually make your voice break!

This could be why some people say that when they look into the eyes of someone who has done something bad, they feel an intense sense of sadness. It’s like what their own unresolved issues are causing them to feel about the situation.

Cat lips

how cat purring works

When a cat is awake, you can usually tell by its bright eyes. But one of the other things that most people notice when they look at their cat is how soft its mouth looks. That’s because cats have special muscles in their mouths that allow them to purr.

When a cat is asleep or not moving much, you may be able to hear the occasional sound coming from its throat. However, if you listen closer, it will probably start purring.

Cat purrs are actually made up of two parts: a lower frequency tone and an upper frequency tone. Both occur as the muscles in your pet’s jaw contract and relax and work like a violin bow vibrating across the strings of the instrument.

The length of each cycle varies depending on the size of the cat, but generally speaking, the longer the cycle, the higher the pitch. So while some cats are very quick with the whip-like sounds, others take their time before hitting the higher pitched notes.

Other factors

how cat purring works

Even though it may seem like your cat is trying to say something with all of its purrs, there are other reasons why she might be sounding off. Sometimes, cats need to breathe or yawn very loudly for example, so when you listen carefully you can determine if this is the case.

Another reason that some experts believe cats use purr sounds is to communicate with other animals of their species. Since most cats are social creatures, they will make sound waves in order to let others know about changes in their environment or other important information.

If you’re ever unsure as to whether or not your cat is telling you something, try looking her up online.