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Why doesn’t my cat purr?

March 02, 2019 3 min read

Nothing comforts like a cat's purr, especially when you are unwinding for the day or settling in for the night. It’s one of the best things about sharing space with a cat, hearing such a soul-soothing sound. Purring is believed to lower blood pressure, strengthen bones and reduce the risk of heart attacks. So, when a cat fails to purr, you may be left feeling cheated and wondering whether your cat is unhappy, stressed, or unhealthy.

Scientists still don't understand fully how a cat is able to produce this calming, therapeutic sound. It is thought to be connected to the vibration of the vocal cords in conjunction with inhaling and exhaling. The pitch and intensity may change as the cat breathes in and out. If your cat doesn’t purr, it may just be that he has other ways of communicating, such as using body language or facial expressions, or his purr is too soft to hear or he simply has a deficit in his vocal cords or respiratory system that prevents him from purring.


Why cats purr.

Experts surmise that purring is a way for kittens and momma cats to communicate with each other. Since kittens are born both blind and deaf, the vibration of a mother cat’s purr helps guide them to suckle. When these babies become toddlers and adult cats, purring takes on other functions, such as asking for attention, socializing with other cats, or expressing contentment. Cats also purr, however, when they’re ill, hurt, stressed, or angry.

If your cat purred and suddenly stopped, you should see a vet, especially if the change is accompanied by lethargy and decreased appetite. Your kitty could have something else going on that needs to be addressed.


Some cats just don’t purr.

All cats exhibit individual personalities, and purring may just not be a cat’s chosen method of communicating. Instead, your non-purring kitty may use facial expressions or body language to solicit a request for food or affection. It’s also possible you’re unable to detect the purring because it’s so soft and subtle.

Fret not. A non-purring cat with no other adverse symptoms isn't necessarily experiencing pain or unhappiness. It’s just that he doesn’t find it necessary to vocalize when he’s content, hungry, or seeking affection.


Can I encourage my cat to purr?

Animal experts say there really isn’t much you can do to coax a non-purring cat to vocalize if they’re not typically a purrer. However, if your cat is on the quiet, modest side but is capable of purring, you can try a variety of things to encourage your cat to purr more.

  • Pet your cat under its chin, on its back, or behind its ears.
  • Talk gently to your cat or sing a soft lullaby. Avoid peering directly in your cat’s eyes as this could imply aggression.
  • Cuddle with your cat. Lie next to her when she’s napping in the sun and stroke her gently.
  • Cats enjoy kneading soft surfaces. Provide your kitty with a soft, cuddly blanket and stroke her while she burrows her face and kneads away.

Whether or not you are able to prod your non-purring cat to purr doesn't really matter. What is important is that you give him plenty of strokes, love taps, and gentle words of encouragement to ensure a purr-fectly healthy, happy kitty. 

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