Why Do Cats Purr? Science Explains the Behavior Once and for All

Cats are so much more than just tiny balls of floof. They can transform into loaves, liquids, and of course, purr machines.

While no one really knows why cats purr, a feline researcher tells Inverse that animal behaviorists have some pretty solid ideas.

Most cat owners love nothing more than to watch their kitty purr, especially when the kitty is doing so on their human’s lap. For cats, it could be a sign they feel comfortable around us, their glorified food dispensers. For humans, purring provides us the validation we need as said glorified food dispensers.

“There are likely a few reasons that cats purr, but probably one of them is that purring may enhance the bond between mom and kitten, as both will purr during nursing,” cat researcher Mikel Delgado, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, tells Inverse. “Since kittens are born blind and deaf, it’s possible that mom’s purring helps them find her, and that their purring during nursing is a form of communication to mom that all is good with the kittens.”

Nursing is an overall positive experience for kittens, so it makes sense that adult kitties would purr when they’re feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside. That said, according to Delgado, cats also purr when they’re in pain, so it’s important to monitor your cat’s behavior to make sure nothing’s wrong.

“We know that cats will also purr when in pain or distress, but we don’t know why,” Delgado explains. “[We don’t know] if it’s a self-comforting behavior that might actually help the cat cope with the pain, or if it’s a signal that the cat is in pain.”

Of course, housecats aren’t the only kitties who purr. According to Big Cat Rescue down in Tampa, Florida, cougars can purr and meow. Here’s the adorable proof:

No matter what causes cats to purr, we can all agree that it is wholesome, pure, and adorable. Cats are extremely good.

Related Tags