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Do All Cats Purr? What Science Tells Us

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Grey British Shorthair happy cat

One of the most endearing things domesticated cats do is purr. All cats can purr, but not all cats make this sound. If your cat isn’t purring, don’t worry because there is probably a logical reason it’s not producing that soul-soothing sound. This article explains why cats purr and provides you with information on why your furry feline is not purring.

How a Cat Produces a Purr

While it’s never been proven exactly how a cat produces a purr, one idea supported by electromyographic studies is cats produce the purring sound by using the larynx (voice box) muscles to rapidly dilate and constrict the glottis, which causes vibrations when they inhale and exhale.

Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

Why Cats Purr

Cats often purr when they’re feeling content and affectionate. They also purr when they’re feeling stress or pain because it’s thought that purring may release endorphins that provide comfort to cats when they’re not feeling well.

This endorphin-release makes sense because endorphins act as a natural pain reliever and mood lifter. This soothing effect is why cats will often purr when injured or when they’re in an uncomfortable environment, like when visiting the veterinarian.

Reasons Why Cats Don’t Purr

Cat owners enjoy the comforting and calming sound of purring, and most would agree that purring is one of the best things about sharing their life with a cat.

If your cat doesn’t purr, maybe it has other ways to express himself. Perhaps your cat is more apt to express its feelings through body language or facial expressions. It could be that your cat’s purr is too soft and subtle to hear.

If your cat usually purrs and suddenly stops, it may be ill or injured. The best thing to do is call your vet and ask for some advice. Your vet will likely tell you to check your cat for any apparent signs of injury or sickness.

Cats Can Be Happy Without Purring

If your cat doesn’t purr and you believe the reason for the silence is unhappiness, you’re probably wrong. A cat that doesn’t purr can be perfectly happy and content. Just remember that not all cats purr, and some purr so quietly it’s nearly undetectable.

Maybe your feline just prefers communicating with you using his body or facial expressions. Perhaps he rubs up against your leg when he wants attention or food instead of letting out a purring noise. If your furry friend seems healthy, there’s nothing to worry about if he won’t purr no matter what!

Long haired grey cat being combed happy human
Image By: Jakub Zak, Shutterstock

Other Ways Your Cat May Show He’s Happy

While it’s always nice to have a cat curled up beside you in an adorable ball of fur, loudly purring, while it rests, cats have other ways to express their happiness.

Besides the default sound of purring, your cat may show you he’s happy by doing the following:
  • Meowing
  • Sitting or lying next to you
  • Sleeping with you
  • Being playful
  • Eating well and looking healthy
  • Bringing you gifts like mice, birds, and frogs
  • Self-grooming in a content way

Things You Can Do to Keep Your Cat Happy

Surely you want your pet cat to be as happy as possible. In addition to petting, kissing, and hugging your cat, there are other things you can do to ensure your feline friend is happy and content.

  • Give your cat treats now and then.
  • Brush your cat with a cat hairbrush.
  • Keep the litter box clean.
  • Play with your cat.
  • Buy your cat a fun new cat toy now and then.
  • Talk to your cat and show you care.

On top of these things, a good way to keep your cat happy is always to provide it with quality cat food. As you probably know, the market is flooded with cat food, with some of questionable quality. It pays to read labels and even cat food reviews, so you choose a top-notch cat kibble or wet cat food.

Another great idea to help keep your cat happy is to provide it with a cat condo/climbing tree. These units come in all sizes, types, colors, and prices. Cats love climbing, exploring, and playing on these cat condos/climbing trees, so you can’t go wrong by getting one for your furry friend.


Purring is the default sound of cats that people find endearing. If your cat is healthy and happy and doesn’t purr, don’t worry about it! Not all cats purr, and maybe your pet chooses to express itself in other ways like meowing, rubbing against your leg, or sleeping with you.

Featured Image Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek, Shutterstock

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