The Secrets of How a Cat Controlling Their Purring

Purring is one of the most distinctive and endearing sounds that cats make. It is often associated with contentment, happiness, and relaxation. But do cats have control over their purring? Can they turn it on and off at will? Or is it an involuntary reflex that happens automatically?

The answer is not so simple. Cats can purr both voluntarily and involuntarily, depending on the situation and their emotional state. Purring is a complex form of communication that cats use for various purposes, such as expressing joy, asking for food, or soothing themselves.

How Do Cats Purr?

Purring is produced by the intermittent contraction and relaxation of the laryngeal and diaphragmatic muscles, which control the opening and closing of the space between the vocal cords (glottis). This creates a vibration in the airway that results in a low-pitched sound that ranges from 25 to 150 Hertz.

Studies have shown that this laryngeal muscle movement is controlled by a unique “neural oscillator” in the cat’s brain. This means that cats can initiate and stop purring by activating or deactivating this neural circuit. However, this does not mean that cats always purr consciously or intentionally. Sometimes, purring can be triggered by external stimuli, such as petting, or by internal factors, such as pain or stress.

When Do Cats Purr Voluntarily?

Cats purr voluntarily when they want to communicate with humans or other cats. For example, cats purr when they are happy, relaxed, or friendly. They also purr when they want to solicit food, attention, or affection from their owners. This type of purring is often louder, more urgent, and more variable in pitch than the involuntary purring that cats make when they are calm or asleep.

Cats learn to purr voluntarily from a very young age, as they purr to signal their hunger and well-being to their mother. Kittens start purring when they are only a few days old, and they purr in sync with their mother and siblings. This helps them bond and stay warm. As they grow older, they use purring to communicate with other cats and humans, especially those who care for them.

When Do Cats Purr Involuntarily?

Cats purr involuntarily when they experience intense emotions, such as fear, anger, or pain. In these situations, purring is a reflex that helps them cope and calm down. Purring may also have healing benefits, as the sound frequencies can stimulate bone growth, tissue repair, and pain relief .

Cats may purr involuntarily when they are injured, sick, or dying. This does not mean that they are happy or comfortable, but rather that they are trying to soothe themselves or signal their distress. Some cats may also purr involuntarily when they are in heat, pregnant, or giving birth, as a way of expressing their hormonal changes or maternal instincts.


Purring is a fascinating and multifaceted behavior that cats use for different reasons and in different contexts. Cats can purr both voluntarily and involuntarily, depending on their mood, needs, and environment. Purring can convey happiness, contentment, and friendliness, but also stress, pain, and fear. Purring can also have physical and psychological benefits for both cats and humans, as it can promote healing, relaxation, and bonding.

Understanding the meaning and mechanism of purring can help us better appreciate and care for our feline companions. By listening to and observing their purring patterns, we can learn more about their personality, emotions, and health. Purring is not just a sound, but a language that cats use to communicate with us and with each other.

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