Already have an account?
Get back to the
Animals

Why Doesn’t My Cat Purr? Feline Pro on Whether You Should Be Concerned

Plus, learn about how cats use "solicitation purrs" to get what they want

Tags:

Is there anything more adorable than a cat purring in your lap? We think not! Purring is hands down one of the sweetest things cats do, and if you’ve ever experienced purrs for yourself, you’ve likely wondered what, exactly, they mean. While purring is a universally beloved cat behavior, it’s not actually a given in all cats. Some cats purr more than others, and some cats may not even purr at all. Here’s a look at what purrs mean — and what it means when your pet doesn’t purr, according to a pro.

Why do cats purr?

If you’re lucky enough to have a kitty who often lets their motor run, you’ve probably noticed that they usually seem pretty chill while they do it. “Cats most often purr when they are content, relaxed and feeling safe,” confirms Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado, cat behavior expert for Rover. Purrs go way back to a cat’s earliest days and act as a form of bonding. As Dr. Delgado notes, “When kittens are nursing, both kitten and mom will purr.” How sweet is that?

While purring is generally considered to be a positive behavior, there are instances when purrs may actually signify anxiety. “Sometimes cats will purr when they are stressed, or in pain, so we have to pay attention to context,” says Dr. Delgado. “A cat who is at the veterinary clinic and purring is probably doing so out of stress or perhaps to comfort themself.” Think of it as the feline equivalent of a human baby sucking their thumb in an attempt to calm down from a tantrum.

Cat sleeping on woman's lap
Getty

While it’s sad to think of a cat purring to indicate pain, in most cases purring signifies relaxation, and context is everything. “A cat who is on your lap stretched out with their eyes closed and purring is probably quite happy!” says Dr. Delgado, so purrs are usually a cause for celebration rather than concern.

Related: Cat Trilling: Vets Reveal the Secret Message Behind Those Cute Kitty Chirps

Why doesn’t my cat purr?

If you have a cat who doesn’t purr, you might be wondering if the lack of this sweet sound indicates a problem. “We don’t really know why some cats don’t purr. It may just not be part of their vocabulary and not mean anything at all,” says Dr. Delgado, who also notes that some kitties purr way more softly than others, so you may just not be able to hear it.

Close-up of tuxedo cat laying with head tilted to the side
Getty

In certain cases, a lack of purrs may indicate unease in your cat. Dr. Delgado points to a 2017 study that “found a relationship between behavior concerns and less purring.” Given this, “it is possible that for some cats, no purr is a concern,” she says, but just as a purr can mean a few different things, so too can no purr.

A lack of purr doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem with your cat, but as with all strange kitty behaviors, you’ll want to be aware of it and check if it’s happening in tandem with any other causes for concern. In most cases, however, not purring is more likely to just be a quirk.

Related: Why Cats Make Biscuits — Vets Reveal the Cute Reasons Behind Their Need to Knead

The power of purrs

Purring isn’t just cute — it’s a powerful yet mysterious form of communication. “Cats can make lots of different sounds, but there’s really only one kind of purr,” says Dr. Delgado. “With the best knowledge we have, it seems like purring is subconscious and done without the cat intending to do so.”

Orange kitten sitting on rug
Getty

Another fun fact? While purring may be subconscious, cats also have built-in mechanisms for making their purr particularly potent. Dr. Delgado explains: “A 2009 study found that cats who are trying to get attention from their humans include a high-frequency sound in their purr that humans rated as more urgent.” This phenomenon is known as “solicitation purring,” and it’s a classic cat move. As Dr. Delgado says, “Cats may use this sound to get what they want!” 

Whether your cat is purring loudly in your lap, doing a solicitation purr in an attempt to get extra treats or not purring at all, it’s safe to say that when the kitty talks, it’s time to listen up.


Read on for more about cat behavior!

Why Do Cats Drool? Vet Explains the Reason + When You Should Be Concerned

Why Cats Chew on Plastic + Expert Explains How To Stop This Pesky Behavior

Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? Vets Decode the Secret Messages They’re Trying to Send

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.