Why Do Cats Purr When You Pet Them? – 8 Reasons

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

why do cats purr when you pet them

Cat owners love it when their cats purr. After all, calming vibrations make you feel all sorts of happiness. Cats can start purring for many reasons, but why do cats purr when you pet them?

Your cat shows such behavior might be because they’re feeling safe and happy. Still, they can also purr when feeling anxious, unwell, or if they want something. Read on to know more.

Reasons Why Cats Purr When You Pet Them


A cat can enjoy your petting just as much as you like to pet your cat. My cat purr when I pet her, and every time I touch her, she butts her head against my hand in a loving gesture.

There are many instances of this observation on Reddit, but if we go into the specifics, there’s more to your cat purring when you give them some pets.

1. Your cat is happy

The most common reason for a cat to purr is happiness. Whenever your cat is feeling content or comfortable, it might start purring.

For example, cats purr when you stroke them in their favorite places, on top of their heads, or below their chin. When you scratch the right spot where the feline’s facial glands are placed, they’ll start purring immediately from such relaxation.

Once they start purring, it’s advised you don’t stop. Your cat is feeling quite good, and their purring is another way for them to say they want you to continue.

When a cat reaches the peak of their joy, they’ll close their eyes or lay on their back. A cat is most vulnerable with its eyes closed and belly exposed, which shows its utmost trust in you. They’ll give you a soft headbutt or a mew if you’re lucky.

2. Your cat feels safe


A cat will start purring when its surroundings are calm. When stressful things like predators or strangers surround a cat, they’ll grow scared and anxious.

However, when a cat is in a comfortable environment with a trustworthy human, it feels safe.

As your cat is in your presence and feels your warm touch, it has the feeling of being protected. You know they feel safe when cats extend their claws when you pet them in a relaxed manner.

3. Your cat is overstimulated

Another reason that your cat purrs is that the cat is being overstimulated under your touch.

You should quickly notice that they’re feeling this way because the discomfort may result in them swiping their paws at you.

If you’re outside, they might just dig their claws into you, a sign telling you they don’t want you to leave.

You can tell if they’re feeling irritated by looking at their tail. They’re probably upset if the cat’s tail is swinging a lot.

Don’t feel too bad when your petting is causing them to feel upset. It could just be that they’re not in the mood for petting, or something else is causing them to feel more irritated than usual. Or, it could just be that they’re not the touching type.

Make sure to take note of what your cat likes and limits. Sometimes they’ll enjoy a certain amount of petting; other times, it can be too much. Not every cat is the same, so you have to make the observations yourself.

4. It’s part of your cat’s neurological occurrence

Purring is natural for cats, and it’s embedded as a neurological occurrence. It stems in the brain, where a neural pulse sends rhythmic signals to muscles inside the larynx or voice box.

The vibrations and the breathing cause the purring noise you know and love. So, a cat purring while petting can also be its brain doing what it’s wired to do.

5. Your cat wants something


If your cat starts showing plenty of affection in response to your petting, it might be a sign that they want something from you.

Your cat will start rubbing against you, purring, and bumping its head on you. But, what does it mean when they do this? In exchange for this show of affection, your cat is expecting you to fulfill its demand.

Pay attention to your cat, maybe it is hungry or feeling like playing with its favorite toy.

6. Your cat is seeking a kitten-mother bond

When a kitten is born, they still can’t use their eyes and ears. Therefore, they rely heavily on the feeling of vibrations and touch to interact with their mothers. Purry is a vibration that builds a kitten-mother bond.

From the moment they arrive in this world, kittens purr when you pet them as communication.

The kittens let their mother cat know they’re content and safe by purring. Oftentimes, the mother cat will also purr and touch her children, telling them when to eat and to sleep, the sound of a lullaby for the kittens.

So, when you start petting your cat, and they purr, they communicate with you like they once did with their cat mothers. Either they tell you they’re safe or want to reassure you that you should feel safe.

7. Your cat is in trouble

Besides the usual wants like giving your cat food or more petting, your cat might just be purring because they need help.

The purring of a cat in trouble sounds different from a cat asking you to do small things. Keep an eye out for signs of stress.It’s either something external is bothering them, like strangers and potential dangers, or your cat isn’t feeling well, and they want you to help them.

8. Your cat is healing


This might sound bizarre, but cats can purr to enhance their healing process. If your cat has been injured or feeling unwell the past few days and is starting to recover, there is a chance you will find it purring more often than before.

To explain, the vibration of a cat’s vocal cords that comes from their purring is the primary source of this healing. Those cats that purr loudly cause a vibration at the right frequency to help with their recovery.

This unique power can help them regenerate their bones, muscles, and tendons. Also, purring can aid in regulating a cat’s temperature and blood pressure.

Their purring also affects humans. When you hear the sound of your cats purring, your brain will release endorphins, making you feel calm and happy—one of the reasons why therapy cats exist.



Does cat purring mean it’s happy?

Cats purr when they’re happy. When they’re feeling good, calm, and safe, they start purring to express how content they are with their surroundings.

However, it’s essential to know that their purring doesn’t always mean they’re happy.

A cat purring can also mean that they’re feeling stressed or overstimulated. Depending on their cat’s actions, it might mean they think they’re in danger or not feeling well. Take note of their behaviors like weakness or tail flicking to tell the difference.

How do you know if your cat likes you?

You can tell if your cat likes you from the behavior they display. If they close your eyes or expose their belly in your presence, they trust you and consider you safe enough to be with.

If you notice that they look for you, give harmless nibbles, blink slowly, softly headbutts, meow, bring gifts, and often purrs around you, it’s a sure sign that your cat likes you.

Cats knead their owners, a sort of massage, to show their affection.

How can people benefit from purring?

Cats can feel happy and even heal themselves from purring alone. The cat purring effect on humans purring can also have a positive impact on their owners.

A cat’s purring happens at a specific vibration wave that ranges around 25-50 hertz. This frequency will register in your brain as a signal to produce endorphins. These endorphins will go through your body, making you feel calm and relaxed.


Cats are often seen as aloof creatures with little reactions, but it’s quite the opposite. Once you learn to decipher the tiny gestures, actions, and behaviors, you’ll discover that cats are expressive creatures. Purring is one of their primary methods of communication.

Purring is a natural response that cats use to express many feelings like happiness or even anxiety. Now you know the answer to the question ‘why do cats purr when you pet them’ with these eight reasons.

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