Close-up look at why cats purr and other animals that purr

Robbikal Adlim Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Chilly autumn days are often my favorite; with a cat on the lap, a cup of hot tea and lots of flocking birds outside the window. As I sit typing with JB in my lap purring quietly and Eli nearby on his mat purring loudly, I wonder what is the purpose of the purr and can other animals purr?
Can you hear his purr? Eli has such a loud purr some people think he's growling.
According to, purring is like smiling. We smile when we’re happy, nervous, greet each other, want something, and in a variety of other situations. Just as the edges of a human’s lips move up at the corners to produce a smile, a cat’s vocal cords separate and twitch at the rate of 25 to 150 vibrations per second (Hz), during both inhalation and exhalation to produce a purr.

Some wild cats and their near relatives that also purr are civets, genets, and mongooses. Other purrers include hyenas, guinea pigs, and raccoons.

Cats that don’t purr, roar. Lions and tigers, can’t purr because the structures surrounding their voice box (larynx) aren’t stiff enough to produce a purr but do allow roaring. Cats that live in a pack use roaring as a way to protect their pride while small wild cats tend to roam alone and find themselves in a variety of different situations where a purr is more effective. Although cats purr when they are content, they also purr when frightened or threatened.

Right now JB’s motor is running and I know he is happy with my warm lap and I’m happy too!

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