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Do Cats Purr When They Sleep? It Seems Super Cute But Is It True?

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Do Cats Purr When They Sleep?
Can Cats Sleep While Purring?
Is My Cat Purring or Snoring?
How Do Cats Purr?
and more…

Do Cats Purr When They Sleep?

Cats purr during the lighter stages of their sleep, such as when they are drifting off and when they enter the dream state before waking. If you have a cat lying on your lap, you can see this. They will have their eyes closed and be purring away, then suddenly stop. This is when they have entered deep sleep.

cat asleep not purring

Can Cats Sleep While Purring?

During deep sleep, cats do not purr. Often, a cat will appear to be sleeping as it has its eyes closed and is contentedly lying still. While in this state, it will purr.

Another time a cat will purr when it is actually asleep is during REM sleep, or dreaming. You can tell when your cat is dreaming if you see its paws twitching and observe its eyelids twitching.

Is My Cat Purring or Snoring?

Cats can snore. This is especially true of obese cats and those with smooshie faces. If your cat is sleeping deeply, it is very possible that he is snoring and not purring.

In most cases, this is not a problem. One way to tell is to watch the part of breathing that causes the sound. Purrs occur with both inhaling and exhaling. Snores normally occur with only one.

If your cat has just started snoring recently, you should have it examined by a vet to make sure its airway isn’t obstructed in some way or that there isn’t something else going on.

A cat’s purr is a complicated thing. Let’s take a look.

What is Purring?

Anyone who has the pleasure of being around a cat for any length of time has likely noticed the sound of a tiny motor vibrating coming from deep inside.

Scientists call it a purr. Cat lovers have their own names for it, such as the cat’s motor, love sounds, or heart song. 

The purr of a cat is made in its larynx but it causes the cat’s entire body to vibrate. This made some early scientists believe the purr originated in the area of the cat’s heart. The vibration has been rated as being 20-150 Hz, the optimal speed for healing. It appears that the cat’s purr serves many different purposes, although it is most often associated with the cat being happy.

How Do Cats Purr?

Cats actually have a purr button. No, it isn’t one you can reach out and push.

orange cat asking if he has a purr button

There is a small organ embedded deep within the brain of the cat that has no other purpose found so far except to initiate purring. This organ sends messages to the cat’s larynx.

Once the larynx receives the message from the brain, it begins to vibrate. As the cat inhales and exhales, the vibration then causes the familiar purring that we both feel and hear. It is not known why some cats have loud purrs and others have purrs so soft you can barely hear them. 

It is widely believed that a cat’s purr is mainly on auto-pilot, although there are some types of purrs that seem to be initiated by the cat for a purpose. 

Why Do Cats Purr?

Cats purr for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons we think about is contentment. However, cats purr while they are giving birth, when they are in pain, and during times of stress. They have been known to purr up until the time of their death. In some rare cases, a cat may even purr when it is angry. 

Kittens first purr when they are only a few days old. This purring is thought to aid the bonding process with their mother, who also purrs when she wants their attention for feeding. Purring has been found to heal bones and tissue damage. It can build strong muscles and decrease pain. For these reasons, it may be a fairly low-energy way for a cat to heal itself and help in growth.

The purr then has many reasons:

To express happiness
To lessen pain
To heal injuries
To promote bonding
Yet another reason that we will discuss later is a type of purr designed to get humans to feed them.

mother cat with kitten

Do All Cats Purr?

All domestic cats have the ability to purr. Some larger cats also have the ability. With the larger cats, the ability to purr is connected with the ability to roar. In lions and tigers, who roar, purring is not observed. Smaller cats, like bobcats and lynxes, purr but do not roar.

An interesting thing to note is that it isn’t only cats who purr. Rabbits, squirrels, and guinea pigs have been known to purr. Mongooses, bears, and foxes have also exhibited this type of behavior. The purrs of all these animals sound a bit different, but they are all purrs.

Do Cats Purr When Alone?

If you set up a camera to see what your cat is doing while you are away, you will probably see it sleeping a lot. Cats sleep an average of fifteen hours a day. Only about 25 percent, or less than two hours, of this time, is deep sleep. Another thing you will notice, if you have audio, is your cat purring. 

cat sleeping

Because cats purr for many reasons, and the purr is often not something they consciously do, your cat is likely to purr whether anyone is around or not.

If he is alone, however, you don’t know whether he is purring from contentment or as a self-soothing act. Clues to this can be the position he is lying in. Content cats will lay with their front paws curled up under them.

Related: Why does my cat like to sleep between my legs or on my legs?

Do Cats Have Different Purrs?

Earlier we talked about cats having some different purrs. One that is thought to be actually controlled by your cat is a combination of meow and purr that is its way of asking for food. The meow is higher pitched than the purr but the two combine perfectly.

Cats are aware that their purr gains them positive attention. Cats do not meow when communicating with each other, although they have many vocalization sounds.

They do, however, meow to communicate with their humans. It is believed that this combination of purr and meow is designed to get attention quickly from their human food distributor. 

Why Does My Cat Purr While Kneading Me?

Kneading is another way a cat shows contentment. As kittens, they kneaded their mother’s belly to help get the milk flowing. Milk was their greatest comfort in those early days, so they associated kneading with comfort.

You are now your cat’s biggest source of comfort. When it gets the chance to show you affection, it will often combine kneading and purring to show you its greatest affection and let you know you comfort it.

Related: Why does my cat knead me but not my husband?

Why Do My Cats Purr When They Cuddle Each Other?

Cats curled up together can often be heard purring. This purring serves two purposes.

First, it helps both cats regenerate and heal from any hurts.

Secondly, it promotes bonding between the two. It is interesting to note that kittens who are only exposed to dogs will exhibit this purring when they curl up with their favorite dog pal.

two cats together purring

Can My Cat Purr on Purpose?

When cats do their combined purr/meow, it is believed they can initiate the sound consciously.

For the most part, however, cats are not in control of making themselves purr. The purring is connected to their feelings, but the purr organ in their brain is responsible for determining whether or not to initiate the message to begin the purr.

This is why your cat can be perfectly happy and still not purr. Science hasn’t come far enough yet to figure out a way to push that purr button at will.

Why Do I Feel Good Hearing My Cat Purr?

unwell boy in bed with his cat purring

Remember earlier when it was mentioned that a cat’s purr is between 20-150 Hz? Not only is this a great healer for cats, but it is the same frequency that human medical doctors use when they do vibration therapy for people with arthritis and other disorders. The purring is felt in you when you pet your cat and it helps to heal muscles and bones. 

Studies have shown that human bones tend to heal faster when a cat frequently purrs in a vicinity close enough to reach the broken bone. When you are bonded with a cat, they often seem to know instinctively when you are hurt.

This is when they want to be near you the most. It may seem annoying if you are in a lot of pain, but if you are willing to allow the cat close for even a bit, you will soon see the pain easing.

Petting your cat has also been proven to reduce blood pressure and promote a sense of well-being. When you are bonded with your cat, you like to see it happy. Since purring is normally considered connected with happiness, you may feel happy knowing it is happy. 

cats reading the paper
We are fans of purring, aren’t we dear!

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