July 23, 2024
Understanding Cat Language: Meowing and Purring

Understanding Cat Language: Meowing and Purring

A cat’s meow is often very expressive. A master quickly learns to know why his cat is meowing. For example, understanding a meow in pain can lead to timely emergency care.

Cat meow: a way to communicate

A cat’s meow is a way for him to express himself and get attention. At first, it is not always easy for the owner to understand what it means. Especially since, compared to other carnivores, the cat has a very extensive vocal repertoire. They can make up to 60 different sounds, including 19 versions of the basic “meow”. Depending on what he expresses, he can:


meow; feint;



purr, etc.

Over time, as you get to know and observe your cat, you will be able to detect the nuances of her meows.

The different meows of the cat

Cats can meow in many different ways, depending on their expression. Here are some of the meows and their meanings to better understand your companion:

  • clear meow: request (food, change of the tray, the opening of a door…);
  • meow and purr: request for cuddles;
  • meowing and howling: according to the tone, it applies to pain or reproduction;
  • plaintive, muffled meowing: discomfort, pain, impending vomiting;
  • squeak (throat noise): warning;
  • growling: warning in a fight;
  • “cackling”: a noise a cat makes when it sees prey.

What does purring mean?

Understanding Cat Language: Meowing and Purring

The purr is one of the cat’s ways of expressing itself and the meow. But beyond that, it is a formidable tool specific to this animal.

How does it work?

The purr has a very particular function:

It results from blood movements in the vena cava, amplified by the air in the esophagus passing through two membranes behind the vocal cords.

Cats purr at a rate of 26 cycles per second.

Why cats purr

Cats use purring from an early age and in various life situations. Here are some details on the powers of purring:

Exchange between the cat and her kittens

It is one of the first means of sound communication between the cat and her kittens. Used for example, at the time of the feeding, the mother soothes and reassures her small ones, and the kittens answer her by purring about well-being.

Expression of its well-being

Understanding Cat Language: Meowing and Purring

Later on, the cat keeps this expression of well-being during cuddling moments with his close relations (animals or humans). This affectionate reflex is often associated with purring in these cases.

Soothing and non-aggression

The cat purrs to soothe itself, regulate stress, and deliver a soothing message to others.

Purr therapy is even used to help some anxious humans balance their anxieties.

Purring serves as a non-aggression message: a submissive cat will purr in front of the dominant one to let him know that he has no intention of fighting and would like to avoid being attacked.

Health alert

Sick or injured cats purr. In these situations, the purring mechanism serves to soothe the pain; the cat is withdrawn, eyes half closed, and purring softly.

It regularly happens that a healthy cat settles against a sick cat and purrs for him.

Finally, always linked to a care function, it has been noticed that the purring frequencies would help the good functioning of muscles, tendons, and bones. It would allow reinforcing these last ones.

The cat’s purring is useful for the cat itself and its relatives; it has a soothing and stress-regulating action.

On the other hand, to determine whether your cat purrs for well-being or, on the contrary, because it is not in good shape, be attentive to its different body attitudes.

Good to know: Some cats purr a lot and others less, without this being abnormal.

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