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Why Do Cats Vibrate – Purring, Shaking, And Meaning


Every cat owner longs for a good cuddle with their little buddy, especially when they vibrate and purr. Stroking that soft fur, scratching behind the ears or under the chin, perhaps curled up in front of the television at night…absolute bliss. But, is your cat enjoying the situation as much as you are? One sure way to tell: your buddy starts slowly vibrating, also known as purring. So, why do cats vibrate?

Cats vibrate to show contentment. The source of vibration in cats comes from their laryngeal muscles. Cats purr with their mouth closed and use their throat. No one knows precisely why cats purr, but it is a method of communication.

Despite that agreement, it is always advisable to monitor all aspects of your cat’s behavior. For example, if your cat is vibrating and exhibiting other signs of fear or aggression, it may not be a happy purr. Your cat may also be purring to comfort itself, from stress or pain. Carefully examine other aspects of your cat, including the tail, the ears, and overall posture. If you think your cat is hurt, be careful about getting close to the cat to avoid any injury of your own, or exacerbating your cat’s, and contact your vet immediately. 

Is It Normal For Cats To Vibrate

Yes, it is entirely normal for cats to vibrate! Scientists aren’t positive about the exact mechanisms behind purring, but it is believed that certain situations cause a cat’s voice box to vibrate. The muscles in the voice box, called laryngeal muscles, are the vibration source, which is emitted by opening and closing the space between the vocal cords, called the glottis, and the air flowing past makes the sound we associate with purring.  

Try listening to your cat the next time you find them vibrating! If you put a hand on their side or back during the act, you’ll probably feel that their purrs are timed with their breathing. For some cats, their ‘inhale purr’ sounds different from their ‘exhale purr.’  

What Does It Mean When A Cat Is Vibrating

Most often, the vibrating sensation that cats display is called purring. Scientists aren’t sure whether purring is voluntary or involuntary in cats, but it usually signals that the cat is enjoying its current circumstances. The purring action might be caused by the release of endorphins, chemicals which our brain releases when we are in a pleasant situation. These endorphins make a person feel good, and they work the same way in cats. 

While the average purr has a frequency of 25 Hz, it can vary by cat. A purr can range in both length and volume, even within the same cat, depending on the situation or your cat’s age. Some older cats may transition to a quieter purr as they get older and develop difficulties breathing or maintaining the purr.  

What Does It Mean When A Cat Is Purring

A purr is a gentle, rumbling buzz that follows the rhythm of an animal’s breathing. Cats aren’t the only animals who purr! Some big cats can purr too, when they exhale, as opposed to domesticated cats, which can purr continuously through inhaling and exhaling. However, no type of cat can both roar and purr. Researchers postulate that this is because of the anatomy of a bone in the throat, called the hyoid bone, but they haven’t found definitive proof. True purring is restricted mainly to species of cats, other critters like raccoons and foxes make a similar noise. Even humans can mimic the purr by rolling their rs or humming in the back of their throat. 

Although a cat usually purrs to show its pleasure in treats or pets, sometimes, cats purr to soothe themselves when they’re in pain or upset. The way that some humans fidget or play with their hair when anxious, to reassure themselves, cats can purr to comfort themselves in stressful situations. For example, cats are known to purr during labor, which may help them with the pain.  

Why Do Cats Vibrate While Sleeping

Cats have different types of purrs, which they emit based on the situation. Purring can be used to communicate a need for a caretaker. Those types of purrs are called solicitation purrs, and research has shown that humans can distinguish between solicitation purrs and non-solicitation purrs, (purrs emitted for reasons not related to an urgent need). 

Similarly, we know that cats dream, and your kitty naturally communicates the same way that some people sleep talk. Depending on the dream, your cat may emit different types of purrs. Maybe they’re dreaming about a nice bowl of food that is just out of reach!  

Why Do Cats Vibrate Their Mouths

The mouth is not actually what is vibrating in a cat when referring to the purring sensation. The purr originates from the throat, from the voice box. Researchers are still trying to determine how exactly a cat purrs because no one feature facilitates the purring. 

However, some cats have been known to make a chittering noise in their mouths when hunting and stalking prey. This is called a chirp. It is commonly observed in indoor cats who might see an errant bird or rabbit out the window.

It’s not clear whether the noise indicates frustration at being prevented from following their instincts, a movement imitating biting their intended victim, or general excitement at the stimulation. Such behavior is often accompanied by lashing their tail or trying to paw at the windowpane, separating them from the great outdoors.  

Why Do Cats Vibrate When They Stretch

Cats vibrate when they stretch as a sign that your kitty is having a good time, and the stretch feels nice! Kittens learn to purr at a very young age, even at only a couple of days old. Usually, it is a signal that the cat is happy and enjoying themselves in whatever activity they’re currently involved in.

While many cats only purr, some make small ‘urps’ or yelps during the purr. This can elevate the purr’s sound, making it higher-pitched, and it can sound a little like your cat is trying to sing, all without ever opening their mouth!

Often, a cat will stretch after taking a nap or lying in the same position for a long time. This is a sign of relaxation, and purring during the stretch is a continuation of that contentedness. The cat may yawn and resettle, possibly in your lap, if you’re available. You’ve got a happy cat! 

Why Do Cats Purr Then Bite You?

As addressed above, cats don’t always purr just to show they’re happy. Your cat might be self-soothing, purring to reassure itself through pain or an uncomfortable situation. It works similarly to a human meditating or counting in their head.

Your cat may be in pain or scared and trying to calm down. If you mistake this purring for happy purring and go to pet your cat, you might accidentally scare or hurt your cat, causing the cat to defend itself. This isn’t a reflection of your cat’s feelings about you; animals are often confused when they’re in pain and will act out, much as humans do.

However, this doesn’t cover every scenario. Sometimes, your cat will be purring out of enjoyment, maybe sitting with you, and suddenly bite your hand when you go to pet them again. This is likely because, like toddlers, your cat can become overstimulated. Even when engaged in a fun activity, your cat may have decided that petting time is over, and they’d like you to stop. The proper response is to cease petting or scratching your cat. They may or may not get up and leave at that point. 

In most cases, a ‘stop, please’ bite will not hurt. It will be a quick nip, nothing overly painful or likely to break the skin. If the bite does break the skin, make sure to wash the bite and apply disinfectant thoroughly. Cats have a myriad of harmful bacteria in their saliva, and a cat bite, if left untreated, can become very severely infected. 

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