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Cat Purring As a Request For Food Or Care

Although people think of the cat purr as a sign that the cat is content, it is employed in a wide range of situations.  The situation nearly always involves contact between the purring cat and either another cat or a person.
Photo by yellowcloud

Kittens purr from birth and do it while they are suckling a bit like a ventriloquist drinking liquid while projecting his voice to a dummy! The purpose is probably to encourage their mother to continue to nurse them.

Recently, investigations into the cat purr have indicated that the domestic cat can sometimes employ meow-like sounds within the purr.  Some scientists have stated that domestic cats who do this have learned to push the parenting button of the human by creating a sound that somewhat mimics the sound of a baby crying.

This modified purr has been described as a food-soliciting vocalisation.  The cat is asking for food, utilising the classic but modified purring sound.  This sound is hard for a person to ignore; hence the cat gets his food on request.

This manipulative sort of purring may also explain why cats purr sometimes when in pain or, for example, when in the veterinarian's consulting room at his clinic.  In this instance it is possible that the purr is not a request for food but a request for care and attention from the cat's "owner".

As the request is often followed by care and attention from the owner, the cat learns that it works which reinforces the behaviour.  This would be an informal form of cat training or the other way around, the cat training the person.

How cats purr

Article by Michael Broad


CatOwnerClub said…
A cat's purrs can mean a lot of things. It may be telling you it is content, happy, sad or in pain. It is a way for your cat to communicate its feelings to you. Best of all, cats' purrings are therapeutic.

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