A cat purr is sure to warm their owner’s heart. I dubbed my cat “purr box”, because they purred so often. Each time she purrs, she seems at ease and content. However, this isn’t the only time cats purr. It turns out that they can purr at a variety of times, and for a wide variety of reasons. 

Decoding cat behavior can be a challenge, but it’s also rewarding. Purring is the most common sound cats make, but it’s one of the least understood. Let’s take a closer look at why cats purr when eating, and what they are trying to tell you. 

Why does my cat purr when eating?

It’s common for cats to purr while eating. It’s easy to assume it’s just a sign of contentment, or their appreciation for the meal. However, there are also other reasons your cat might be purring when they chow down. 

Personality 

Some cats purr seemingly all the time. Others rarely purr at all. When learning about why cat’s purr, it’s important to know some purr more than others. If your cat doesn’t purr often, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are unhappy. They may just not be prone to purring. 

Kitten Instinct 

You may assume a kitten will purr when they are hungry. This is true, but it’s not the full story. The purr doesn’t just communicate that the kitten is hungry. It also helps the mother cat keep track of them. 

Mothers use the sound of their kittens purrs to know what they are, and that they are ok. When it’s time to eat, the mother can easily find their babies. Kittens don’t open their eyes until they are a few weeks old. They aren’t fully mobile until they are a few weeks old, either. 

This makes it very important that the mother knows how and where to find them. 

It’s thought that adult cats will purr when eating due to this behavior as a kitten. It’s an instinctive behavior that can carry through into adulthood. 

Happiness

The most well known reason for a cat’s purr is happiness. If your cat is enjoying their meal, they may be purring because they are happy. Just like humans may make an mmmm sound when eating, cats purr. It’s their way of sending their compliments to the chef. 

Purring can be a sign that your cat likes their food. If they only purr when you feed them certain things, they are telling you that they prefer that type of food. 

Stress 

Yes, cats purr when they are happy and relaxed. However, they can also purr for the opposite reason. When a cat is stressed, they may purr as a way to comfort themselves. The vibration and sound of the purr is calming to the cat. It helps soothe them, just as a lullaby can soothe a baby. 

To determine if your cat is stressed rather than happy, look at hteir body langauge. A stressed cat will often flatten their ears. Their eyes will be wide open. This causes them to look black, because their pupils are dilated. 

A stressed cat may withdraw from others, including you. Others will become aggressive. These are both based on the fight or flight response. 

Their tail is another clue. A happy cat will have an erect tail, or one pointing back toward their body. If the cat’s tail is straight up and fluffy, this indicates they are stressed or afraid. 

A relaxed tail indicates a relaxed cat. If the tail is in a U shape, they are happy. If the tail is horizontal or pointing downward stiffly, they are anxious. If your cat’s tail is twitching slightly, this can indicate excitement. However, if it’s thrashing back and forth, you have a very unhappy, and likely angry, kitty. Lastly, just like a dog, a very scared cat will tuck its tail between their legs. 

If your cat is stressed while they are eating, you’ll need to determine the cause. Are other cats causing them stress? Is their food bowl in a high traffic area? Did they have a traumatic experience when eating previously? 

Once you determine why your cat is stressed, you can work to make them more comfortable. This may require moving their food bowl, separating them from other pets during mealtime, or getting a different food bowl. 

Pain

Your cat may also purr when they are in pain. There are two reasons for this. First, it’s comforting to them. Pain causes stress for your cat. If you’ve ever found yourself stressed or grumpy because you were in pain, you can sympathize with this. Purring calms them, which can help them feel better. 

The other, and quite surprising reason, is because your cat’s purr has magical healing properties. Ok, so magical is stretching things a bit. We’ll take a closer look at your cat’s special healing abilities in an upcoming section. 

If your cat is purring due to pain, it may be accompanied by meows. Pain while eating can occur due to a number of conditions. 

Dental problems are one culprit. Infection, cavities, or swelling in the mouth can cause pain when your cat is eating, particularly if they are eating dry kibble. 

The problem can also come from their stomach. Stomach issues are fairly common in cats. Along with purring while eating, you may notice vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite if your cat is having stomach problems. Excessive licking is another indication, particularly if they are licking their lips frequently.

Lastly, pain can come from your cat’s bones, joints, or muscles. Your cat has to move their body in certain ways to access their bowl. This can cause pain if they have an injury or arthritis. 

If this is the cause, you may notice your cat showing signs of pain at other times as well. They may limp, or become less active than normal. They may also meow or purr when moving.  

Why does my cat purr after eating?

Now that we know why cats purr while they are eating, the next question is why they purr after they’ve eaten. 

Contentment

After a good meal, you probably feel relaxed and content. If your cat is comfortably relaxing and purring after eating, you can assume it’s a purr of contentment. They are saying they are happy, and all is right in their world at the moment. 

Rejuvenation and Healing

It was once thought that purring was only a method of communication. After all, cats communicate their happiness to us by purring. Kittens purr to let their mother know they are safe and even hungry. It’s clear that they purr as a way of talking to each other, and us. 

However, it turns out there’s another fascinating reason cats purr. It’s now believed their purr has healing properties. Purring causes a vibration in the cat’s body. 

This same type of vibration is used in humans for sound healing. Researchers think that they may even purr at different frequencies for different effects. Cats purr at a range of 20 to 150 hertz. Human sound healing focuses on frequencies between 25-100 hz. You can even find relaxing YouTube videos that proclaim to use these frequencies. 

Researchers have found that frequencies between 25-50 hz can harden and even help repair bones. Frequencies around 100 hz affect the skin and tissues, having a healing effect on them. 

So, your cat may be doing more than just relaxing and digesting their food. They may be rejuvenating their bodies as well. Perhaps the food helps to power their purr or the repair process. 

Saying Thank You

Cats purring may have an effect on us, as well as them. We know that humans respond to the same frequencies as a cat’s purr. In addition to healing, these frequencies make us feel relaxed and calm. 

Do cats know they have this positive effect on us, or are they simply purring for their own benefit? It’s impossible to say for sure. However, I like to think that it’s their way of showing their appreciation. Perhaps they even purr to keep us happy and healthy, so we will keep feeding them!

Pain

Pain can cause your cat to purr after eating, just as it can while they are eating. If your cat is purring due to pain after a meal, you can be fairly certain they have a digestive issue. Vomitting, nausea, and diarrhea are clues your cat has tummy troubles. You may also notice that their stomach appears swollen. 

Why does my cat purr before eating?

Does your cat frequently purr before eating? There are a few reasons for this, with one being quite amusing. 

Anticipation

One reason cats purr before eating is because of anticipation. Your cat is excited. The purr is essentially one of happiness. In this case, happiness that they are about to be fed. If your cat begins a contented purr when you grab their food bowl, this is probably the reason behind it. 

Hunger

Of course, cats also purr when they are hungry. It turns out, they have a special purr for this. One that says, “Get up and feed me, my minion”. Not surprisingly, it works. 

Why does it work? It’s a combination of a normal purr mixed with something akin to a cry. If it doesn’t pull at your heart strings, it’s at least annoying enough to get you to jump to action. 

Just like a spoiled child, cats use a soliciting purr to get their way. A few minutes of that purr grating on your heart, your nerves, or both, and you are theirs to command. 

And just like many children, they know how to be just adorable enough to avoid your anger. After all, who can resist a purring cat, simply requesting a meal? 

After living with and researching cats for years, I have drawn one conclusion. They are the most intelligent species on this planet. We are their lowly servants. We are even foolish enough to think that we are in control of them! 

Watch a cat use their secret weapon, the soliciting purr. Watch their human quickly do the cats’ bidding. Then tell me, who is really running the show? 

Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.