From the Lancet: How to purr like a cat

HumansForCats_PurringIsASignOfHappinessOverflow (2)

This cat speaks the truth. Purring is a sign of happiness overflow.

There is no problem so great that it cannot be solved by the purr of a loving cat. Okay, perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but it’s not far off. Cat purrs are healing, providing benefits for a range of complaints, like anxiety or osteoporosis.

Humans can imitate the sound of the purr relatively well, just trying rolling your RRRRR’s. If you do this to your cat, do they look at you like you are absolutely insane? That’s partly because you are, but also because you’re doing it wrong.

I’m going to let you in on a little trick published in the Lancet on how to successfully imitate your cat’s purr in a way recognisable to your cat.

But first, let’s check out some of the amazing science behind the purr!


  • A cat purrs at a frequency of 25-35 Hz.
  • The frequency is so low it’s as easy to feel as it is to hear.
  • A kitten’s purr is quieter but just as deep. It won’t ‘break’ when the kitten gets older.
  • Cats can purr on both they’re in- and out-breath (inspiration and expiration).

The science bit: How do cats purr?

It used to be thought that a cat’s purr was akin to breathing. These theories have been debunked. Their purr is the result of the central nervous system. As with speaking in humans, cats choose to purr.

Cats purr using their laryngeal muscles. In kinder words (I had to ask Will) they use the muscles in their ‘voice box’. The purr is created when they restrict their flow of air by contracting and relaxing their muscles. Like any muscular tremor, they do this very fast. They do this about 25-35 times per second (hence the 25-35 Hz).

Purring in humans

In all seriousness, a human’s laryngeal muscles are capable of purring. Technically. To replicate the sound and vibration we just have to contract and relax the muscles at a rate of about 400 Hz. Simples? Not so much… Humans can only achieve a stimulation rate of 50 Hz.

But all is not lost! You can purr at your feline friend in some recognisable fashion. You simply have to bring the tongue close to the roof of the mouth and exhale.

From the Lancet: How to purr like a cat infographic.

Yes, it’s that simple. The Science people in the Lancet say so. This post is based on Purr-tenance and physiology (1992) (available on the Lancet website here).


Much love,
Annie, Will & kitties 


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