Why do cats purr, knead, and sleep so much?

by | Jan 11, 2019

We know our cats so well, and yet sometimes they leave us wondering! Why do they purr? What’s with all of the kneading? And how can they possibly sleep so much? We’ve got some of those answers for you today – and maybe a few new questions about what your cat is telling you!

Why do cats purr?

You may have reflexively answered this question with, “Well, because they are happy, of course!” After all, when your kitty is curled up in your lap and purring like crazy, it’s pretty easy to see that they are content. But WebMD Pet has a few other ideas about what makes a cat purr.

  • Cats purr when they want something – like food. This purr is easy to identify because it’s usually accompanied by a sharp meow!
  • Kittens and mothers purr when they are bonding. Experts suspect that’s how they send their mother the message that they are okay and how their mother soothes them.
  • Cats may purr to feel better or heal. “The low frequency of purrs causes a series of related vibrations within their body that can heal bones and wounds, build muscle and repair tendons, ease breathing, and lessen pain and swelling.”
  • And cats do purr when they are just plain happy!

Why do cats knead?

It’s adorable to watch your cat mimic a master baker as she treats a couch cushion like a fresh pile of dough, but have you ever wondered what she’s actually doing? Interestingly, no one can quite agree on exactly why cats knead, but there are multiple theories that have been shared. Live Science provides a great list!

  • Old habits – kittens knead before suckling, so the act may simply be reminiscent of soothing behavior from kittenhood.
  • Scenting – with scent glands in their paws, it’s possible cats are “claiming” a space.
  • Preparing a space – though it may not be a real need for a house cat, they may still feel compelled to pat down a space to lay on like their relatives living in the wild do.

Why do cats sleep so much?

The frequency with which cats can be found sleeping has become a kind of running joke – a joke that’s fueled by the millions of adorable sleeping cat photos online! But why do cats sleep so much? Catster and Pet MD have a few ideas!

  • Cats are crepuscular – they’re active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. So it may not be that they are sleeping as much as you think; they may just be awake at different times!
  • It is possible that a genetic predisposition results in cats sleeping more often. In the wild, cats exerted a great deal of energy to hunt and survive, which required frequent rest periods. (That can be hard to remember when we look at our feline friends snoozing on a lounge chair, but it is part of their genetic history!)
  • Have you ever heard of a cat nap? Humans learned how to take short, light naps by watching cats! That being said, it’s important to realize that a lot of the sleep you see your cat enjoying is probably a light rest, making it more understandable that they seem to spend so much time with their eyes closed.

Why does it all matter?

We care about our cats and understanding why they do what they do can help us connect with them! We hope thinking about these behaviors has helped you really think about what your cat is telling you. And if we missed a way your cat communicates with you, please share it in the comments!

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