Your Cat Is Trying to Talk to You


The one thing you probably think you understand about how cats communicate — purring means they’re happy! — isn’t exactly right. Cats do indeed purr when they’re happy, but that’s not the most accurate translation of the sound’s meaning, Cromwell-Davis explained. “You can have cats that are happy and content purring, but also a cat that’s injured or sick will purr,” she said.

Instead, purring means something more like, don’t go anywhere, please. It’s more likely a solicitation for care, in other words, than purely an expression of contentedness. “They haven’t got a good way of asking for help — it’s not in their language — so they do the next best thing, they do the purring thing,” said John Bradshaw, a University of Bristol anthrozoologist and the author of Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet. The meaning is not exactly right, but it’s the closest they can get to it.”

  • Pip purrs when he wants a belly rub.

    He is not much of a talker so when he meows it usually means play with me or I start knocking things on the floor.

  • Tom Forsythe

    We had a cat that actually made a meow that sounded like “want out,” when he wanted out. Seriously.

  • JoKeR
  • Brett_McS

    I’ve read that cats purr to comfort themselves when they are not feeling well. That seems to be the case with our lot. Although it could also be a ‘stay with me’ thing as well.

    • Xavier

      Purring can mean “I need help”. My white cat came home one night covered in blood. Something had tried to rip out his throat, and he was purring louder than I’ve ever heard before – and I know it wasn’t because he was calm and happy. Purring has several meanings depending on the circumstances.

  • Xavier

    El Cato can understand me a lot better than I can understand him. I guess that makes him smarter than me. Well he’s not that smart – he can barely operate the remote control.

    I will tell you something I have discovered: we have one of those cats who purrs, rubs chair legs, and seems to beg for attention while staying just out of reach, and when you go to pet her she moves away. It can be very frustrating if you don’t understand what she’s doing.

    Like real estate, with cats it’s location, location, location. Cats have “special spots” and she’s trying to lead us (and maybe you) to a favorite place where she feels safe for attention or feeding. Try it – just follow the purring kitteh and see where you end up – and take a treat or two with you to show them you understand.