Do cats purr with other cats? Or do they purr only with humans?

Bluey cat with loud purr
“Bluey” cat with loud purr
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Do cats purr with other cats? Or do they purr only with humans? I’ll get straight to the point: domestic cats do purr when not in the presence of humans and some wild cat species purr too. We normally associate the domestic cat purr with interactions between cats and humans because that’s when we hear it and we like it. It’s one of the charming aspects of living with a domestic cat and it’s very beneficial to us.

This is an excited purr:

However, there are occasions when cats purr when there’s nobody in the vicinity. The first instance that comes to mind is when kittens are only a week old. Kittens at this tender age first begin to purr when they are being suckled by their mother.

“It acts then as a signal to her that all is well and that the milk supply is successfully reaching its destination. She can lie there, listening to the grateful purrs, and know without looking up that nothing has gone amiss. She in turn purrs to her kittens as they feed, telling them that she too is in a relaxed, cooperative mood.”

I have taken the liberty of quoting extensively from the wonderful book, Catwatching, by Dr Desmond Morris for the sake of clarity. By the way, he goes on to say that the use of purring among adult cats originates from this “primal parent-offspring context”. I think that’s a pretty conclusive answer to the question in the title with respect to domestic cats but I will continue.

Dr John Bradshaw in his book, Cat Sense, refers to a study performed with remote radio microphones. It showed that cats sometimes purr when they are greeting a friendly cat. They may also purr when grooming or being groomed by another cat or indeed resting in contact with a cat with whom they are friends. There may even purr in moments of “deep distress” when no one is around.

There is some misleading information on the website, from where the question originates. For example, one person, Audrey Jackson, says that house cats purr only with humans. I’m afraid you’re wrong Audrey.

It appears that in general, many cat owners are aware of the observation that kittens purr when being suckled by their mother. However, it does occur more often than that.

Wild Cats

Bobcat High Fives with Domestic Cat
Bobcat High Fives with Domestic Cat. Wild meets domestic. Photo in public domain.

The question does not refer to either domestic or wild cats and, therefore, I will make a quick reference to wild cats as well.

Taking one wild cat species at random, namely the cheetah, Mel Sunquist and Fiona Sunquist, in their book Wild Cats Of The World, state that:

“After a meal, when resting, or during friendly encounters, these cats also purr. The sound is like the purr of a domestic cat, but much louder”.

The authors also referred to bobcat purr. They write:

“Besides the different forms of the mew, bobcat vocalisations also include the spit, hiss, growl, yowl, purr, snort, chatter, gurgle, and the wah-wah call”.

There are 36 wild cat species and I won’t go through every one of them but at least several of the species, usually the small wild cats, purr amongst themselves. Some wild cats are unable to purr.

In a video I have seen and heard, a mountain lion purrs with his human companions as a pet. This doesn’t answer the question in the title because it’s a cat-to-human relationship but the puma can purr and therefore they must also purr in the wild at appropriate times. In fact this is confirmed once again by the Sunquists who write:

“Pumas also communicate with a variety of vocalisations including the purr, mew, hiss, growl and spit. I hope that I have answered the question fully.

Please use the search facility on this page to find many more pages of cat vocalisations.

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