Domestic cats don’t chuff. Tigers chuff. It is a form of communication made at close range and part of the tiger’s greeting behaviour. The tiger chuff is sometimes described as a ‘prusten’. I believe that they are the same sound. It is a staccato puffing sound.
There may be some confusion because on the internet there is a video (see below) which Google picks up and presents on the first page of its search results of a domestic cat making a sound which is described as chuffing.
This is not chuffing in my opinion. Domestic cats do not chuff as mentioned. This is a cat chattering at the sight and sound of his or her owner making a clicking sound with an object which is out of the frame and which creates a response in the cat as if he is looking at a bird.
You may have seen domestic cats chattering (see a page on this). Domestic cats often look out of the window at a bird and they may start chattering their jaws. It is believed that this is domestic cats practising the killing bite into the nape of a bird’s neck to kill it. Because the cat is unable to get at the bird he simply chatters as an act of frustration and practice – a “tooth-rattling stutter”. In this instance the cat is making a sound at the same time. Perhaps it is a vestigial you form of purring because he is content which when combined with the chattering produces what the videomaker has described as a chuff.
To reiterate, domestic cats do not chuff. The word chuff relates exclusively to the close range conversation between much larger cats, in this instance the tiger.
SOME PAGES ON CAT SOUNDS: