close up of a white cat

Most cat owners assume that when cats purr, they are feeling happy in that moment. However, you may be surprised to find out that this is not always true.

When it comes to purring in cats, not all purring implies that a cat is content or feeling affectionate, it could also mean that your cat is feeling scared, anxious, stressed, or in pain.

Finding out the reason behind why cats purr can help you get a better understanding of why cats purr when they are scared, and this article will give you all the information you need.

Why Do Cats Purr When They Are Scared?

According to scientists, cats purr when they are stressed or in an unpleasant environment or situation that is causing them distress. A cat’s purr produces low-frequency vibrations that help them to relax and breathe easily which can help calm them down when they are feeling negative emotions.

It is also believed that purring is a defensive mechanism and a technique that cats will use to stay calm when they are in stressful situations that cause them to feel emotions such as nervousness or fear. These vibrations can help put your cat’s body into a state of relaxation.

When cats are scared, it might become more difficult for them to breathe properly and purring may help them relax. As a cat breathes, the glottis (the area around their vocal cords that dilates and constricts rapidly) produces a purring sound when air vibrates across the laryngeal muscles of a cat’s larynx.

How Do You Know If Your Cat Is Purring From Being Scared?

How do you tell if your cat is purring out of fear? It is best to get a good indication as to what they are showing through their body language. If your cat is purring with dilated pupils in a strange tone, with their fur raised and body alert, then they are possibly purring due to the fear they are feeling.

The environment they are in is another indication as to whether your cat is purring from being scared or from comfort—a cat sitting on your lap relaxed and content from the warmth of your lap is clearly feeling comfortable and not in fear.

A cat hiding under a bed
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What Is The Purpose Of a Cats Purr?

Purring is a form of non-verbal communication in cats that can give you to show how they are feeling. Most cat owners assume that when their cats purr, they are either doing it out of happiness or relaxation.

When a cat wants to purr, signals are sent to the muscles of their voice box which cause the cat’s vocal cords to vibrate. Cats can purr during inhalation and exhalation, which allows the purring sound to continue.

These are a few of the reasons your cat purrs:

Trying To Calm Down

Scared cats are often seen purring to themselves to relax. It is thought that cats use purring as a mechanism to reduce any stress they are feeling. Purring is a method used by cats to feel more relaxed, which is why they will do it when faced with scary situations.


According to various studies, cats purr at frequencies that help to stimulate healing. This frequency can also help to reduce pain, build muscles, and ease their breathing to make their body and mind calm down.

Affection and Happiness

When your cat is interacting with you or another animal in the household and they are in a relaxed body position and they are not in pain or stress, then your cat may be displaying the most common reason for purring, to show their state of relaxation and content.


Cats can purr when they are scared to calm themselves down and help relax their bodies. Purring is normal for cats, however, there are several different reasons for them to show this behavior besides when they are receiving affection from their owners. By reading your body language and determining if any stressors in your cat’s environment could cause them to purr, then you’ll easily be able to know the reason behind your cat’s purring.

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