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Solicitation purring in cats

And why cats purr in general.

Just because cats can't speak like humans doesn't mean they can't articulate when they want something. Take solicitation purring, which is a common type of purr that typically happens around mealtime or when a cat is looking for attention, for example. 

“Solicitation purring is a mix of a purr, a cry and a meow,” Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. “This vocalization occurs at a similar frequency to a baby cry and is designed to get a pet parent’s attention.”

It’s normal to want to understand what your best friend is saying, whether it’s through body language cues, tail wags or type of vocalizations, so here’s everything you need to know about solicitation purring.

Why do cats purr?

Cat purring happens when cats vibrate their vocal cords, Dr. McCullough explains. Typically, cats purr to communicate with other cats and people. However, cats' purrs can vary (in volume, frequency and length) depending on their emotions.

“Adult cats purr when content, seeking attention or when seeking food,” she adds. “They can also purr when anxious, trying to appease another dominant cat, stressed or injured.

Solicitation purring sounds different from other purrs, and cats usually do it to get a special reaction from their parents. Luckily, solicitation purring isn't usually the sign of an underlying illness. However, if your cat's vocalizations continue, reach out to your veterinarian to ensure they're not experiencing pain or discomfort.

If you're wondering if your cat is solicitation purring, look for contextual clues outside of the sound they're making. Say it's near mealtime or at night when your pet wants attention, and their purr sounds different than normal — they're probably solicitation purring.

RELATED: Cat behavior — why cats hiss, bite and attack

Why do kittens purr? 

Conversations between mother cats and their kittens typically communicate specific needs. “A mother cat may purr to her kittens to signal her presence. Kittens may purr to say that they’re hungry, lonely or just to say “hi,” Dr. McCullough explains. 

Kittens begin purring at around 3 weeks old, she adds. So if you’re the parent of a young cat, listen to their new vocalizations — they may be trying to speak to you. 

To recap: Solicitation purring isn't usually a sign of an underlying illness and is typically used to communicate a desire (to be fed or for attention). If your cat's purring persists, check in with your vet to make sure they're not experiencing discomfort or pain. Knowing what your cat is asking for through their purring will strengthen your bond. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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