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Why Do Cats Purr?

"Why Do Cats Purr?" episode art. Cat sitting in front of couch.


NGSS Standards:



Crosscutting Concept:

Cause and Effect

Transcript-Why Do Cats Purr
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Why and how do cats purr? That’s what Reid wants to know. It sounds like a simple question, but it leads us to a deep challenge: Can we ever understand cats? To find out, we launch a full-scale cat purr investigation. You’ll hear from a puzzled veterinarian, a scientist who studied her cat’s annoying purr, and the author of, the premier cat purr research website. It’s a purr-fect episode for everyone who’s curious about cats.


Here's the video that caught Lindsay's attention on, the premier cat purr research website.

You can learn more about all of Robert Eklund's research on his website.


Karen McComb was sick of being awakened by her cat Pepo's insistent, food-craving purrs in the morning. So she decided to study what made his "solicitation" purrs so effective at getting him out of bed.

Karen described some of the challenges of studying house cats in this story from the University of Sussex:

Karen says: "Cats exhibit this behaviour in private with their owners, typically at anti-social times, such as first thing in the morning. They also tend to clam up or leave when strangers turn up. We had to train owners to use the equipment to record both the solicitation and non-solicitation purrs that we needed in their own homes.

"I've worked on communication and cognitive abilities in a wide range of mammals, including elephants and lions, but domestic cats were one of the most challenging subjects to date."

There you have it: Domestic cats are harder to study than lions.


We also talked to Dr. Gary Weitzman, a former veterinarian and radio host who is now president of the San Diego Humane Society. He co-authored a book called, "How To Speak Cat."

Cover of "How To Speak Cat"

You can also check out the radio show he hosted on WAMU, "The Animal House."

You can study your cat's purr! Try recording their purring, and comparing your recordings. What do you notice?

Want to learn more about cat purrs? Listen to our bonus interview episodes for just $1 a month on Patreon.


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