Many cat owners wonder if they should let their cat outside to roam free and explore. There are some concerns that cats may be bored indoors or aren’t getting enough sun exposure, or maybe they aren’t making any friends. But, there are also the dangers of letting your cat outdoors, such as animal attacks or unwanted pests crawling into your feline’s fur. In fact, most vets and the ASPCA strongly recommend keeping your cat indoors. Here are some good reasons why — and some ways to keep Kitty entertained in her palace.
Outdoor risks and common fears.
Cars: Although cats have great instincts and do their best to avoid cars, cars can sometimes come out of nowhere, and can be potentially fatal if your cat comes into contact with a vehicle.
People: Not everyone reveres cats as much as we do. Keep Kitty indoors — and safe from being a target of mean people.
Animal attacks and attacking animals: Cats, even well-fed ones, are prone to enjoy hunting birds and small animals. While it may seem harmless, loose cats kill millions of birds each year. Plus, cats may contract diseases from the birds or rats that they hunt.
Conversely, although felines are generally great hunters with great instincts, they’re also susceptible to being hunted. Cats are commonly attacked by dogs and wild animals, such as coyotes, foxes and other local predators (depending on your neighborhood). Little kitties can sustain serious injuries — or worse.
Diseases and poisons: Heads up: The American Feral Cat Coalition estimates that there are approximately 60 million feral and homeless stray cats living in the U.S., and that many of these cats carry diseases that could be passed onto your cat if they come into contact with each other.
Another risk to keep in mind is that outdoor cats may be prone to accidentally drinking poisonous fluids, such as gasoline, antifreeze or rat poison.
Parasites: There are also several, non-life-threatening parasites that your cat may pick up while exploring the outdoors, including — ugh — fleas, ticks, ear mites, ringworms and more. These awful bugs can be hard to get rid of, and may even creep into your home if they jump onto the sofa or carpet.
Ways to keep your outdoor cat safe.
If you really, really believe Kitty needs some outdoor time, try these ideas:
- Keep your cat on a leash: Cats can learn to walk on a leash and eventually (maybe) like it. And yup, you’ll be “that” gal in the neighborhood.
- Build a catio: Create an enclosed space where your cat can be outdoors, but not exposed to other cats or potential risks. There are tons of great ideas on Pinterest for catios.
- Make sure Kitty is up-to-date on shots: Make annual veterinarian visits to make sure your cat has the latest vaccinations and is checked regularly for parasites or other potential hazards.
Ways to engage your indoor cat.
If you’ve decided to keep your cat indoors, but want them to reap some of the benefits of being an outdoors cat, here are some ideas to engage your kitty.
Friends for your feline.
You’ll notice that many shelters will list that a kitten may only be adopted with their brother, sister or companion. That’s because many cats — but not all — enjoy having a buddy. Playing, chasing and snuggling are all crucial to your cat’s need for exercise and love. Though you may be giving them tons of human love, it could be beneficial for your cat to play with other animals, too. This is much easier to do when your cat is still a kitten. Dig into our recommendations on how to introduce cats to other cats and to dogs.
Toys and scratching posts.
Allowing your cat to play with a variety of toys keeps them physically and mentally stimulated.
Like children, cats will get excited anytime they receive a new toy. Instead of constantly buying new toys, consider doing a toy rotation where you put some toys out for a few days while concealing other toys for those few days. When your cat eventually tires of her toys, you can swap the ones you concealed for the ones strewn around the house, so the toys feel brand new once more. See our recommendation for great toys for cats and how to DIY exciting toys.
In addition to playing, cats also have the natural instinct to scratch surfaces and sharpen their claws. Scratching posts are a great way for cats to have an appropriate place for them to stretch their claws. Consider having several types of cat scratchers strewn throughout your house, so your cat has options (ones that don’t include your furniture).
Making the perfect playground.
Instead of letting your cat outdoors to find their playground, try creating one indoors. You can arrange your shelves or cabinets for your cat to play on, or you can hop over to your local pet supplier to buy a cat tree. There are even DIY sites that walk you step by step through how to make your own cat tree at home.
If you don’t have enough space in your home for a cat tree, you can also create a hiding space for them with little to no money since cats love hiding in anything and everything that you bring home. Whether it’s a paper grocery bag or a shoe box from your latest splurge, let your kitty play around with cheap materials. You’ll be amazed at what will hold her attention and what he’ll find amusing by using only his imagination.
Does your cat need a new hiding place?
If you just adopted a little kitten or an adult cat (good for you on both scores!), you might be wondering about her behavior at a certain age. Is this normal? Should she have more or less energy? How long do I have to spend with my feline favorite? While every cat is unique — that’s part of why we love them — there are six pretty common stages to a cat’s exciting life.
Kitten (0–6 months)
Newborn cats are actually called babycats. They’re born with their eyes and ears sealed shut. Babycats will begin to open their eyes at about 7–14 days, and their little ears will open very shortly after. Like a human baby’s, their eyes will be blue for a little bit, and gradually adjust to be green, yellow or remain blue. Try to resist a kitten at this stage: She or he is irresistibly cute.
This is also the stage where kittens are growing by leaps and bounds both physically and emotionally. It’s important to handle them a lot so they get used to it and love it. It’s also a great stage to introduce them to other cats and dogs, and to get them used to brushing, nail clipping, and yes, even brushing their teeth.
Right around three months, Kitty’s baby teeth will begin to fall out and her adult teeth will come in. So don’t be alarmed if Kitty is chewing a lot, or you find a spot of blood on her toys. This is normal.
You’ll find that while Kitty has insane bursts of energy and is extremely playful, she’s also snoozing a lot. That’s because her little body is working hard at growing — and it’s exhausting. Until about six months of age, Kitty will be in dreamland up to 16–20 hours a day. But don’t worry; she’ll be up and ready for action as soon as you fall asleep.
Junior (6 months–2 years)
Kitty is really feeling herself and exploring the world at this age. She’s still growing, and she might be showing some aggression, both with you and other cats. Remember, she’s still learning how to be a cat. And part of that is becoming territorial. When she gets a little EXTRA, try to engage her in fun and exciting playtime. Also, still irresistibly cute.
Prime (3–6 years)
Ah, yes. This is Kitty at her absolute finest. She’s grown into her adult body, she has tons of energy but also still sleeps a lot, though less than when she was a baby. She is both snuggly and cuddly and a rip-roaring ball of fire. It’s important to have dedicated play sessions with her (see our article about how to play with your cat at least twice a day. And even though Kitty’s having the time of her life, she still needs to go to the vet for regular visits to make sure she’s in tip-top shape.
Mature (7–10 years)
Kitty is all grown up — and calmed down. She’s gotten her ya-yas out and is a lovely companion who knows what she likes and doesn’t. But this is also the stage where she might put on a little weight. After all, she is the equivalent of being in her 40s and 50s. So it’s important to keep an eye on her diet at this stage, and keep engaging her in exercising playtime.
Senior (10–14 years)
Kitty has seen some stuff. After all, she is the equivalent of 70 years old at this point. She tends to start sleeping more, and loves to cuddle up with you. Cherish her.
Geriatric (15 years and over)
Kitty is an elder stateswoman at this point. She’s sleeping a lot, and may be experiencing some medical issues. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on her litterbox to notice changes in peeing and pooping. Incidentally, the oldest cat ever, as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records, was a sweet kitters from Austin, Texas named Crème Puff, who lived 38 years and 3 days.
Rewards for every stage of life
You’ll be going through a lot of litter during your kitty’s fabulous life. Why not be rewarded when you purchase your cat’s favorite? Join the Fresh Step® Paw Points® program, and earn points for every purchase. You can then redeem points for free litter, coupons, and toys that will get Kitty playing whether she’s a kitten or a revered oldster.
Dogs and cats, living together.
Bringing a new kitty into your home is a great thing. You’re saving a life (you adopted, right?), and
Give Kitty her own space.
Remember that when you first bring a new cat home, she won’t just be acclimating to a dog — she’ll be acclimating to a whole new home. Unless she’s a very confident critter, she’s likely to be a little freaked out. So enclosing her in a quiet bedroom or bathroom with food, water, toys
This part of the process is the same as introducing a cat to another cat. Give the dog a soft blankie the cat has been sleeping on and vice versa. That lets your furry companions get to know each other through smells. Take at least a day to do this.
Make the first introduction a quick one.
When it’s time for the big reveal, first make sure you have the dog on a leash. If the dog chases the cat, he’ll likely continue in that behavior and the cat will be afraid of your doggo. Worse, if the dog catches the cat, he could do serious injury — even if he just meant to play. Keep Fido on a short leash and let Kitty sniff and walk around the dog, but only for about 10 minutes. Ask Fido to sit and reward him with a tasty treat for calm behavior. Then it’s best to either crate Fido or put Kitty in a bedroom or other safe space. Keep repeating the process every day, increasing the time as the animals get calmer around each other.
Not around? Use the crate.
You can’t supervise your animals all the time. Otherwise, how would you keep them in Fresh Step® litter? Until you’re absolutely sure the animals are comfortable around each other, make sure you either crate the dog or put the cat in her safe space when you’re not there.
It’s Jazzercise time!
One key to making sure your cat and dog are calm around each other are to make sure they’re properly exercised. Take Fido on long walks and let him run around, so he’ll be less apt to take his energy out on Kitty. Give Kitty lots of toys and playtime, to make sure she’s more up for snuggles than swats.
Is it time to call in a professional?
If you’ve followed all these steps and Fido and Kitty can’t seem to see eye-to-eye, it may be time to call an animal behaviorist. This person will give you strategies and methods to help the animals bond instead of brawl.
Help you and your cat live your best lives.
Rewards and fun distractions are key to making sure cats and dogs can live together in harmony. Join the Paw Points® Rewards program, and start earning points for buying your cat’s favorite litter. Redeem those points for engaging, fun toys that will help Kitty feel comfortable and happy in her new home.
Finding the right moniker for your furry friend.
Finding the perfect furry friend is usually the easy part — you fall in love immediately as she crawls into your arms. But once you bring your furball home, there’s that age-old question: What should you name her? If you’re scratching your head for a great name, here’s a helpful guide to picking the perfect one.
Get it?! Pop culture names that endure.
Cats are on a pop-culture high right now (hello, furry masters of the internet). So why not give your kitty a part to play in the zeitgeist? Think of your favorite musicians, songs, movies, and books, and see if you think of any great characters or people who might embody your cat’s special character.
Cute, mysterious and memorable:
- Rey: A strong and resourceful female.
- Ghost: Somebody’s a little shy, but sticks to you like a faithful pint-sized protector.
- Chewie: Sports long, luscious fur, talks a lot, and maybe enjoys gnawing on everything.
- Hulk: A great name for a kitty you don’t want to make angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
- Nala: Perfect for your little lion.
- Captain: We know who’s in charge around here.
- Buttercup: May the odds be ever in your cat’s favor.
- Tigger: Your tiger-striped baby bounces around, 'cause that’s what Tiggers do best.
- Tom: The original boy-cat name (and star of a long-famous cartoon with his mouse-friend, Jerry).
- Batcat: Does Kitty look like she wears a mask? Is she ready to clean up Gotham (i.e., set things straight in your house)?
So sporty! These names score big.
If you’re often glued to the TV and most of your texts consist of play-by-plays or the latest highlight reel from ESPN, this category of cat names is for you. Think of your all-time favorites, the MVPs, the hall-of-
These names will be a home run:
- Favre: Your cat always loves to play fetch.
- Jeter: Your cat is a ladies’ man (even though he’s spayed, right?).
- Ali: Kitty floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee. In short, the greatest.
- King: Kitty’s got hoop dreams and is going to change the game.
- Mamba: Your cat is loyal to her team and never passes the ball.
- Serena or Venus: She loves to bat toys back and forth.
- Jordan: So cute he should have a line of kicks named after him.
- Mia: A ball of energy who loves to run up and down the field.
- Beckham: She bends it like...you know.
- Tiger: A master of strategy who always hits a hole in one.
Such a foodie. Put it in ma belly!
Are you obsessed with cooking shows? Do you only use single-origin, organic catnip? Do you spend more money on dinner than you do on clothes? If so, you might want to consider choosing a cute, food-related name for your cat. Think of some of your favorite chefs, dishes, spices or flavors to inspire you to choose the perfect name.
Tasty names for Kitty:
You’re a nature lover — and you love Kitty’s nature.
If you love the great outdoors, from finding the best hiking spots to knowing the scientific names for flowers and plants, then consider naming your cat after the natural beauty around you. Think of your favorite gifts from nature — and pass those on to your kitty.
Names that appeal to your cat’s wild nature:
You’ve named your cat, now it’s time to spoil him!
Need a great place to hide your 'nip? Join the Paw Points® Reward Program, and score enough points to redeem for an awesome Kitty Camper. With the Kitty Camper, your cat will have her very own place to hang out and hide out. Check out the Paw Points® catalog to find other rewards that will be like catnip for you and your kitty.
The allure of a bouncing baby kitten is undeniable. But today we’re going to take a moment to appreciate the charms of an older cat, and why they deserve your consideration when you’re looking to adopt.
- Litter Box Know-How: While using a litter box is instinctual in cats, kittens are still figuring it out and are more prone to accidents. Mature cats already have the litter box down pat.
- Cute & Calm: Kittens are hyper balls of energy. While they are cuddly, especially when sleepy, they are more often zipping around the house at top speed. Older cats are significantly calmer, generally loving to be petted, or finding a patch of sun to nap in.
- Cost-effective: Because older cats tend not to be adopted as quickly as kittens, many shelters sweeten the deal by waiving adoption fees for cats more than a year old. In addition, these cats have already been spayed, so you’re saving there, too.
- Good with Kids: Older cats are more tolerant of little kids (although let’s be honest, nobody likes having their tail yanked), and generally more gentle.
- Good with Seniors: Seniors for seniors! Because older cats are calmer and gentler than kittens, they’re good as lap cats (and petting them has been shown to have a positive therapeutic effect).
- Less Destructive: Oh, did you like that Ming Dynasty vase? Kittens tend to think that precious items look better in pieces, while older cats have already gotten their ya-
- The stats are against them: 82% of kittens get adopted, but after they pass 18 months old, only 60% of adult cats get adopted. That means they might spend a long, long time in a shelter — or end up euthanized.
- It’s not their fault: Older cats aren’t usually surrendered because of behavior problems. Often, it’s because their owner is elderly or passed away, someone has developed an allergy, or they move to an apartment that doesn’t accept pets.
The most important thing here is that you’d be saving a life. The cute tiny kitten will get adopted in a hot second, but that adult cat — who might only be two years old — will have a much harder time, and be so, so happy to share your home and your heart. Adulting has never been more rewarding.
Speaking of rewards…you could treat your adult kitty a little cozy home-within-home with a K&H Kitty Camper. You’ll find that and tons of other purr-worthy rewards in the Paw Points® Rewards catalog. Join for free today.
What exactly is catnip?
Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, is one of 250 species of mint.1
Why does it make one of my cats crazy and not even affect my other cat?
The essential oil in catnip can turn one lazy cat into one crazy cat only if the cat has inherited sensitivity to catnip’s effects. This trait doesn’t emerge until a cat is around three to six months old.1
Catnip sensitivity is hereditary and it’s estimated that approximately half of cats have no reaction, while the other half are highly affected by catnip.1
Why exactly is my cat crazy for catnip?
When cats who are affected by catnip get a whiff of it, the scent targets the “happy” receptors in a cat’s brain. However, when a cat eats the catnip, it tends to have the opposite effect. The catnip acts as a sedative and the cat will often mellow out, roll around, flip, rub themselves on furniture, or zone out, and some cats may even get aggressive and growl or meow.
Either way, these moods often last about 10 minutes, after which the cat will reset and become their normal, furry selves again.2 The cat won’t have another reaction to more catnip until about 30 minutes after they’ve had their initial dose of catnip.3
Does catnip get my kitty high?
Yes, in a way. The main ingredient in catnip is a stimulant that produces a “high” that, for your cat, is similar to either marijuana or LSD.2 This is why he looks like he’s in a trance after eating or sniffing catnip.
Can my cat overdose on catnip?
Although cats are unlikely to overdose on catnip, they can get sick and have diarrhea or vomit from eating too much of it — whether that means they’ve consumed all of the catnip hidden in their toys, or too much catnip oil is rubbed onto them.2
Trust your cat to know when she’s had enough, and be mindful of how much catnip you feed her, too. After all, catnip is meant to be a treat, so be sure to only give her catnip in limited doses, not as her regular meals.
So, is catnip safe to feed my cat?
Yes, catnip has been proven safe for cats. In fact, people used to use catnip to brew tea and soothe upset stomachs (catnip doesn’t affect people the way it affects cats).4 Catnip isn’t toxic or addictive, and it can be used as a reward or training aid.
Although, again, be mindful of how much catnip you’re giving your cat since, as mentioned above, excessive amounts may cause your cat to get sick, and maybe even have short spells of diarrhea or vomiting.1 Try not to indulge them more than every two or three weeks.2
Plus, if you give your cat too much catnip, his body may acclimate to it, and the exciting effects that it usually gets will wear off over time. If you spread out how often your cat receives catnip, he’ll still reap the benefits of it.
Should I put catnip in my cat’s food?
No. It’s best to save catnip to rub onto scratching posts, stuff into their toys, or sprinkle it into a new bed so she can adjust to a new environment.
Although catnip is available in spray forms, we’d recommend using the dry type that’s often found in a package. Plus, it’s always fun to shake the package and see how your cat reacts — she’s likely to get very excited!
Want to keep the treats rolling in?
Join Paw Points® and get your paws on some treats. Use your Paw Points® to get fun treats. Check out the catalog to see all the fun, irresistible ways to make your cat feel special.
- Crazy for catnip. (n.d.). https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/crazy-catnip
- Coates J. (n.d.). Does catnip really get your cat high? Facts about your cat’s favorite plant. https://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/jcoates/2011/june/cats_and_catnip-does_it_really_get_them_high_and_why-11271
- How does catnip work its magic on cats? (2007). https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-how-does-catnip-work-on-cats/
- Nepeta cataria effects on humans. (n.d.). http://nepetacataria.org/nepeta-cataria-effects-on-humans/
What’s your cat stressed about?
While you’re juggling your bills, finding enough time to go to the gym, food prepping for the week, and staying calm in traffic, your cat is sitting by the window at home twitching her tail. So you may be wondering: What do cats have to worry about? Though your cat doesn’t have to present to her boss or run to the post office before it closes, cats do experience their own kind of stress, which is a result of their anxiety and fear.
Cats can experience stress if there’s a change to their routine, a dirty litter box, new additions to their home, loud music or fireworks, and more. Most cats hide their stress, which may turn into a slew of health issues. Stress can compromise your cat’s immune system, making them more vulnerable to illness, depression, and could even compound and create behavioral issues. But we’re here to tell you how to spot if your cat is stressed — and what to do to make sure she’s back to her calm, happy self.
Signs that your cat may be anxious or stressed:
- Insomnia: Cats are renowned for their napping skills. So, if your cat isn’t sleeping, he or she may be stressed. Cats usually sleep for around 9.5 hours and rest for another 5 hours in a day. Cats that are stressed tend to spend a lot of time awake or hiding.
- Under- or over-grooming: The average cat grooms himself about 4 hours every day. If your cat is stressed, he may not make an attempt to groom and may appear unkempt. Other cats may begin grooming obsessively, creating bald spots on their bodies.
- Hiding: If you find your cat hiding under the bed and seldom see her come out to say hi, this is another sign that she's stressed. Cats do enjoy an occasional moment to themselves, but not usually for extended periods of time.
- Avoiding their litter box: If your cat is peeing or pooping outside of her litter box, this may be a sign that your cat is too stressed or frightened to go into her litter box.
- Lack of appetite: Cats who are stressed often stop eating or reduce their intake of food. This can also be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition, so you’ll want to take your cat to the vet if you notice changes in appetite.
- Aggressive behavior: Every once in a while, if your cat swats, hisses, growls
,or bites, it may be a momentary indication of anger or unhappiness. Yet, if your cat is constantly in an angry state of mind, he may be retaliating due to stressful circumstances.
- Lack of purring and awkward posture: If you think your cat may be stressed, pay attention to her actions. If her ears are pinned back, her pupils are dilated, her tail is fluffed or tucked or twitching, your cat may be stressed. Happy cats will have their tail raised straight up and will want to rub up against you and purr excitedly.
If you think your cat is stressed, here are some ways to help:
- Visit the vet: Sometimes, signs of stress may point to underlying diseases or illnesses. Of course, your cat may also be perfectly healthy, in which case, your vet can provide you with a treatment that’s tailored to your cat and his well-being. Either way, it’s always good peace of mind — for you and your cat — to get a clean bill of health just in case.
- Remove potential stress triggers: If it’s difficult to identify what triggers your cat’s stress, try testing the usual suspects. If your cat is alarmed by unfamiliar guests, create a safe space for him where guests can’t intrude. If your cat is alarmed by loud alarms, try to figure out a way to silence your alarm clock or house alarm. Go through these stressful triggers (mentioned above in greater detail) one by one and do your best to eliminate them.
- Exercise and cuddle time: Exercise alleviates stress for cats just as well as it does for humans. Set aside some time to play with your cat for 5–10 minutes and force her to run around a bit. Also, set aside some time to pet your kitty and give her some love and attention.
- Create a Kitty Spa Bathroom:Provide a large litter box in an easily accessible but private area. Fill the box with 3–4 inches of your favorite kind of Fresh Step® litter. Scoop the box regularly and change the litter box according to the package directions.
Give Kitty a fresh outlook.
Want to make sure Kitty always has
Shaking hands? Rolling over? Jumping through hoops? If you think training is just for dogs, think again. Cats can not only be trained through the same positive method used for dogs, but it can stop them from engaging in unwanted behavior (no, the new couch wouldn’t look better shredded), and keep Kitty from getting bored and depressed.
Clicker training is all about positive reinforcement. Cats don’t really respond well to being yelled at, or spritzed with water. In fact, negative reinforcement can erode the loving bond you have with Kitty. Why would you want her to be afraid of you? But if an action is immediately followed by a delicious treat (mmm…treats), Kitty will be happy to repeat that great action — and love you for it.
What’s an example of some “great actions”? Teaching kitty to sit and stay still while getting a shot or clipping her nails, getting her to not knock over keepsakes, or unbelievably, VOLUNTARILY going into the kitty carrier for a vet visit. Some people even train their cats to go on hikes with them. Clicker training ensures they stay close to their cat parent while out in the wild (and a leash helps, too). All of these actions can be cute — and useful. They also give you another way to engage with your cat and bond with her. And it really ups the communication factor between you and your kitty, which is a wonderful feeling for both of you.
Clicker training is fairly easy, and can be taught to a cat of any age (because they’re cute AND smart). Here’s how to go about it:
- Stock up on your primary reinforcer: This is the reward. Usually, the tastiest treat for your little cat. If your cat isn’t motivated by food (hey, every cat is different), maybe
kittywill respond to some much-loved petting or brushing.
- Get a hold of a secondary reinforcement: This is going to be the clicker, which you can find at a pet store. You can also use a clicking pen or a click of your tongue, but you want it to be a unique sound, so Kitty doesn’t get confused. This is eventually going to be the signal for your cat to engage in “the trick,” whatever that may be. If your Kitty is deaf, a little flashlight works great.
- Pair the click with a treat: Now it’s time to connect a click with a treat. It may take a few tries before Kitty makes the connection. For some cats who aren’t food-oriented (and we’re not sure that cat really exists, except in myth), their rewards can be a good play session with their favorite toy, or a snuggle session for cats who live for affection.
- Pair the clicker and treat with an action: Now, when kitty happens to undertake a specific action (let’s say jumping off the couch), click the clicker and give her a treat immediately. You can pair this with a verbal command, too. Soon she’ll equate getting off the couch with a treat. But don’t be discouraged. This may take several tries.
- Keep training sessions short: no more than 5 or 10 minutes.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
The key here is patience. Remember, this is like learning a new language for Kitty. But soon she’ll be off the kitchen counter — and busy on her world tour of Kitty’s Kool Tricks. Amazingly, some cats eventually take it a step further and will respond to voice commands without the need for the clicker.
But don’t make Kitty do too many tricks. Remember, cats aren’t dogs. Because cats domesticated themselves, they aren’t really command-oriented. In fact, we love them for their individuality. Before asking Kitty to fetch your slippers, remember to leave her a shred of dignity.
The key to clicker training is rewards. And that’s what the Fresh Step® Paw Points® Rewards program is all about. So if you really want to reward your fabulously talented kitty, join the Paw Points® program, and redeem points for a fun, catnip-soaked treat. Now if only you could train her to clean her own litter…
Meowing is the most common sound that cats make, but there’s another rumble that they’re commonly associated with too: purring. How do cats purr? According to researcher Karen McComb, a mammal-communications expert at the University of Sussex in the U.K., most animals make throat-based sounds using only their vocal folds, but cats can vibrate the muscles underneath their vocal folds very slowly during inhalation and exhalation, which produces the rumbling purr.
Cats often purr to communicate their emotions since, unlike humans, they’re facial expressions aren’t as effective at giving away how they feel (even though their facial expressions are super cute!). However, when cats purr, it’s similar to a person’s facial expression in that their purr will give you context clues to make an informed guess on how they’re feeling in the current moment. While most cats purr when they’re content, it is thought that purrs have self-healing and certainly self-soothing properties. As Sharon Crowell-Davis, a professor of veterinary behavior at the University of Georgia, explained, “You can have cats that are happy and content purring, but also a cat that’s injured or sick will purr.” How can you tell if it’s a joyful purr you’re hearing? Here are some good indicators to find out.
“I’m happy!” purr
If your cat is purring and looks relaxed, it’s a sign that they’re happy. Sometimes this comes in the form of their body language, such as when you see your cat on their back, or with its eyes half-closed in blissful contentment, or if their tail is mostly still. This can also be true if your cat is purring while soaking up some sun in the windowsill, or if you’ve just begun to pet your cat and hear that lovely little rumble. Purring usually means that your cat is a very happy furball, would probably share catnip with you and hug you for being such an excellent human companion.
“I’m in pain” purr
Many cats purr when they’re in pain as a way for the cat to soothe itself, similar to a child sucking their thumb. Some research suggests that purring actually helps cats get better faster. Purring causes vibrations within a cat’s body, which can help ease their breathing, lessen their pain or swelling, build muscle and repair tendons, and even heal bones and wounds.
“Hey Mom! I’m doing okay!” purr
If your cat is just a kitten, it may be purring for its mom. When kittens are only a few days old, they purr to let their mothers know where they are and that they’re doing okay. Purring is also a way for young kittens to be able to guide themselves to their mom’s body when they want their first meals. When kittens nurse, they can’t meow quite yet, so they show their contentment by purring, and their moms purr back to communicate safety and comfort. When cats are young, purring is also a way for kittens to bond with their moms. Similar to a mom singing a lullaby to their child, mother cats often purr alongside their young. If your kitten is a newborn, they may be purring to find her mom, or simply seeking sustenance and safety. Make sure that your kitten is well-fed, well-cuddled, and kept warm and cozy.
“I’m hungry! Feed me!” purr
McComb found that cats purr differently depending on whether they’re hungry or not. McComb found that the purr cats make when they’re ready to eat is combined with a (sometimes unpleasant) cry or mew, similar to the distress of a human baby’s cry. This is how cats communicate that they’re hungry, and can be easily distinguished from their regularly purring or meowing because of the added mewing sound. So, if your cat is purring and mewing, it’s the equivalent of your stomach rumbling, and it’s time to treat your furry friend to a nice bowl of tasty food.
Want to make your cat’s motor run? Use some Paw Points® to get them a fun little toy, like this Catnip Toy