Has your cat ever curled up in your lap and started purring so softly that you can barely hear it? A faint purr can leave you wondering if your feline friend is truly content or if something is wrong. Luckily, there are several perfectly normal reasons why your cat may purr more quietly than usual.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Cats often purr more quietly than usual when they’re completely relaxed, sleepy, or getting over an illness. It’s typically nothing to worry about as long as your cat seems happy and healthy otherwise.

Cats Purr Quietly When Extremely Relaxed

Purring Indicates Comfort and Contentment

When a cat is perfectly relaxed and content, they often purr in an extremely quiet, subtle way that is almost inaudible to humans. This very soft purring indicates that the cat is completely at ease in its environment and does not feel the need to “announce” its presence.

According to cat behavior specialists, quiet purring shows that the cat feels safe enough to withdraw inward and experience solace.

Purring, even when barely audible, is a sign of comfort and pleasure in cats. As the charity Blue Cross explains, cats often purr during nursing as kittens, during moments of affection, and when settling down to rest.

So when an adult cat purrs softly in a sleepy state, it is recapturing the utter contentment of kittenhood, indicating great ease.

Very Soft Purrs Show Total Ease

According to veterinarians, domestic cats purr during inhalation and exhalation while signals from their brain stimulate their laryngeal and diaphragmatic muscles to vibrate. When cats are extremely relaxed, these signals are subtler, leading to gentle, breathy purrs.

It takes focus to even detect these purrs.

In a 2022 study, researchers found that cats purr loudest when wanting food or attention, often purring at over 20 hertz frequency then. Quieter purring between 12-16 hertz happens when cats are settled and calm.

But purrs under 12 hertz indicate a cat is “in a state of total ease”, says microbiologist Leslie Lyons – nearly asleep and utterly content in that moment. So next time your cat is purring very faintly, know that this adorable furball is as comfortable and carefree as can be!

Sleepy or Tired Cats Purr More Quietly

Cats tend to purr more softly when they are feeling sleepy or tired. There are a few reasons why this happens:

  • Relaxed throat muscles – When a cat is feeling very relaxed and sleepy, the muscles in their throat also become more relaxed. This can cause their purr to be softer and less loud.
  • Less effort – Purring takes some physical effort for cats, requiring their vocal cords and diaphragm to vibrate. When tired, cats may not want to put in as much effort to purr loudly.
  • Quieter breathing – As cats drift off to sleep, their breathing naturally becomes more shallow and quiet. With less air flowing past their vocal cords, their purr volume decreases.
  • Communication – Some experts think soft purring signals to other cats that the purring cat is relaxed and not a threat. Cats may purr more quietly when sleepy as a calming signal to those around them.

In addition to being an expression of contentment, a cat’s purr may serve other purposes like self-soothing or even healing. The vibrations from purring fall in a frequency range that can help strengthen bones, reduce swelling, and promote healing.

When resting or napping, a softly rumbling purr can be very soothing for a cat.

Kittens often purr softly when nursing or napping near their mother. Adult cats also tend to purr more quietly when snoozing in sunbeams or curled up in laps. An elderly or sick cat may purr faintly when resting instead of a louder purr when alert and active.

So a softly vibrating purr is generally a sign your cat is relaxed, content, and in a restful state.

Subtle shifts in purr volume and pattern can signify different emotional states for cats. Paying attention to these cues can help you better understand your cat’s needs. If your cat’s purr seems extremely faint or they have stopped purring entirely, it may signify they are not feeling well.

Check with your veterinarian if your cat has any other signs of illness along with a change in their purring habits. But in general, a softly humming purr simply means your cat is perfectly relaxed, comfortable, and may be ready for a nap!

Illness and Recovery Cause Soft Purrs

Signs Your Cat is Recovering Well

As your feline friend recovers from illness or injury, their purring may start out very faint and quiet. This can be normal during the initial stages of healing as they regain strength. According to the ASPCA (aspca.org), soft purrs are often a positive sign that your cat is on the mend.

Their vocal cords and respiratory system may tire more easily at first.

Pay attention for other recovery signs like restored energy levels, appetite, grooming habits and brightness in their eyes. Your cat likely feels comforted and content when you gently pet them or provide warming beds during convalescence. With time and care, their purr volume should strengthen.

Especially as pain or discomfort fades, purring probably feels soothing. 😌

Contact the Vet if Concerns Persist

While muted purrs early on are normal, contact your veterinarian right away if your cat’s faint purring persists beyond expected recovery timeframes. Or, if other concerning symptoms develop like appetite loss, lethargy or withdrawal from social interaction.

😟 According to VCA Hospitals (vcahospitals.com), ongoing weak purrs could potentially signal complications or worsening illness. It’s important to monitor their condition closely and seek medical advice when unsure.

Some senior cats or those with chronic conditions may purr softly as their norm. But a noticeable decline in purr strength, especially paired with other issues, deserves examination to rule out new problems.

With attentive home care and veterinary guidance as needed, muted purrs early on should return to comforting, vibrant volume as your precious feline recuperates. 😸

Kittens and Elderly Cats Purr Very Softly

Kittens and elderly cats often purr very softly compared to adult cats. Here’s why:


Newborn kittens don’t have the strength or coordination to purr loudly at first. Their tiny vocal cords and muscles need to develop more. Within their first couple weeks, as kittens grow and gain strength, their purring voices get louder and stronger.

According to vet Dr. Margie Scherk, very young kittens also purr softly because they are not yet able to control the volume of their vocalizations. Adult cats can purr loudly or softly depending on the situation, but kittens purr quietly until they mature more.

Elderly Cats

Senior cats often have weakened vocal cords and muscle strength due to their advanced age, so their purring is very gentle. Some elderly cats also develop laryngeal paralysis, which limits their ability to vocalize loudly.

Purring takes energy and coordination that older cats may not have in abundance. The muscles involved in purring can fatigue more quickly in senior cats.

In addition, elderly cats sometimes purr softly when they are feeling ill or stressed, even if they are capable of louder purrs. The soft purring may be comforting or calming for them.

When to See the Vet

While it’s normal for very young and very old cats to purr softly, a sudden loss of purring volume in an adult cat can indicate a medical issue requiring veterinary attention. Some conditions that may cause excessive vocal weakness include:

  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Laryngitis
  • Trauma or injury involving the throat/neck
  • Tumors or polyps on the vocal cords

So if your adult cat suddenly starts purring very faintly, it’s a good idea to get them checked out by your vet. With treatment, their stronger purring voice can often return.

Breeds Prone to Faint Purring

Some cat breeds are known for their exceptionally soft, quiet purrs that can be difficult to hear. Here are a few of the top breeds with delicate purr volumes:


Siamese cats are recognized for their loud, squeaky meows. However, their purrs tend to be very faint. To hear a Siamese purr, you typically need to be in close proximity. Their purr volume ranges from 25-30 decibels on average, making them one of the most softly purring breeds.[1]


Like the Siamese, Burmese cats also have a famously soft purr that can be difficult to detect. They purr at around 30 decibels, sometimes even quieter. You’ll often need to be petting or holding a Burmese cat to hear its delicate purr.


The hairless Sphynx breed is known for its quiet purr volume as well. On average, the Sphynx purrs at only 25-35 decibels. For comparison, most cats purr at 25-50 decibels, with more talkative breeds purring as loud as 80 decibels.[2] The Sphynx’s lack of fur dampens its purr, making it hard to pick up from more than a foot or two away.


Sweet, docile Ragdoll cats also tend to have faint purrs. They relax fully while being petted and purr softly in response, typically around 30-35 decibels. Ragdolls that are completely content may not make any sound at all while purring.


Snowshoe cats, named for their white paws which look like they’ve trekked through snow, usually have subdued purrs as well. They are typically rather quiet and reserved overall. Their purrs range from 25-35 decibels but can be even more silent when they are supremely cozy.

In general, a cat that purrs very faintly is often a sign of extreme contentment and relaxation. While loud purring demonstrates happiness too, a softly purring or even silent cat shows a deeper level of comfort and ease.

So if your cat is curled up purring quietly, that is a great sign it feels safe and is lowering its guard to fully unwind.


In most cases, a faint feline purr is nothing to fret over. As long as your cat seems healthy and content otherwise, a softly rumbling purr likely just indicates total relaxation. However, if the purr seems strained or your cat shows other signs of illness, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian.

With a little attention and affection, your softly purring friend will be back to full volume purrs in no time.

Similar Posts