Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Feline Purr
Name: Jamie
Status: student
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001

Why and how do Kittens purr?

Hi Jamie! that is a question from a feline fancier i guess...since i am one too! Let's see:

All big cats as lions, and tigers roar, but the little feline ones meow...and they purr too. Some zoologists( i'm not!) say the big cats can purr too and probably they do, but it will be a very loud purring! Actually purring is a low, continous, rattling hum and is interpreted as a expression of pleasure and love. It has nothing to do with the meows, the vibration frequency is far lower than that of vocal chords. Little is known about the physical mechanism involved in purring, zoologists say that the muscles of the voice box shake (or vibe) to produce this long deep sound with the diaphragm. The inhaled stroke is the louder and rougher, and the exhaled one is smoother and seems to be continous. Probably that the kittens learn to purr from their mama, calling the babies to nurse, because when they are very young their senses are very undevelloped, but still they can feel a vibration (purr) from the mother.

The cats purr at different situations, as a greeting to humans, while eating or nursing....some purr others not...

Purrr...thanks for asking NEWTON!

(Dr. Mabel Rodrigues)

In reference to larger cats, my daughter is a vet student and traveled to Africa to study some of the bigger cats such as the lion and cheetah. She mentioned that all the big cats purr, and this purr is rather loud.

Steve Sample

Click here to return to the Zoology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory