7 Species That Purr Besides Cats

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally published on November 1, 2013. Enjoy!

Purring isn’t just for cats. Several other species are also thought to produce the same soothing sound.

Cats may be the best-known purrers — after all, they’re  frequently underfoot. They are believed to purr to express pleasure and to soothe themselves when they are stressed or in pain.

Purring is a form of communication — not a reflex, as my dear departed cat Howard demonstrated. When he wanted the attention of someone far away, Howard purred louder. He also turned the up volume at dawn each morning, when he stuck his nose in my sleeping husband’s ear and purred his insistence that it was breakfast time.

Newborn kittens purr to communicate with their mother. They are born deaf and blind, so the vibratory purrs let cat moms locate their kittens.

And being around a purring cat is beneficial for human health. The behavior has been shown to decrease stress — and even strengthen bones.

The healing power of cat purrs

Infographic by: Gemmacourtesy of Visually

It’s not clear whether other species purr for the same reasons as cats, but they are equally nice to listen to! Here are seven species — besides cats — that are known to purr:

1. Gorillas

gorilla

Photo Credit: angela n./Flickr

Gorillas have big purrs that accompany with their size. In this video — well, this photograph with a soundtrack — Koko demonstrates her happy sound:

2. Ring-tailed lemurs

ring-tailed lemur

Photo Credit: Mathias Appel/Flickr

Ring-tailed lemurs — also known as cat lemurs – make a symphony of sounds, “including squeaks, growls, snorts, clicks,” howls and loud yodels. Tame lemurs also purr when stroked, just like cats.

3. Raccoons

Raccoons have lovely, loud purrs, and they’ve got some serious stamina. Watch these two purr for three and a half minutes straight:

4. Rabbits

Rabbits are said to purr out of happiness when petted, but they actually make the sound by chattering their teeth — not by moving air through the glottis as cats do.

5. Guinea pigs

guinea pig

Photo Credit: Andy Miccone/Flickr

Happy guinea pigs purr much like cats. Beware if their purr rises to a high register, though. If the animal seems tense, that sound may signal annoyance.

6. Squirrels

squirrel

Photo Credit: Richard Heyes/Flickr

Squirrel lovers have long known about their rumbly expressions of contentment, though they are very soft.  Turn the volume up around 0:24 on this clip to hear a squirrel purr:

7. Elephants

elephants

Photo Credit: snarglebarf/Flickr

At about 0:42 in the video below, listen for a noise like a motor starting. That’s an elephant’s purr!

Scientists say that this rumbling vocalization doesn’t require muscle control, so it is fundamentally different from cat purrs. But, hey, it still sounds great! You can hear more elephant purring by clicking on the second audio file in Time Magazine’s article on the subject.

Photo Credit: Fung0131/Flickr

350 comments

Marie W.
Marie W.20 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Miss D.
Miss D.25 days ago

When a rabbit grinds its teeth like that in happiness, it is called a tooth purr

iveta NoFwdsPls cer
iveta NoFwdsPls cerabout a month ago

Thank you

Emily J.
Emily J.about a month ago

Thanks for a great article, I didn't know so many species could purr! The healing power of cat's purring is another reason cats are so awesome! :D

Chris Ringgold
Chris Ringgoldabout a month ago

Wow! I had no idea that so many different animals can purr like cats. So amazing!!!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing.

Philip Watling
Philip Watlingabout a month ago

"Newborn kittens purr to communicate with their mother. They are born deaf and blind, so the vibratory purrs let cat moms locate their kittens." Um, the moms can see their kittens, right?

aj E.
aj E.about a month ago

interesting.

Joy T.
Joy T.about a month ago

They forgot Tribbles! (But Guinea Pigs come close! ;) ) *heart*

Jackie O.
Jackie O.about a month ago

Lovely.