7 Species That Purr Besides Cats

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

Cats, being the best-known purrers and frequently underfoot, are the most observed. 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 from him, he purred louder. He also turned the volume up when, at dawn each morning, he stuck his nose in my sleeping husband’s ear and purred his insistence that it was time for breakfast.

Newborn kittens purr to communicate with their mother. They are born deaf and blind, so they use vibratory purrs to let mom know where they are and to find her.

Being around a purring cat is good for humans’ health. It has been shown to decrease stress and even strengthen bones.

The healing power of cat purrs

Infographic by Gemma, courtesy of Visually.

Whether other species purr for the same reasons isn’t clear, but they are all nice to listen to.

1. Gorillas

Gorillas have big purrs to go with their size. In this video (well, this photograph with a soundtrack), Koko demonstrates her happy sound.

 

2. Ring-Tailed Lemurs

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 have got stamina. Watch these two purr for three and a half minutes straight:

4. Rabbits

Rabbits are said to purr during happy petting sessions, but they make the sound by chattering their teeth, not by moving air through the glottis as cats do.

5. Guinea Pigs

Happy guinea pigs purr much like cats. Beware if their purr rises to a high register and the animal seems tense, because that may signal “annoyance, fear or confusion.”

6. Squirrels

Turn the volume up around 0:24 on this clip to hear a squirrel purr.

 

Squirrel lovers have long known about their rumbly expressions of contentment, though they are very soft. Here’s another chance to listen.

7. Elephants

At about 0:42 in the video below, there is a noise like a motor starting. That is an elephant purring.

Scientists say that this rumbling vocalization doesn’t require muscle control and so is fundamentally different from cat purrs. 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: Thinkstock/iStock

159 comments

Alexander Hay-Whitton

Signed your petition, Mandy. I'd like to introduce a movement to put a few ounces of plastic explosive inside a small number of cats, and publicise the fact that anyone running over a cat might thereby ensure he or she will be accompanying it to the happy hunting ground....

Abby N.
Abby N.8 months ago

those elephants were NOT "purring" but emitting a warning in response to the human observers to back off.

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer8 months ago

It's me again, Naomi Dreyer. I signed the petition.
Kindness toward animals is a core Baha'i teaching about the station and capacity of animals, who have senses and feelings.
“Train your children from their earliest days to be infinitely tender and loving to animals. If an animal be sick, let the children try to heal it, if it be hungry, let them feed it, if thirsty, let them quench its thirst, if weary, let them see that it rests."

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer8 months ago

I just saw this article and LOVED it. I learned a lot. Thanks.

mandy l.
mandy lowe10 months ago

great article, very interesting. please help me help our kitties fellow cat lovers :-) x
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/240/278/267/make-it-a-legal-requirement-to-stop-and-report-it-if-you-run-over-a-cat/

Jim Ven
Jim Ven11 months ago

thanks for the article.

jamie miller
jamie millerabout a year ago

Dawe

Chelsea Scott
Chelsea Scottabout a year ago

aww, dats cute

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobetz2 years ago

Thank you