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Old 12-02-2012, 11:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Volume and intensity of the purr: physiology or personality?

Having 5 cats in the household and experiencing their differing behaviors, it prompted me to question what determines the volume and intensity of a cat's purr.

The reason I question whether it is strictly physiological, is that at least in my household there is a direct correlation between personality and purr. Going from least affectionate to most:

Gizmo - He's very aloof and standoffish. He only ever wants affection on HIS terms. His purr is not audible, even when content. If I put a finger against his throat, I can feel him purring, but cannot hear it.

Oscar - He's more affectionate and very talkative, but definitely not a lap cat. He purrs, but again, not very audible unless he's on the couch doing his "kneading thing". Then you can hear his purr from a foot or two away, but not otherwise. Even then though, it's a very subtle purr, not very motorlike.

Clarice - She's the cranky old lady, always hissing and spitting at the two above. When she wants to snuggle/burrow against me, she has a nice loud rumbling purr. You can't hear it from much of a distance.

There's a pretty big jump between the above three and the last two.

Chubs - He's a big affectionate cuddle monster. He grooms me constantly. He always has a nice loud audible purr that you can hear from 5-6 feet away, and is very easy to feel when petting him. When he's really ecstatic, you can hear the purring escalate in time with his breathing.

Tweetie - My puppycat. He is perpetually purring. I only have to call his name or make eye contact and squint, and he starts purring. He will walk over to me, headbutt me and just start purring out of his mind. When he's really happy, he purrs so loudly and with such intensity that his entire body shakes. You can hear and feel him breathing in time with his purring...

This would imply to me that the more affectionate the cat, potentially the louder the purr... and that the maximum loudness and intensity is more tempermental than being limited by a cat's physiology.

So this begs the question: can you "train" a cat to purr louder?
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Old 12-02-2012, 11:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hm! Great question. I'd think, however, that it's determined by personality. I only have 2 cats, but their purring definitely follows the pattern in your furry family. Margaux also only wants affection on her terms. She follows me around everywhere, but she's not a lap cat. She will purr audibly, but you can only hear it from a few inches away. Celia is a serious lap cat and just loves when I pet/scratch/rub/talk to her. Any sort of attention and her little motor kicks in. She's a pretty small cat (well, she was before she got chubby - but her frame is quite small), yet her purr is a very loud rumble that you can hear from across the room - loud enough that if I'm trying to sleep, it's irritating.
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Old 12-03-2012, 12:03 AM   #3 (permalink)
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My black cat Nubey (who I used to have) was a huge love bug, and he would purr instantly the moment he saw me, my grandparents, or anyone he knew that he loved. If he saw me, and if he was at a considerable distance, he'd run up to me, and give me some sweet chirps, and purr like crazy. He loved being talked to, and he'd chirp right back at me. He had a HUGE rumbling purr that was impossible to ignore. He wasn't just a rumbling purr machine, he was a kisser & a hugger! We adopted him when he was just a year old, and my grandma had to put him down in either February or March. He was almost 12. He was, and always be my big baby.
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Old 12-03-2012, 12:30 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Zenobi had a nice steady purr, medium loud. Missy's purr varies from low to high, but never anything that might scare the neighbours into thinking there's an earthquake. One time, though, I put my ear against her side and got a suprise. She seemed to have a very low purr in her abdomen. It was strange because the general feeling is that a purr originates in the throat.
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Old 12-03-2012, 02:04 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Niska is a very quiet purrer (is that even a word?) and will only do it if I pet her where she likes to be petted which is usually behind the ears. Cabbit is what I would call a medium purrer, he purrs when he gets in my lap and if I pet him anywhere and you can actually hear a purr. Winston is my little motorboat. He is loud! When I first got him he was 7 weeks old and the first day he was so scared he did not make a sound. The next morning I had him with me on the sofa when I heard this loud sound and it took me a second to realize it was Winston, could not believe such a loud purr from such a tiny kitten! Franky, my stray/feral has never purred as long as I have known him, 4-5 months now. I am almost certain he is deaf so maybe he does not know how.
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Old 12-03-2012, 02:07 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jetlaya67 View Post
Franky, my stray/feral has never purred as long as I have known him, 4-5 months now. I am almost certain he is deaf so maybe he does not know how.
All cats purr, even deaf cats. Cats will purr when in pain or distress. It's an instinctual behavior.
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Old 12-03-2012, 11:24 AM   #7 (permalink)
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My Calvin has a barely perceptible purr. It's more like heavy breathing than a proper purr! He is extremely affectionate w/ me but no matter how happy he gets, that's his purr. I'm 99.9% sure that it's physiological w/ him--he just CAN'T purr more loudly, as if his purr box is broken! But he makes it very clear in other ways that he's happy and loves me.
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Old 12-03-2012, 12:11 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
This would imply to me that the more affectionate the cat, potentially the louder the purr... and that the maximum loudness and intensity is more tempermental than being limited by a cat's physiology.
I would say the loudness is purely physiology (although how often a cat purrs could be more personality). Both of my cats are very affectionate. They never leave me alone and my laps are almost always occupied by one cat (sometimes two!) whenever I'm sitting. Meatball purrs really loud, whereas Metoo has a much more quiet purr. I wouldn't say Meatball is more affectionate than Metoo though.

And Meatball has a very unique triple-purr. I.e., she purrs like that: purr, purr, purr, pause, purr purr purr, pause... This is a trait of her breed, so definitely physical
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Old 12-03-2012, 03:54 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I have two crazily affectionate cats....both have teeny purrs
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Old 12-03-2012, 04:10 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Not a purr but related to physiology - one of my cats CANNOT meow properly - it is a whisper that we have tuned into. Her purr is alright, though.
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