Have you ever noticed that your cat’s purr sounds strange? The most common reason this might happen is that your cat may be in pain. The next time you hear your cat’s purr, and it sounds off, try checking out the following list of reasons why your cat’s purr may sound different. Contact your veterinarian immediately if one or more of these reasons seem to ring true.
1) Fluids in the Chest
As we age, fluid can accumulate in our chest cavities. This condition is known as congestive heart failure (CHF), which has numerous adverse effects on a cat’s well-being. If your cat’s purr has changed recently and you notice difficulty breathing, consult with your vet right away to rule out CHF. One of the most significant symptoms of CHF is dyspnea, which means difficulty breathing. Feline heart disease can be hard to detect because its symptoms are similar to other medical issues like gastrointestinal problems, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook them! The sooner you seek treatment for these conditions, the better off your pet will be—including his surround.
2) Respiratory Infections
A tube called a larynx sits in your throat, behind your tongue and jaw. It contains cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and vocal cords. When we breathe air in, it travels through our windpipes to our lungs and makes them expand so we can get more oxygen from each breath. To expel as much carbon dioxide as possible from our bodies, we exhale using our vocal cords. They vibrate against each other when we breathe out rapidly but also when cats purr because they have unique false vocal cords that vibrate like regular ones.
3) Heart Problems
Sometimes a cat will sound slightly different if they’re suffering from a heart condition. This is not only because of problems in their heart but because they are naturally stressed out by it, causing them to sound less happy when they purr. If you suspect your cat has heart problems, immediately take them to a vet immediately. Early treatment could save your cat’s life if any issues can be corrected.
4) Neurological Disorders
If your cat’s purr sounds strange, there are a variety of neurological disorders that may be causing it. The first thing to understand is how a cat purrs. Contrary to popular belief, cats do not have a diaphragm muscle like we humans do—they lack one completely! Instead, cats use their larynx muscles and voice box to create a vibration when they breathe in. A healthy and robust cat’s lungs can vibrate at around 25 cycles per second—which translates into that lovely purring sound you know and love.
5) Vocal Cords
Cats have a unique flap of tissue called an epiglottis. This flap keeps foreign objects from going into your cat’s windpipe, which would make it very uncomfortable for them to breathe and could be dangerous. The act of purring is created by their larynx and soft palate muscles moving, which creates vibrations and causes air to travel over their vocal cords. A high-pitched purr indicates that all is well, but a low or raspy-sounding purr may indicate pain. If your cat’s purrs are becoming weaker or less frequent than usual, take them in for veterinary care as soon as possible.
6) Raspy Breathing
Cats with raspy breathing may have a respiratory infection, which is often caused by a virus. Symptoms of respiratory disease in cats can include fever, discharge from their nose and eyes, sneezing, and coughing. If you suspect your cat has a cold or another respiratory disease, take him to your veterinarian for an exam and run some tests to see if he has any viruses or bacteria in his system that need treatment. You should be able to quickly tell whether your cat has an upper respiratory infection versus anything else by listening closely as he purrs; in most cases, cats have these types of conditions with an unusually deep or raspy purr.
If a female cat becomes pregnant, her purrs can sound slightly different. If your cat has been spending a lot of time outside and suddenly she’s started to spend more time indoors with you, it could be a sign that she’s in heat and ready to mate. The purrs will become much more profound, almost like a rumble, due to being so close to ovulation. And at that point in her cycle, she might even begin rubbing up against you or lifting her tail in the invitation (and again—you may notice some yellow discharge from her genitals). So if you haven’t taken your feline friend for spay surgery yet, now is probably a good time!
This may seem unlikely, but some cats become pregnant while already taking care of a litter. While many cat owners think that only dogs get pregnant when they have a phantom pregnancy (when they exhibit signs of being in heat and appear to be expecting puppies), cats can also experience these symptoms. Since both species are born with identical reproductive systems, a cat can exhibit signs of pregnancy even though she does not have kittens developing in her uterus or womb. So if you think your cat has recently been expecting and now seems different, there’s no need to rush off to give her a bath or anything; see your vet instead.
9) Feline Ailments Affecting Vocal Cords
If your cat suddenly starts sounding like its purr has changed, you should check for possible issues. For example, if your pet develops a respiratory infection, their purr could be affected as their throat may start to swell; a tight throat can change how sounds are created. Other common ailments that affect cats’ vocal cords include heart disease (cardiomyopathy), thyroid disorders, and cysts in the larynx. If you notice any of these issues, talk to a veterinarian about treatment options so your cat can get back to sound purring again!
10) Old Age
As cats age, their bones weaken, and their teeth can become damaged. The older your cat is, the more she can have a more challenging time purring. Sometimes age-related changes in an older cat’s mouth can also make it more difficult for her to make certain sounds you recognize as normal purring sounds. Sometimes, these changes are so severe that they affect a pet’s eating ability.