Cats usually purr when they feel relaxed, comfortable, contented, and happy. But, there’s more than meets the “purr”, especially if your cat is purring with mouth open. So, what might be the best explanation for this cat behavior? What do cat experts have to say about this? Let’s all find out together and unravel the facts.
What’s in a cat’s purr?
While we’re quite at a loss of why cats purr with mouth open, let’s start by learning a bit more about a cat’s purr. It is a cat’s unique way of communication and vocalization and each cat has its way of purring. On the other hands some cats may not purr at all. To produce the purring sound, a cat’s larynx vibrates between 25 to 150 times per second and fewer vibrations tend to create lower purrs while faster ones result in raised pitch. As the purr resonates when air is expelled and breathed in, it creates sound variations. Interestingly, cats not only purr as a sign of contentment. It may also express pain, fear, and stress.
Here are some of the most common interpretations of a cat’s purr:
1. It could mean that your pet is happy.
A cat’s purr most likely means she’s happy if it’s accompanied by a relaxed look or stance, if your pet is on its back, with eyes half-closed, and her tail is completely still, without twitching.
2. Purring is a cat’s way of forging a kitten-mother connection.
Kittens communicate with their mamas through their purrs which they begin to learn when they’re just a few days old. It’s a way of parent-sibling bonding and mother cats also use purring as a form of a lullaby.
3. Your pet cat may be hungry or she wants something.
British researchers noted that cats purr during mealtime but that there was a striking difference in the sounds of a purr when a cat is hungry and when she’s not. They stated that when a cat purrs just before mealtime, it was combined with an unpleasant meow or cry, somewhat akin to a baby’s cry.
4. It may be a sign of relief and self-healing.
A cat’s purr may also mean that it’s self-soothing itself. Cats purr when they’re in pain or if they’re hurt. The purring sound they make is their way of self-relief, just as a child would resort to thumb-sucking to pacify himself.
However, this is where things get interesting. Did you know that purring helps cats to get well faster? Research shows that the low frequency of a cat’s purr creates a series of vibrations in its body that build and repair muscles and tendons, heals bones and wounds, lessen pain and swelling, and help ease breathing.
It is surprising to know how a cat’s purr can go such a long way and how it’s not only an essential way to communicate for cats but also as a means of self-healing and relief. But then, how about a cat purring with mouth open? Does it also convey the same meaning? Or is it a sign of an underlying medical issue or illness?
Possible causes why a cat is purring with its mouth open
There is a myriad of possible causes for this unusual behavior. Here are just some of them:
- cardiac disease
- lung and respiratory problems
- problems with the eustachian tube (a small tube connecting the middle ear with the back of the nose enabling air to enter the middle ear)
- chronic renal failure
- an enlarged heart with thickened walls
- throat inflammation
- dental disease
- nasopharyngeal polyp/s ( a benign mass that develops in the middle ear, the compartment behind the eardrum)
Senior cats are more vulnerable to the above mentioned conditions.
What to do if cat purring with mouth open?
If you notice your cat purring with mouth open only after a rigorous playtime or while running around chasing some toys and the cat resumes to a normal way of purring after a while it is perfectly normal. But, if your cat is purring with mouth open even though it’s doing nothing at all and room temperature is normal take it as a cue to bring her to the vet. Aside from the usual laboratory tests, your vet may have to do X-ray tests on your cat and may also check the airways, windpipes and oral cavity.
Even though you may spend a lot of time with your furry babies there is still a lot to learn when it comes to their body language and behavior. Take for instance, when a cat purrs in varying degrees of pitch and when a cat is purring with mouth open. It may have different meanings ranging from contentment and happiness to an underlying illness or pain.