Cats use chuffing as a way to communicate when they are happy, excited, or interested in something.
It’s one of the less common vocalisations used by domestic cats so it often confuses owners when they first hear it.
Cats will chuff for a few reasons including as a friendly greeting, during courting, and to express they are happy.
What Is Cat Chuffing?
Chuffing is a vocalisation that sounds like a mix between a chirp and a purr.
It is a short, loud exhalation, the low-pitched sound is made when cats close their mouth and exhale air deliberately through their nose.
Cat chuffing is not as common in domestic cats as other vocalisations such as purring or hissing.
Wild species including tigers, clouded leopards, snow leopards, and jaguars are known to chuff (also known as prusten).
Why Do Cats Chuff?
Chuffing is usually a sign of a happy or excited cat, below are 8 of the most common reasons cats chuff.
Looking at your cat’s behaviour and the situation will help you figure out why they are chuffing.
1. Greeting Others
One of the most common reasons cats chuff is to greet other cats.
Chuffing is a friendly vocalisation that is most commonly used when cats first meet each other.
It’s unlikely you will hear two cats that already know each other chuffing.
A good way to think of it is like a vocal handshake between two cats.
Chuffing shows the cats are social and non-threatening.
2. To Express Happiness
Wild cats often chuff when they are happy.
This is less likely in domestic cats as they will usually purr to express this rather than chuff.
However, you may hear your cat chuff after grooming or when they feel relaxed and happy. This will be a soft chuffing noise and is a sign of a content kitty.
If you have heard chuffing between intact cats it is a sign they are courting.
The male and the female will both chuff but the male will often chuff louder or more frequently.
Chuffing is just one of a number of vocalisations used during courting, you may also hear meowing, yowling, and hissing.
It’s important to monitor the cats closely when they are making these noises to ensure they are not unhappy or upset.
Some cats use chuffing as a way to initiate play with other cats. They may also chuff at their toys. This is often an expression of excitement and a willingness to play.
Excited cats will chuff to ask other cats to play or show they are feeling energetic. Chuffing in excitement could also be linked to chuffing when hunting (discussed below) as hunting and playing are closely linked.
If you notice your cat is chuffing when they are watching birds, it could be a sign that they are stimulated, interested, and keen to hunt. ‘
Chuffing is said to mimic the kind of bite cats use to hunt birds so it is a way for them to practice.
Cats may also chuff at their toys, this could be because they are “hunting” them or because they are excited to play.
6. In Response To Tasty Food
A study published in Animal Cognition showed that cats chuff when they are given food that they like.
The study looked at how cats react to different foods and they found that cats were more likely to chuff when given food they preferred.
This suggests chuffing may be used by cats to communicate what they like. Cats may also chuff to get your attention and let you know they want food.
7. To Show Affection
Mother cats often chuff when they are grooming their kittens. It is a way to show affection and is very similar to purring.
Kittens will also chuff when around their mother, likely because they are imitating her. Mother cats chuff to show affection and keep their kittens calm or reduce stress.
8. They Are Frustrated
Although chuffing is usually a positive vocalisation, your cat may be feeling frustrated and is chuffing to try to communicate this.
They may be feeling stressed, irritated, or unhappy.
If your cat is chuffing frequently (or more than usual) it could be a sign something is not right. It is thought stressed cats might use chuffing as a way to try to calm themselves down.
Is it Normal For a Cat To Chuff?
Yes, chuffing is a normal behaviour and is nothing to be concerned about.
Seeing when your cat is chuffing can help you better understand what they like.
Chuffing is different from purring but is used in a very similar way.
If you have noticed your cat is chuffing frequently it may be a sign of stress or anxiety.
If you are concerned about your cat’s chuffing, chat with your vet about the behaviour.
If you are concerned about abnormal amounts of chuffing then we recommend you speak with a vet ASAP.
JustAnswer allows you to talk in real-time to veterinary experts for a small fee.
Take note of what is happening around your cat when they are chuffing as any context you can provide will help the vet identify the cause.