People ask, “Why does my cat purr?” Cats purr when they are content, but there are other reasons as well.
Yes, cats purr when they are happy or content, as many of us realize. Just stroke your kitty’s soft fur and get that kitty engine started. Purring is such a sweet sound!
Purring Begins During Kittenhood
There, are, however, several other reasons a cat might purr. They are affected by the sound from the moment of their birth, when they hear their mother’s purr. During labor, the mother cat purrs to help ease her discomfort. It’s a self-soothing technique she uses to relieve pain.
She continues to purr after her kittens are born, as the sound will lead them to her for nursing.
Kittens are born blind and deaf, but they can feel the vibrations from the mother’s body when she purrs. In the beginning, this vibration is essential for the kittens’ survival. When they are just two days old, they begin to purr on their own, giving them a way to communicate with their mother and litter mates.
This purring lullaby helps the kitten bond with its mother. It is soothing and can be an expression of the love-tie between kitten and mama cat.
Get Up! I’m Hungry!
In the morning when your cat wants you to get up, his purring can add a high-frequency meow, which will definitely get your attention. Cats have learned that if they make this sound often enough and loud enough when waiting for food, it serves as a signal that hunger needs to be addressed.
The Purr That Heals
Don’t think your kitty just purrs for contentment or to get results at mealtime. Research has found a more important reason. It aids in healing.
There is an institute in North Carolina called the Fauna Communication Research Institute (FCRI), where a researcher, Elizabeth von Muggenthaler, a bioacoustics specialist, studied the frequency, pitch, loudness and duration of animal sounds as they relate to behavior.
She was one of the first to gain the insight for this research that shows that felines gain evolutionary healing advantages from their purr.
The purr vibrates at 25-150 HZ, the same frequency that assists in physical healing. It is also the frequency which aids in increasing bone density. There are actually a number of ways that this low frequency purr can help the cat to heal.
- Healing bones and wounds
- Building muscle and repairing tendons
- Easing breathing
- Lessening pain and swelling
The Purr Can Help You Heal As Well
Did you know that cat owners have 40% less risk of heart attack? Interacting with your cat and hearing that soothing purr can also lower blood pressure.
Then there’s something called “healing by association.” That purr can calm, soothe, and help heal illnesses in people just by being in hearing range of the sound. People who get migraines have said they can ease these painful attacks just by lying down with their purring cat next to them.
When I had my first knee replacement, my cat, Carlos, knew as soon as I came home that I was in pain. I had to stay in bed most of the time with a pad from an ice machine fastened over the scar.
For three days and nights, that cat slept next to my repaired leg, under the covers, purring his healing song. He only got up to eat, use the cat box, and to accompany me when I got up. After three
days, he must have decided I’d be okay, because he vacated his post. I’m sure his attention (and purr) helped.
Cats have been observed helping each other to heal in the same way. Vets have observed what they call “purr therapy.” Two cats might lie alongside each other, purring, when one of the animals is injured. My cat apparently understood the benefits of purr therapy when he came to my aid.
As you can see, it is no accident that the frequency at which the purr vibrates is the same that is also used in humans to help wounds heal faster.
So, How Do Cats Purr?
Muscles in your cat produce a sound that is responsible for moving the vocal cords. As the cat breathes in and out, air hits these vibrating muscles. To put it more scientifically, Webmed puts it this way: ” A rhythmic, repetitive neural oscillator sends messages to the laryngeal muscles, causing them to twitch at the rate of 25 to 150 Hz vibations per second.”
These messages cause a sudden separation of the vocal cords, and as the cat inhales and exhales, he plays a purring melody on those cords. Therefore, scientists believe that the purr is more of a muscular twitch than it is a vocal communication.
Cats Can Help Lower Stress
At this time, cat have overtaken dogs as the number one pet in homes in the United States. Perhaps one reason is because cats can aid us in lowering stress and blood pressure. The purr is one factor that can be helpful in this respect.
After all, a cat uses its purr to help itself when frightened or stressed. Often when visiting the vet, a cat might purr to ease his nervousness. If the purr can help him to relax, can’t it help us as well?
We Need To Teach Our Astronauts To Purr
The loss of bone density and muscle strength can be a serious concern for astronauts when spending extended periods of time at zero gravity. When they sit too long, their muscles and bones do not experience the normal stresses of physical activity.
The body needs exercise to keep bones from becoming weak or brittle. Some researchers have proposed strapping vibrating plates on astronauts’ feet as a sort of “simulated purr.” During a long flight, these could help retain bone density.
So, celebrate your kitty’s purr, as it is a force for good both for the cat and for you. Be soothed by the sound and be glad you have a cat to help you rid yourself of stress and to assist with healing if needed. Consider it a gift your cat gives back in return for food and lodging.
Below is a list of the references I used for this post: