Has the constant purring of your cat left you confused, surprised or curious? Then you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we will see what exactly is the mystery behind the purr of our feline furry friends.
Nothing can replace the warm fuzzy feeling that comes when you return home after a long, tiring day at work and are greeted by the comforting, unending purr of your little furry baby. This involuntary vibratory phenomenon of a cat has been providing increasing evidences to back the claim that having a pet is indeed naturally therapeutic.
If you’re an animal lover, you’ll know what I mean when I make that claim. The love you get from an animal is unconditionally pure in every sense.
Did you know: Cats are outnumbering dogs as the number one pet in the U.S., one reason is that cats do a great job of lowering stress and blood pressure than many other pets, and purring may help with that.
What is That Mysterious Calming Sound of Love?
Before we try to unravel the mystery behind why a cat purrs, let us get a little deeper into the biology of purring – what is that sound and how is it different from any other vocalizations of the cat?
Well, its true. The purr is indeed different from other forms of vocalizations of the cat in that the purr is produced during an entire respiratory cycle, i.e. inhaling and exhaling, as opposed to other vocalizations of the cat, such as a “meow”, which occurs only during the exhaling part of the respiratory cycle.
What Is The Mechanism Behind This Purring Sound? Let’s Find Out!
The ‘how’ was long a subject of debate. Some thought it was linked to blood flowing to the inferior vena cava, a vein that carries deoxygenated blood to the right side of the heart.
But with more research it seemed likelier that the noise came from the muscles within the cat’s larynx. As they move, they dilate and constrict the glottis – the part of the larynx that surrounds the vocal cords – and the air vibrates every time the cat breathes in or out. The result? A purr.
In a cat, the signal to purr travels from the brain to the muscles in the voice box, and this message tells the muscles there it’s time to purr, so they start acting as a valve for air flowing past the voice box.
The muscles work both during inhalation and exhalation, which creates the sound and seems to run continuously and endlessly. The air passes through the valve, which opens and closes rapidly to create the purring sound all cat lovers love so much!
Why Do the Cats Purr?
No one really knows for sure why cats purr. There are guesses, assumptions, and some documented reasons.
Even though science is now fairly sure this is the process, there’s no definitive answer as to what triggers the response.
The biggest clue is a neural oscillator deep within the cat’s brain, one that otherwise has no clear purpose.
“We’re just beginning to understand it and there are more unanswered questions than answered.”-Gary Weitzman, a veterinarian and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society.
Here Are 5 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Might Be Purring –
1. The Call for Food
Cats begin purring when they are a few days old, which helps their mothers locate them for feeding time. This may persist with some adult cats who purr as they feed – or who purr beforehand as they try and convince a human it’s dinner time.
2. Kitten & Mommy (or Pop-pops) Bonding
Vets say that purring tells ‘Mom’ that “I am healthy,” “I’m okay,” and “I am here.” It also indicates a bonding mechanism between kitten and mother.
3. In the “Dora the Explorer” Zone
Some cats will purr loudly when they are cautiously investigating new environments (my own cat purrs loudest when it’s exploring the back of the wardrobe).
Cats may also purr after they’ve been startled, or after stressful episodes like being chased by a dog.
4. Naturally healing properties of purring
One hypothesis is that the purr is a powerful healing action. It’s thought that the vibrations from the activity are physically rejuvenating – a way for the cat to ‘heal’ itself after stress.
The frequency of those vibrations – which range from 20Hz up to 150Hz – is thought to promote bone growth, as bones harden in response to the pressure. Other frequencies may do something similar to tissue.
This is why we see cats purring in apparent contentment while dozing. In reality, it’s a form of self-repair. Cats may have adapted their normal behavior – which now involves spending a lot of the day resting – as a way of avoiding injury through over-exertion.
The purr has developed as a low-energy way to keep bones and tissues in good condition while they rest.
5. They are simply happy, content and at peace
Your cat looks relaxed: Perhaps they are on their back, eyes half-closed, tail mostly still. If they are purring, it’s safe to assume they are in their happy place.
That noise is a big smile.
Does The Purring Of Your Cat Have Benefits For You?
Petting a cat has long been seen as a form of stress relief – cat ownership could cut the risk of stroke or heart disease by as much one-third. Those same frequencies cats purr at might also be doing good to us as well.
The physiological benefits aside, we’ve always responded to purring’s psychological effects. It calms us and pleases us, like watching waves against a beach.
We respond to a cat’s purr as a calming stimulus and may have even genetically selected cats with more propensity to purr.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it normal for cats to purr constantly?
All cats are different, some never purr and some will purr constantly.
Why does my cat walk around purring?
Some people have observed their cats walking around the house meowing to themselves. If you have more than one cat, you’ll often hear them converse with each other this way. Purring is usually a sign of contentment. Cats purr whenever they’re happy, even while they’re eating.
Do cats have control over purring?
Even cooler: Your cat does not control the signals from her central nervous system that tell her to purr, meaning she has the best autopilot setting known to humanity.
Why do cats go away to die?
Although it is not fully known why some cats go away to die, it’s likely that when our cats become very old and feel unwell, they prefer to be alone and rest. Unlike people, cats do not anticipate or know about death as we do, so they are not fearing what might happen.
Why do cats purr and then bite you?
It’s a controversial subject but it’s believed that if your cat suddenly bites you for no apparent reason, it could be because they are being overstimulated by the constant stroking – which you thought they were enjoying!
While there are no certain answers that unravel the mystery behind the curious case of the purr, it is safe to assume that if you see your cat purring when it sees you, or when it is eating, or when it is simply enjoying its alone time – the purr is the sign of positive vibes.