Curling up with your favorite feline friend is the most satisfying feeling after a long day. The cat will probably purr and wrap around your legs to welcome you. It doesn’t mean cats only purr when excited. Apart from expressing pleasure, cats purr due to many reasons. Before looking at why cats purr, we explain how they produce the sound.
How cats purr
The subject has elicited much debate among scientists. Some believed that purring results from blood flowing to the inferior vena cava, a vein that transports de-oxygenated blood to the right side of the heart. However, as scientists conducted more research, they found that a particular body part didn’t produce the noise.
On the contrary, purring involves rapid movement of the larynx muscles, combined with the movement of the base of the chest cavity (diaphragm). As the cat breathes, the air inhaled touches the vibrating muscles to produce a purr.
The sound is unique for every cat as some produce high-pitched sounds while others emit a low rumble. Some cats emit such a faint sound you’ve to be extremely close to the cat to hear. While science is certain about how a cat purrs, there are no definite answers to what triggers the response. We look at some assumptions.
Reasons cats purr
For years, scientists have speculated that cats purr as a form of communication when they are:
Some cats purr to remind you it’s mealtime. A study by British researchers found that house cats make different sounds when hungry and when full. When hungry, they combine the usual purr with an unpleasant cry or meow, similar to when a baby is crying. The premise is to cause the pet owner to respond. Even people who don’t keep cats can tell the difference in the sounds.
Creating a kitten-mother bond
Purring is the first sound kittens make when they’re a few days old. They make the sound to signal their presence and encourage the mother to feed them. The kittens continue making the sound as they grow to bond with their mothers. The mothers also purr when nursing the kittens to soothe them to sleep.
For relief and healing
Cats purr when in pain or get hurt. They produce the sound to soothe themselves like a child sucks the thumb to feel better. According to research, purring helps cats get better. This is because the low frequency of the purrs creates vibrations that:
- Reduce pain and swelling
- Heal bones and wounds
- Ease breathing
The sound provides healing properties by promoting tissue regeneration. Scientists made this conclusion after studying wild cats who spend a lot of time hunting. Purring at a frequency of 26-300 Hertz helps stimulate their bones, so they don’t get weak or too brittle to hunt.
It is this concept that has been used in the development of vibration devices for therapy. Also, some researchers proposed wrapping vibrating plates around astronauts’ feet during long space flights to maintain a healthy bone density.
It’s naive to assume cats purr for one reason. It’s like thinking people cry or laugh due to one cause. Cat behavior depends on their history, environment, and expectation. If you just arrived home, the cat may purr to show excitement. However, if he’s purring incessantly during dinner, he may be hungry. Also, a cat rescued from the shelters may exhibit a different behavior from a pure domestic cat.