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Why Do Cats Purr?

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For cat owners, sitting on the sofa with your cat curled up on your lap is the best feeling. But do you know why your cat purrs? It’s something a lot of cat owners wonder about and animal behaviourists want to understand. It’s true that cat's purr when they are happy and satisfied, but they also purr when they are unhappy or uncomfortable.

There are could be many reasons as to why cats purr. Kittens purr when they are just a few days old, researchers think they do this to communicate with their mother and tell them they are OK. It’s also likely to be a bonding behaviour between the mother and kitten.

Cats are blind when they are born, but their mother can guide them with the vibrations generated from purring. Purring is also a very quiet sound, so cats could have evolved this behaviour because it is more discreet than crying which might attract the attention of predators.

It’s not just domestic cats that purr, there are other wild cats that also purr. Cheetahs, Pumas and Bobcats also purr in their own way. Cats make a range of other sounds too such as meowing, hissing, growling and chirping but purring is one of the sounds we notice the most. It can be beneficial for both cats and humans as it is a very relaxing sound.

Scientists have been trying to work out exactly how cats purr for centuries. The most recent and likely theory is that they purr by using their diaphragm muscles and larynx while they are inhaling and exhaling. Here are some of the main reasons that cats might purr:

When they are feeling good

Purring could be a cat’s version of smiling. Dogs wag their tail when they are happy and cats purr. When you are stroking their cat and they respond by purring, it probably means they are enjoying it.

When they are hungry

Research has shown that cats have developed a specific purr for mealtimes. They have learn’t that humans can tell the difference between this purr and their standard one, and realise that they want to be fed. They know that if they purr it might help them get fed sooner.

When they are injured or in pain

Cats can also purr when they are experiencing discomfort and it can be self-soothing for them. It’s a natural healing mechanism, and purring has been shown to help strengthen bones, heal wounds and relieve pain. The low frequency of their purrs triggers vibrations in their body that can help with a number of different things.

When they are frightened or stressed

Some cats will purr when they are frightened or scared. It helps to calm them down and make them feel a little less stressed.

In positive social situations

Cats purr in positive social situations such as when they are being groomed, stroked or communicating with other cats. A purr can be a signal to another cat that it is OK to approach them.

There’s nothing quite as charming as that familiar vibration which emanates from your cat when you stroke it. Purring is the sound of contentment and relaxation. It tells you that your furry friend is feeling good and that you are doing the right thing. But it turns out that there are unexpected benefits to those calming rhythms. In addition to letting you know that your moggie appreciates being petted, purring can actually improve your cat’s health. Researchers now suspect that purring offers healing properties for felines thanks to all those vibrations.

The Health Benefits of Cat Purrs

The frequency of the vibrations can aid bone growth, pain relief and also tissue repair after injuries. Some scientists have even suggested that purring can help female cats endure the pain of giving birth. So, purring really is a case of good vibrations and they are vibrations which could also benefit human health. As owners stroke their pets they are also exposed to the purring rhythms. Perhaps cats offer the potential for mending fractures and reducing swellings in double quick time.

Cats and Exercise

Scientists now believe that cats may have evolved to purr in order to keep themselves healthy during periods when they are not exercising. No wonder my cat feels that it is OK to lounge about all day in the house when the weather is bad. These days he isn’t one for engaging in much physical exertion but he does purr a lot more than he used to. There was me thinking that he had actually grown to appreciate me after years of merely tolerating my existence! It would appear that he is just looking after himself as usual!

Attracting Attention

Cats appear to use their purrs as a means to ensure that you keep fussing over them. They combine the good vibrations with meows to grab your attention. Their purrs boast a frequency which is similar to that of a crying baby so little wonder that they are hard to ignore. Cats are very insightful when it comes to evolving the perfect strategy for diverting you away from whatever you happen to doing so that you can feed them.

My cat has certainly learnt that incessant moaning will quickly wear me down and see me heading for the cupboard where I keep the cat food and the treats. My resistance to the awful noise usually collapses after approximately 5 minutes by which point I simply cannot bear it any longer!

Rising to the Bait

Resistance would be futile anyway because in the unlikely event that I do not respond quickly enough to requests for food, I am treated to a variety of other annoying behaviours including jumping on my keyboard, sitting in front of my face and knocking things off shelves. This will be followed by self-induced gagging and even vomiting. These unpleasant actions are always accompanied by several sly looks to see if am paying attention!

At least the little sod’s purrs might be doing me some good. However, they have, thus far, failed to cure the injured tendon in my foot. I really must have a word with my moggie about that!


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