Why Do Cats Purr?

At home, I have three cats and I’ve always wondered the significance of their purring.  I always thought that it meant that they were content or comfortable in a situation but that might not necessarily be true.  Researchers are finding new answers to this question.  First off, how exactly do cats purr?  Today, researchers have the theory that it begins in the brain.  Purring is, “A rhythmic, repetitive neural oscillator sends messages to the laryngeal muscles, causing them to twitch at the rate of 25 to 150 vibrations per second (Hz)”. (Stuart).  This is a large range of frequency that can actually be beneficial to cats.  Researchers have seen that this range could promote self healing and improve bone density (Scientific American).  With this new and interesting discovery, humans could maybe get a sense of how to improve our own bones.  It is also thought that since cats spend so much time conserving their energy by sleeping, purring provides “a low energy mechanism that stimulates muscles and bones without a lot of energy” (Scientific American).  So, there may actually be a reason that cats sleep most of the day; they need to conserve energy.  It also leads to show why cats purr during stressful or vulnerable times to self-heal themselves.  Researcher Elizabeth von Muggenthaler of the Fauna Communications Research Institute in North Carolina (FCRI) was the first to realize that self healing might be one of the main reasons that cats purr (Stuart).  Cats have also proved to have better bone and muscle health compared to other domestic animals, like the dog (Scientific American).  As a cat owner, I found it really interesting to find out that a cat’s purr is more significant then just showing affection.  I never would have thought that their purr could be so important to their health.  Next time I hear one of my cats purr, I will know that they are potentially healing themselves.  Although it is still not exactly known why cats purr, it is thought that cats do not only purr just to show that they are content, they may also purr in stressful situations and use purring to heal.

IMG_0045Other interesting facts about cats who purr: “Cats that purr, such as mountain lions and bobcats, can’t roar, however. And cats that roar, such as lions and tigers, can’t purr. The structures surrounding their voice box (larynx) aren’t stiff enough to produce a purr” (Stuart).

Works Cited

“Why Do Cats Purr?” Scientific American. Scientific American, Inc., 3 Apr. 2006. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-cats-purr/>.

Stuart, Annie. “Why Cats Purr.” WebMD. 21 Apr. 2012. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. <http://pets.webmd.com/cats/features/why-cats-purr>.

1 thought on “Why Do Cats Purr?

  1. C. Schaad

    I always thought that we didn’t know how cats purred, so I found your article very interesting! I also have to wonder if a cat purring is some kind of equivalent to children sucking their thumbs. They’re both innate behaviors that seem to relax them. I’m sure their mother purrs both while they’re in the womb, and out, so it must be a very relaxing sensation for them. Great post!

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