Why Cats Purr
This is a great topic for discussion because little is known or understood about why cats purr, at least from a scientific perspective; however, I believe that cat owners have the answers.
We should begin this discussion by making note of the similarities between cats and people. Like cat owners, cats are intelligent, social, and in touch emotionally. Most cat owners will agree that purring sooths the emotions. I believe that cats are healers in this way and also use purring to emotionally calm themselves and other cats. They are able to calm and sooth by the frequency of their purrs and the gentleness of the nature when they are in a loving mood.
How many women out there have gotten that warm feeling in their belly and felt that they would purr if they could?
If you know what I’m talking about, then you hold one key as to why cats purr.
Other blogs and resources will tell you:
- Purring usually indicates a cat is content or satisfied.
- There are different purrs that accompany different demeanors in cats.
- Felines begin purring at one week old.
- Cats can purr while inhaling and exhaling.
- Younger cats tent to purr in monotone.
- Older cats purr in two or three resonant notes.
- Cats appear to retain their kitten vocal signals to communicate with their people yet will clearly use their adult purr with other cats.
- Lions and tigers can’t purr but can roar, but there are exceptions in wild cats – like snow leopards – which can purr and roar because they have kind of a hybrid hyoid that is only partly ossified thus allowing them to do both. All other species have a completely ossified hyoid which allows them to purr but not to roar.
So what about cat purring from a practical but esoteric point of view?
When cats purr, the purring vibration seems to resonate with the lower chakras in humans…in particular, the solar plexus, seat of the soul, and root chakras. Since the solar plexus chakra (located at the naval) is the energy center for peace and contentment, it only follows that a cat’s purr resonates with the solar plexus chakra to bring it to balance and thus help people feel more peaceful. It is noteworthy that cats tend to cuddle on bellies.
A little known fact is that some female cats purr while giving birth. It is clear by this example that cats proactively use purring to relax them selves. Remember, cats are very intelligent creatures. If you could self calm by purring, would you do it? You would, and so do cats!
What do scientist have to say about it?
Domestic cats have been reported to purr when injured, sick, in pain or dying. Purring developmentally begins between mother cats and nursing kittens. One theory given is that cats purr as an attempt at “friendship” or a signal of “specific intent”. For example: when a cat is nervous and cannot escape the situation (at a veterinarian perhaps), its purr may serve as an attempt to avoid being hurt. This is what Wikipedia says and my twist is that cats purr for multiple reasons and self calming is one of them.
German Ethnologist and cat behaviorist Paul Leyhausen interprets purring as a signal that the animal is not posing a threat. Typical of a scientist isn’t it? They are afraid to stake a claim on reality due to inconclusive evidence or fear of a bad reputation; however, they always manage to identify the most basic, obvious trait. In this case and to paraphrase his findings: If the cat is purring, he isn’t threatened or threatening. Wow! How observant of them!
In 2009, Scientists at the University of Sussex demonstrated that purring seems to be a way for domesticated cats to signal for food. According to Dr. Karen McComb, purring in the “about to be fed” context happens in high frequency. I’m no scientist, but being simple like cats, I would have to tie this back to that warm fuzzy feeling that a happy, full belly can create. Feed me, and I’m happy. Cats anticipate the happy feeling of a full belly and begin to purr. The purr also communicates love and appreciation to their caregiver. So we are starting to see more and more why cats purr.
We know our cats and can read their purrs and body language. It makes sense that purring is multi-functional if you think (matter of fact) about it. If you couldn’t talk, but instead had meows, purrs, and body language to communicate with – ask yourself – would your meows, purrs, and body language communicate a multitude of things? It is interesting to me how scientists will study cats purring and come up with these narrow ideas. I guess they don’t want to risk saying too much, but cat owners will always tell it how it is.
Another theory states that purring triggers a cat’s brain to release a hormone which helps it in relaxing and acts as a pain killer. They claim that this may be the reason why cats purr when distressed. I don’t think it takes a scientist to know that there is a cause and effect relationship between an action such as purring that eases the mind and emotions thus releasing a chemical to relax the body.. Purring=calmed emotions=brain relaxation=hormone release for the body. The whole mind body connection is well established as fact.
Scientists at the University of California, Davis hypothesized that a cat’s purr can be used as a healing mechanism to offset long periods of rest and sleep that would otherwise contribute to a loss of bone density. I suppose this too would fall along the lines of the mind body connection and healing power of purring. Retirement homes use cats to improve the health and well being of the elderly. The key focus in this discussion is the effect of purring on the emotions and energy body of people and cats.
The vibrations and contractions of a purr work during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency rate of 25 to 150 vibrations per second (Hz). The lower-energy vibration stimulates energy within this particular range of sound frequency and has been scientifically shown to improve bone density and promote healing.