Ahhhh, soft purring.
That delightful sound is not only music to many cat owners’ ears, it seems to signify that our cat is happy and content in his world. The fact is that no one really knows why this behavior occurs but there are many theories. But first, how do cats purr?
Experts now believe that purrs are created by the laryngeal and diaphragmatic muscles in combination with a neural oscillator in the brain. A message from the neural oscillator gets sent to the laryngeal muscles, causing them to vibrate. Their movement controls how much air passes through. Purring occurs during inhalation and exhalation. In some cases, the purr is so quiet and low, you may feel it more than hear it. Other cats have very loud purrs though that you can hear across the room.
Now to the why…..Cats may purr when happy but they also use it when they are sick, injured or even giving birth. A mother cat purrs during labor possibly to self-soothe and control pain. This purring releases endorphins (hormones that induce a sort of healing effect) and can help in pain management. Recent theories suggest that purring is a way to repair muscles and tendons after a vigorous chase. In fact, purring occurs in the range of 25-150 Hz, the same frequency that promotes physical healing and bone mending. Cats also may purr when nervous, sick and when close to death. Newborn kittens utilize purring as a means of communication between litter mates and their mother. The combination behavior of purring and kneading the mother cat’s teats with paws helps stimulate milk flow. No wonder kittens purr when warm, safe and snuggly close to mom receiving meals on-demand. Sounds like a wonderful life to me!
Whatever the reason your cat is purring, enjoy it and know that you’re benefiting from it as well. The sound of a cat’s purr usually makes us more relaxed since we associate purring with contentment. And while you’re at it, go ahead and stroke your purring cat and lower your blood pressure and stress!
Why do animals yawn? Why do cats eat grass? and more. Presented by Dr. Benjamin Hart. 2010 AVMA’s annual convention (Atlanta, GA). http://westwoodanimalhospital.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Why-do-animals-yawn-Why-do-cats-eat-grass-and-more-from-AAHA.pdf