When coming back home after a long day, just seeing your little fur-ball curl up with you and purr away, can feel like a glimpse of heaven, at least for cat lovers. But, ever wonder what that purring means besides a cat’s way of expressing that they feel good? Or why you feel at peace when hearing those little feline purrs?
Why Do Cats Purr?
In ancient history cats are associated with the mystical arts of witchcraft, as guardians of the spiritual realm in Egyptian mythology, and the like. But being the mysterious creatures they are, their purring is said to hold a deeper enigma.
Although there is no concrete reason behind a cat’s purring, the most obvious reason is that they purr because they are pleased, however they also purr when they feel hungry, scared, or are in pain.
When cats purr, they use their larynx and diaphragm muscles, as they inhale and exhale simultaneously. Anatomically, it is still a wonder how their brains make it possible to produce those two opposing reflexes at the same time.
Dating back to studies conducted by 19th century taxonomists, those in the cat family were said to be able to either roar OR purr, not both. So, the “purrers” fell under the subfamily of Felinae, while the “roarers” were under the subfamily of Pantherinae. Some exceptions of cats who can both roar and purr include lions, tigers, snow and clouded leopards, jaguars, and cheetahs.
Another theory is that cats purr as a form of communication to those they consider near and dear, since purring lies at a frequency that can only be felt by those close to them. Mammals in general are said to emit low-frequency noises or vocalisms such as purring, when they are having positive or feel-good interactions including activities such as, being playful, relaxing, and grooming.
Finally, purring could just be a cats’ way of expressing or soothing themselves just as how humans laugh, cry, whine, or moan. An expert in cats and veterinary sciences from Ohio State University, named Tony Buffington, said that it would be too rigid to assume that cats purr for one reason alone. It’s almost like saying that people laugh for just one purpose. But we laugh out of joy, when embarrassed or surprised, and even as a nervous reaction to be polite. So just as how they are relative to a context or situation, this applies to cat purrs too.
Cat Purring Health Benefits
Taking a scientific look at the vibrations of a cats’ purring, it is said to range between the frequencies of 20 to 140 Hertz. Moreover, humans near a purring cat are said to enjoy some therapeutic benefits from those vibrations.
Purring helps lower stress, while petting or playing with a purring cat is almost an instant calmer of your nerves. This is besides their uncanny and natural ability to instantly make us feel better and make our troubles and worries seem less important.
Domestic cats have a purr frequency of about 26 Hz, so just listening to a purring cat or interacting with one, is shown to be an instant blood pressure reducer.
Recent studies have shown that cat owners have a 40% lower risk of getting a heart attack.
A cat’s purrs also lower the symptoms of dyspnea (difficulty in breathing) in both cats and humans.
The vibrations from purring is said to help heal inflammation, infections, and swelling glands.
If your muscles, tendons, or ligaments need healing, after some minor injuries, then the vibrations of a purring cat are wonderful healers of that worn soft tissue.
Bone healing happens best when they are exposed to vibration frequencies of 25 and 50 Hz or even better at 100 to 200 Hz for optimal bone healing. And a cat’s purring falls beautifully within this frequency range. Those purrs are also said to promote bone regeneration and make them stronger. Being natural hunters, cats use the purring as a self-healing survival mechanism so their bones don’t become weak or brittle. Likewise, strap-on vibrating plates which mimic and make purr-like vibrations have been patented as a possible therapy. This was especially made for astronauts to wear on their feet during their flights to outer-space to help retain their bone density.
Some vets and cat-lovers suggested making something called “purr therapy”, a therapeutic treatment thought of, upon observing the effects that purring cats have on injured people. But this still needs further medical backing before it can become a reality.
So, the next time your cat is purring, watch what they’re doing and notice why. Are they purring and rubbing against your leg to be pet or feeling happy to see you? Are they purring when seeing you eat? They could be hungry or just want a bite of what you’re eating. Or are they purring when you’re working just to get your attention. This will help bring you closer to understanding your beloved feline friend and enjoy some of the benefits their purrs pose.