Pets are becoming more important in the lives of humans. As couples choose careers over children and people become more willing to move to new cities and towns around the world, pets have come to be a source of stability and companionship to their owners.
Long considered one of the most desirable pets from cultures ranging from ancient Egyptians to today, cats are fascinating creatures in many ways. One of their most interesting and unusual characteristics is their ability to purr, and over the years this feline feature has been the subject of much study and debate.
What Makes Your Little Kitty Purr?
Why cats purr is a question which still has no definite answers. Because its exact cause is still unknown, researchers, veterinarians and pet behavior experts all have differing opinions.
Some believe it is simply an involuntary reflex that serves no real purpose, while others see it as an indicator of the cat’s mood. Based on years of research, the overall consensus is purring is linked to feline emotions. Studies have shown purring to relax not only cats, but the humans who are with them. Cats are able to begin purring on day two of their lives, making it a lifelong feature that tends to benefit them and their owners.
How Does it Work?
When asking why do cats purr, it’s important to first understand how they purr. Whenever a cat is feeling good or bad emotionally or is in pain, the voice box begins to tighten and vibrate. The muscles of the voice box, known as the laryngeal muscles, create the purring sound when the cat inhales and exhales. Purring is a continuous sound that can last for several hours at a time, which makes it very relaxing to humans and cats. The level of purring ranges from as little as 25 to 150 Hertz, depending on how relaxed or upset the cat is at the time.
Purring is done to serve a variety of feline needs. When a cat is relaxed, purring has been shown to have an even greater calming effect on the cat. If the cat is injured or in pain, purring can have the same effect as taking deep breaths would have with a human. If they are nervous, it also acts as a way to help them calm down during a stressful situation. The purring of a mother cat serves as an indicator of food and comfort for her kittens. Since kittens are born blind and deaf, they rely on following the purring vibrations of their mother to make sure they eat and are protected by her. Content or relaxed, purring serves a very useful purpose as a soothing source of comfort to most cats.
Purring also has been shown to have more and more benefits in various situations for both felines and humans. Research has shown purring to be a full-body workout for cats, since its vibrations actually burn calories. Muscles are stimulated during purring, and bone growth has also been shown to be more dense in cats who purr often. From an emotional standpoint, cats use purring to ease their minds when in physical or emotional pain, and it is not uncommon to have a cat purring even when it’s close to death.
As cats have overtaken dogs as the most popular pets worldwide, more and more studies have been conducted to understand how purring can help humans. A purring cat on a person’s lap can have many therapeutic benefits. Studies have shown petting a cat can lower a person’s blood pressure, alleviate depression and anxiety and have a calming effect on children with autism or other physical or emotional problems. Just as purring can alleviate a cat’s pain, it can do the same for humans. Purring cats who position themselves over a painful area on a human can reduce a person’s discomfort through the vibrations of their purring. Because of their many benefits, hospitals around the world now use cats as therapy animals with their patients.
While purring has many practical applications regarding physical and emotional health, it’s also important in cat communication. When cats purr around humans, it’s generally believed to be a sign of approval and comfort. Purring is also used by cats to coerce their owners into such acts as feeding them or petting them more often. So while it is assumed humans own the cats, it may actually be the other way around. Purring is a feline feature that brings comfort in good times and bad, and is certainly deserving of further study and analysis.