The Cat’s Purr…Soothing and Possibly Healing?
1 December, 2014
There is no better sound coming out of our felines’ bodies than hearing them purr. It’s such a warm, soothing sound and we cat owners usually associate it with pleasure. After all, it seems as if our cats purr when we rub them or when they see us and hang out with us. However, the actual purring is a little more complex than we sometimes believe.
How do our cats actually purr?
While experts still haven’t discovered exactly why or the mechanism that creates the cat’s purring, we do know that purring happens on both the inhale and exhale for a constant sound. Cats that lose their “meow sound” which is the exhale, due to injury are often still able to purr, but cats with laryngeal paralysis lose their purr. It seems as if the internal laryngeal muscles, which control the opening and closing of the space between the vocal chords is what creates the purr sound.
Cats purr as an expression of themselves
Most cat owners, including myself, often consider purrs to be an expression of affection, and it is clearly a communication tool. Cats and kittens rarely purr when they are alone. Purrs are aimed at other cats or people. The purr has been described as the feline equivalent to a smile or the sound of contentment after we humans eat a meal…a silent moan or yum! And we all make sounds for so many different reasons, such as happiness, nerves, fear–and a smile (or a purr) doesn’t necessarily indicate happiness.
Cat purring can occur under many different situations, even when our felines are frightened or in pain. Some animal behaviorists think that the purr is a sign of submission that signals to the other cats and people that they are not trying to be threatened but want some comfort and love. That may be why the purr is used both in times of contentment to express joy, and during times of stress to relieve tension. You might have noticed that some cats purr when waiting at the veterinarian’s office; it’s their way of telling you to comfort them. Conversely, when your cat comes to you with kneading paws and luxurious purrs, perhaps that’s her way of calling you mom and getting your attention.
Kittens instinctively start purring almost at birth
The mother cat’s purr serves as a vibration-or sort of language that tells her blind and deaf newborn kittens her location. Kittens begin to purr back by two days of age as that is their only way of communicating.
Purring may be one of the only specifically kitten-trait that the adult cats retain. The kitties often indulge in kneading behavior while they purr. Kittens knead, or tread with the front paws, against their mom’s breasts to prompt her milk to flow as they nurse. Adult cats often retain this behavior, particularly when they purr. We’ve all seen the purr and knead which is almost like an inhale and exhale of energy.
Don’t worry if your cats don’t purr
There are some cats that just don’t purr. But, that does not mean they are depressed or unhappy. It may simply mean that your cat is incredibly well-adjusted, and feels no need to purr. My cat, Sammy, doesn’t purr or hasn’t in a long time (and I can safely say he is a very well adjust cat)! In a household with many cats, the most confident cat-in-control may purr less because he’s already in charge, while the other kitties purr more in deference to his status.
Cats’ purring is believed to help healing
Some animal specialists believe that the cat’s purr can serve as a healing mechanism. Feline bones heal much more quickly than other mammals, and in human medicine, vibration of similar frequency to the purr appears to speed healing.
Some studies have shown that cats can purr their way to better health. This inherent ability is unique to cats because dogs along with other popular pet animals do not enjoy the same awesome healing capacity. It’s almost as if they heavy inhale and exhale is calming them down while allowing some ailments or illnesses to heal.
Only small cats purr (you won’t see it in lions)
Only small cats have the capability to purr, while big cat relatives like lions are able to roar. Tigers have a kind of low-frequency purr that is beyond the range of hearing and happens simultaneously with their roar. This mysterious tiger sound has the power to briefly paralyze prey.
We aren’t really all too certain of exactly what makes a cat purr, but you, as the cat’s parent, know what makes your cat tick (or purr). Whatever the reason for our purring cat, we cat lovers certainly enjoy the sound. It’s such a soothing cat-specific sound that makes any cat owner happy! And, if it helps them heal, what an amazing additional benefit.