Why do cats purr?

Why do cats purr is a topic that after decades of research continues to fuel the curiosity of ethologists, given the unknowns that still remain to be fully clarified.

In this post we collect the keys that revolve around this mystery of feline behavior. We are sure that if you are a cat lover, knowing more about the purr will only increase your love for them.

  • You may also be interested in: Why does my cat bite me?

Curiosities about the purr

Do you know that the purr helps mothers to recognize their puppies? Kittens already practice it at 2 days of birth and thanks to it the mother can locate and identify them to breastfeed.

At 5 months of age, their purr is similar to that of adult cats, some using it to alert their owner to the approach of feeding time, others when exploring and others when they are startled.

According to Sam Watson, a scientist at the British Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), cats in the wild purr when grooming each other .

Therefore, the researchers have established a classification to differentiate ordinary purr, linked to basic needs, from non-ordinary purr, which is precisely the most disturbing.


How is the purr produced?

After decades of study, theories that try to explain which muscles or organs are involved in the emission of this characteristic sound have succeeded.

In 1960 the hemodynamic theory that pointed to the circulation of blood through the inferior cana vein as the cause of the purr burst with force. However, it was later proven not to be true .

Years later, the involvement of the soft palate was believed to be the finding that currently has the greatest consensus and which has the larynx as the protagonist.

There is no doubt that the association of the glottis with the diaphragm is responsible for these vibrations that also occur in other felines such as the cheetah or the serval.

The air that the cat breathes as it passes through the larynx dilates and contracts the glottis, which is the part of the larynx that surrounds the vocal cords. This modulation causes the diaphragm to contract and thereby an increase in the intensity of the purr.

Therefore, the air vibrates when the cat breathes, becoming the loudest purr when he breathes in. However, there is not so much unanimity regarding its meaning. The key seems to lie in the neural oscillator deep in the cat’s brain.


Does the neural oscillator only activate when the cat is happy?

This is a neat field in hypotheses and of which there are still many unknowns to clear. Probably, because not as much is known about feline behavior as about canine behavior.

Dogs show a more collaborative attitude, especially if there is a reward in the form of food . Therefore, feline psychology remains a box of surprises to discover and observe.

Experts consider that purring has a lot to do with well-being or pleasure in many cases. However, the neural oscillator is also activated by fear , anxiety or nervousness.

Behaviorists associate purring with a form of communication and appeasement. It would be their particular way of expressing approval or gratitude, for example, for feeding him or saying that they do not pose a threat.


Why don’t sick cats stop purring?

Science seems to identify him with a way to camouflage his inferiority in the face of a hypothetical enemy, to ask for help or to thank us for comforting him with our company.

Some researchers equate the purr with the human smile, so that the purr of dying cats could respond to the state of euphoria that some terminally ill patients experience .

The theory on the purpose of the most profound purr today emphasizes its healing power. In this sense, cats would have incorporated the purr to their behavior as a repair mechanism during rest.

It is a low-energy state that keeps the cat’s bones and tendons in perfect condition, in addition to relieving stress, since it is proven that these vibrations have a rejuvenating effect.

The feline purr usually ranges between 20 and 150 Hz , frequencies that increase bone density, repair tendons and accelerate wound healing.

In fact, therapeutic medicine used in humans mobilizes frequencies between 25 and 100 Hz. By exposing the bones to frequencies of 25-50 Hz they harden to withstand the impact, stimulating their growth.


The skin and soft tissues demand somewhat higher frequencies, close to 100 Hz, to see their lesions reversed. In turn, petting a cat reduces the risk of suffering a stroke or cardiomyopathy by a third .

Therefore, if you are at this point in the article we are sure that now that you know why cats purr, you will value their company and their wisdom even more. Are we wrong?

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