A “purr” is the sound produced vocally by all forms of feline and is an integral part of communication for cats….but why DO cats purr in the first place?
Why Do Cats Purr?
The purr itself varies between different species and breed of cat, in terms of tone, decibels (loudness), amplitude, and frequency. Domesticated cats purr at roughly 30 to 170 vibrations/sec, while the purr of larger felines vibrates at a much lower (deeper) frequency.
While these and other statistics are well documented, the actual mechanism used by cats to purr remains something of a mystery. Interestingly, cats are the only mammal known to produce the unique sound of the purr, but they possess no unique body part, internally or externally, that could be associated or deemed responsible for the purr.
ALSO SEE: Why do Kittens Purr?
Some theorize that the purr is produce by the muscle folds of the larnyx that constrict and un-constrict very, very rapidly, and the vibrations of air being inhaled and exhaled cause the undulating sound.
Also unproven and still of a speculative nature is the exact reason why cats purr. Cats seem to purr under a variety of circumstances and in many differing scenarios, further muddling the question. For example, cats not only purr when relaxed, happy, comfortable, and content (conditions we normally associate with purrring), but sometimes also:
- while giving birth
- when injured
- when sick
- while dying
Researchers speculate that purring may have developed as a method for cats to communicate to their offspring, especially while nursing.
From that, it further evolved into a general signal of non-aggression to specify to potential enemies a friendly or submissive intent.
Obviously, from a survival standpoint, a cat’s ability to potentially diffuse a confrontation with a dangerous rival via this mechanism would be very valuable. Some also theorize that the act of purring releases a specific hormonal compound in the cat’s brain that may serve as a natural pain suppressor.
Further, cats as pets have learned to use the purr as a way to communicate with their human caretakers.
Studies have shown that as the relationship between a human and their cat progresses, the owner inadvertently comes to learn what their cat specifically needs/wants by associating the different frequencies of purrs in different contexts. In other words, the cat has “trained” you vocally!
So next time your cat is purring, trust your instincts, especially if you have a deep relationship with the cat in question…you’ve been trained well! Thanks for stopping by
So why Will cats purr?
While cat lovers might readily assert that their cat’s purr is an obvious sign of affection, science has, in fact, shed some light on the evolutionary functionality of the cat’s purr.
The consensus seems to be that purring offers a selective advantage to cats, and that the vocalization serves a purpose under many different circumstances. Cats purr when they are under duress, stress, in pain, and frightened, as well as when they are comfortable or happy. Cats also purr when they are nursing. Researchers have studied the purr in many scenarios.
Interestingly, cats purr when inhaling as well as when exhaling, and the pattern of the purr is consistent. Also, the frequencies of sound produces have been found to induce healing and bone growth/density. Thus, it is very possible that cats are not only improving their own health and the health of their growing kittens with purring, but may also be benefiting their human friends as well!