The Mystery of the Purring Cat

Why do cats purr? That has been as hard a question to answer as, “which came first the chicken or the egg?”

My aim is not to solve the mystery, as no one really knows why, but to possibly help you, to better understand some of the known reasons, why a cat purrs.

It is common knowledge that cats purr when they are content and happy.

People cannot purr, but we smile and laugh when we are content and happy.

That makes sense to most people, but what many do not know is cats will purr if they are under stress, in pain or feeling ill.

The next question is, do all kinds of cats purr?

The answer to that is “no.”

For whatever reason cats that roar do not purr, which may have some thing to do with the mechanics inside the cat that allow for roaring and of that for purring.

Interestingly enough, raccoons are also known to purr.

Figuring out what actually creates the purr has several different scientific explanations.

One study says cats purr only when they want to; and it is caused by activation of the nerves within the voice box. The nerves cause a vibration of the vocal cords and the diaphragm moving the air in and out causes the sound. Cats can purr both while breathing in and out.

Another study poses the answer that cats have a special wiring that goes from the brain to the muscles in the voice box and that this unique wiring can cause the muscles to vibrate, thus causing the purring.

And according to a Scientific article published in January 2003 “scientists have demonstrated that cats produce the purr through intermittent signaling of the laryngeal and diaphragmatic muscles. Cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz (unit of measurement to complete one cycle of vibration).”

Now that we know how they purr the next question is, what are the benefits of purring?

For the cat it is a form of communication. The mother cat purrs when nursing her kittens and the kitten’s purr, while nursing which indicates that all is well in their world.

Cats, also purr in times of stress, which indicates (though not proven) that it may have a calming effect on their nerves, like saying a mantra or humming may have on our nerves in time of stress.

It has been stated in many studies that I have read that the cat’s purr because of the frequency of vibration (25 to 150 Hertz) is a healing vibration and that cats are able to heal their broken bones just by their constant purring when injured.

Since cats are known to be able to rest and sleep for long periods of time the vibrations from purring may be used to heal.

There is a “veterinary legend” that says, “if you put a cat in a room with all its broken bones that the cat will be able to reassemble them.”

Cats do not seem to suffer bone density loss or have muscle atrophy and if scientists could solve that mystery, it would be of great service to our space program.

Our astronauts face a serious concern when in space due to the weightlessness of their bodies and the lack of normal stress on their bones. If scientists could somehow determine, if the frequency of vibration in the purring is a healing method cat’s use, and if they could develop it for human use, what an asset that would be.

Cats seldom suffer from hip dysplasia or osteoporotic conditions that dogs suffer from.

Cats are also used as “therapy animals” in hospitals and nursing homes as it is thought that the purring when being petted is very therapeutic for the patients. Petting a cat and listening to its purr has been proven to lower human blood pressure.

The human-feline bond is never so close as when you are holding that bundle of fur and it is purring in your lap, the feeling of contentment almost makes you want to purr.

The mystery of the purr, the mystery of the cat’s mind and the mystery of how the cat has survived the hundreds of years of banishment and yet it comes back expecting to be treated as royalty will always remain a mystery.

My feeling is just enjoy your cat and don’t ask questions.