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?
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.
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 Why do cats purr .org!
August 9, 2011 No Comments
Often we ask, “Why do cats purr?” simply because we wish to empathize, as well as personify, our feline companions, and such personification necessitates understanding. Anyone with experience around cats has, of course, made the association between a cats purr and its emotional state. Usually (but not always) we find that a cats purr corresponds to a cats happiness at that moment.
Like any other physiological response to stimuli, the cats purr serves a purpose…in this case, most experts seem to agree that the cats purr has a soothing (psychological) effect, in addition to acting as a vocal communication. But why would a cat need to “sooth” itself if it is already happy? Well, like many other traits within the animal kingdom, the evolution of the cats purr cannot be simplified that easily into a concise “if-then” logic.
For example, why do humans smile? To communicate agreement or contentment or joy? However, humans still smile when they are alone….it’s an ingrained behavior that has naturally evolved to lend itself to many scenarios, in addition to and apart from its “original” purpose in nature. After all, mammals usually bare their teeth to threaten…but as humans became social animals, that instinct adopted a new purpose.
And so, perhaps, it is with the cats purr. Cats also purr in times of distress or trauma or pain, possibly to sooth and calm themselves. One can assume that the act (purring) intended originally to induce this state, has evolved to also result from this state.
Thanks for stopping by Why do Cats Purr .org!
August 4, 2011 No Comments
Why do cats purr loudly sometimes, and others, not? The answer, it seems, is physiology. Why do some people talk louder than others? Why do some people have deep voices, while others a re shrill? It is the same with cats.
Cats are born with differing physical attributes, just as people. Usually it is genetic, but environment and nutrition also play a role. Also, cats have differing personalities and psychologies, and as the cats purr is often an emotional response and indicator, your cats overall mood and outlook affect the frequency and intensity of how the cat purrs.
It is always important to maintain a happy cat lifestyle to maintain a happy cat purr. Ensure that your kitty has plenty of toys and attention, and that they are content with their food type and supply.
July 31, 2011 No Comments
Often the question arises, do BIG cats purr? Lions, tigers, panthers, leopards…these large cousins to the common household cat, do they express themselves in the same way vocally?
Actually, no, they do not. Larger felines have tough cartilage around the hyoid bone in their throats that prevent purring. The larger cats do meow, snarl, and hiss like smaller cats, and of course, they roar!
In fact, it is the thick cartilage that allows them to (and why smaller cats do not roar). This does not mean that all wild cats are incapable of purring, though: smaller species such as lynxes, ocelots, and cougars have a more flexible hyoid bone, allowing them to purr in the same manner (and under similar circumstances) as the common domestic cat.
July 27, 2011 No Comments
“Why do cats purr?” is a question many cat owners ask themselves at one time or another. When our cats lovingly rub against our legs or find comfort in our laps, we imagine that the purred vocalizations indicated contentment, affection, and happiness, and no doubt many of us vocalize to our cats in response. Research has found that these vocalizations may, in fact, serve as a positive feedback loop and serves a mutually beneficial evolutionary advantage.
Bruce Fogel, author of The Cat’s Mind: Understanding Your Cat’s Behavior, informs us that the original biological purpose of the cats purr was to allow a mother and kitten to communicate a general sense of well-being. A kitten is able to purr long before it has the capability to meow, which further suggest the importance of why cats do purr on a fundamental level.
Neils C.Pederson, veterinarian author of the vastly informative book Feline Husbandry: Diseases and Management in the Multiple-cat EnvironmentSmall Animal Medicine Books), writes that the cats purr begins in the central nervous system and is volitional act.
The mystery of why do cats purr is becoming more accessible every day with new research.
July 25, 2011 No Comments
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!
July 24, 2011 No Comments