The Truth About Why Cats Purr


Have you ever wondered what your cat is trying to tell you every time it purrs? It’s certainly a pleasant sound that you might automatically associate with that warm, fuzzy feeling your cat brings you. However, according to pet nutritionists from Purina, purring is more complicated than we think.

In addition to being normal expressions of happiness, purring also happens to be a type of distress signal as evidence has shown. Apparently, cats use purring not only to communicate but also as a defense mechanism. If ever you find your cat purring excessively on the way to the vet or during the birthing process, just know that your cat is simply trying to keep calm during a highly stressful situation.

As a means of communication, purring evolved as a way for kittens to talk with their mother and littermates. All kittens are born without vision or hearing; they rely on vibrations produced when purring as an established way to communicate.

Cats will also purr as a means to alleviate pain. The vibrations that result from the low frequencies of purring can act as an internal remedy for cats. Apart from pain relief, purring can help rebuild muscles, heal other sorts of injuries, and even assist in a cat’s breathing mechanism.

Cat owners benefit form purring as well. Some say that constant interaction with cats and their purring can lower a person’s risk for heart attack by 40%. This happens because hearing a cat’s purr can lower a person’s blood pressure almost immediately.


Purr physiology

The actual purr sound is a result of muscle movement in a cat’s vocal chords. As air that’s breathed in and out hits the vibrating muscles of the vocal chords, the airy sound of a purr comes out.

There’s a small bone found in domestic cats that’s completely hardened and only vibrates with the flow of air in breathing. In cats that can roar, that same bone is flexible. This allows the bone to create more movement and the muscles to ultimately create a greater sound with the flow of air. This is the reason why cats that purr can’t ever roar, and vice versa.

There’s also kind of purring sound that’s been identified recently. Known as the “solicitation purr,” this particular sound has cry-like qualities that solicit an urgent response from those who can hear it—cats or humans alike.


Talking through meowing

Cat enthusiasts know that cats like to talk quite a bit. As a matter of fact, cats are thought to be capable of at least 16 different sound patterns. Some cats hiss; some shriek. Other cats even trill like birds do. But more commonly, cats meow.

A cat’s meow can convey a lot of emotions or demands. It’s the way they talk to us humans, especially since adult cats will actually only meow to humans. Communication through meowing is typically halted by a mother cat as soon as her kittens are weaned. This is why adult cats don’t meow to each other; they just talk in other ways.

The meowing helps considering we’re not quite adept at reading nonverbal cues from our pets. Even if we were anywhere nearly good at it, we tend to prefer verbal cues anyway. This will come in handy as science is trying to push animal communication to the future. Pet translators have been developing the tech that will eventually allow us to actually “talk” to our pets. It might not happen for a while, but it’s certainly headed that way.