Over the years, cats have definitely learned how to adapt and evolve to where they are today. That doesn’t mean that they have just lost what comes instinctive to them. The truth is, they scratch to mark their territory, their whiskers are their own personal GPS, and purring helps them in a variety of different ways as well. They have an intricate design, that’s for sure!
The Anatomy of a Purr
Before we really get into why cats purr, first we will take a look at the anatomy of a purr. Typically, the purr is produced from diaphragmatic and laryngeal muscles, paired with a neural oscillator. This would explain why cats that have laryngeal paralysis are unable to purr. There are a few other theories about how the sound is made, but this is the one that is most accredited, because honestly it makes more sense than the others.
Newborn Kittens and Purring
First, we will take a look at how the purr first got started. Purring is something that is essential for newborn kittens. When they are first born, it is one of the first things that they experience. When kittens are born, they cannot see or hear anything, but they can recognize the vibrations of the purring. They help to let the kittens know they are protected.
Kittens will also start to communicate through purring. They will start when they are just a couple of days old. When they are nursing, they are unable to meow, so they use purring as a way to show that they are content. If the kittens are in the wild, the purring is also going to help keep them quiet and safe from predators that may hear loud cries. This is also why pregnant cats who are birthing kittens will often purr. Loud noises can attract danger, so instead they keep it to a quiet purr. It helps to calm them down and reduces their pain by releasing endorphins.
Purrs Can Heal!
Sure, purring can be a sign of a super content kitty, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, cats may purr if they are stressed, in pain, or sick. Cats usually purr when they are close to the end of life as well, because it is comforting for them. Studies have shown that purrs actually oscillate at frequencies of 25 to 100 HZ. They help to promote the healing of bones, and also help to ease muscle pain. Some reports even show that cats actually heal faster than other types of animals that don’t have the ability to purr.
Purring as Exercise?
While this may seem completely absurd at first, the vibrations of the purrs actually help to stimulate your cat’s muscles and bones, and it really doesn’t require much effort on their part. If only us humans were able to exercise while we were relaxed and napping! So, the next time you see your kitty relaxed and purring away, don’t interrupt! They may be getting their workout on.
Now that you know the low down on why cats purr, you may understand your cat a bit better. It is amazing to look at each of the unique features of cats, and why and how it happens the way it does. You can really see that all animals are unique in their own way, and each for unique reasons.
Got some free time? Here’s a great video of 9 hours (!!) of purring. Enjoy!