Why Cats Purr
The scientific explanation for why cats purr is not completely understood, but it is generally accepted that purring is a form of communication and expression of emotions. Cats typically purr when they are happy, relaxed, and content. However, purring can also occur when cats are hungry or in pain, indicating that it may not always be a simple expression of happiness or contentment.
The mechanism for producing the purring sound involves muscles in the larynx. The muscles in the larynx are controlled by the vagus nerve, which originates in the brain. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it causes the laryngeal muscles to contract rhythmically at frequencies between 25 and 150 Hz. These contractions cause the vocal cords to vibrate, producing the sound known as purring.
What Causes Cats to Purr
The mechanism that causes cats to purr is not fully understood, but it is believed to originate from the laryngeal and respiratory muscles. When these muscles contract rhythmically, they create vibrations that produce the sound known as purring. Purring is a form of communication that cats use to express a range of emotions, including happiness, contentment, and relaxation.
From birth, kittens rely on their mother’s purr to guide them to her body for nursing and warmth. As they grow into adulthood, purring remains an important form of communication with other cats and people. Many cats have learned how to use their purrs to manipulate their owners, for example, by producing a plaintive cry similar in frequency to a human baby’s cry and mixing it with their purr. This cry-purr hybrid is known as the “soliciting purr” and can often result in the cat getting fed sooner.
It is also commonly held that cats use purring as a self-soothing mechanism, similar to how people sometimes soothe themselves in stressful situations through nervous laughter, tears, or other forms of distraction. Purring may serve to calm cats down and help them feel more relaxed and secure.
The purr of a cat is a complex physiological phenomenon that has several functions, including the expression of emotions, communication with other cats and humans, and self-soothing. The frequency of a cat’s purr, which ranges from 25 to 150 hertz, is within the range of frequencies that are beneficial for tissue regeneration and pain relief and can increase bone density. Therefore, some veterinarians and cat behaviorists believe that the purr of a cat may have a therapeutic effect on its own body and on other cats and humans.
Some cats use purring as a way to communicate with humans when they need something, such as food or attention. In these cases, the purr may have a Pavlovian effect on humans, causing them to respond positively to the sound. When a cat lies next to its human or another cat and purrs in a soft and rhythmic manner, this behavior can create a connection between the individuals. In these situations, the purr can have a relaxing and calming effect on both cats and humans.
In addition, some cats use purring as a way to self-soothe when they are feeling stressed or insecure. Purring can create a positive feedback loop that helps the cat relax and feel more secure in its environment. By producing low frequency vibrations, purring may also help to improve the flow of blood to the extremities of the body, which can help to alleviate muscle pain and promote tissue repair.
Finally, some cats use purring as a way to signal their human when they need something or when they are in pain. In these cases, the purr may have a Pavlovian effect on humans, causing them to respond positively to the sound. However, it is important to note that not all cats use purring in this way, and some cats may use different signals to communicate their needs or discomfort.