Arrived on the couch after a hard day of work, snacks provided and just discovered an exciting movie. What can make this moment even better, you ask? Right, when your beloved car snuggles up on your belly and starts purring blissfully to himself. A moment of happiness that is hard to beat for many owners. The calming and healing effect of cat purr on humans cannot be denied. But how do cats do it and do cats only purr when they are exclusively well?
How does the purring of cats work?
Have you ever asked yourself how cats actually do it?
It is not that easy to answer this question. Science still disagrees on how the purring comes about. Some assume that purring results from the diversion of breath between the diaphragm and the larynx. Others see the cause in vibrations of the “wrong pair of vocal cords” (two folds of skin behind the vocal cords). Other experts say that the hyoid bone, for example, but also the aorta or nerve impulses can be responsible for the purring.
The most common hypothesis today is that there is a neuronal oscillating system (oscillator) in the cat’s brain. However, even this approach has not yet been clearly clarified.
Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to say for sure what the anatomical reason for the cat’s purring is. What we can say, however, is that cats do not purr exclusively for reasons of well-being.
Fun Fact: Not every feline animal can purr. Only domestic cats and smaller wild cats can. Lions, tigers and the like sometimes make short purring noises, but not over a long period of time.
Reasons for purring
It is a common misconception that cats only purr when they are well and feel good. Purring also serves other functions for your pet:
Pain: If your darling possibly withdraws and does not want to be touched and also starts purring wildly, this can be a sign of pain. Purring can have a strong calming and healing effect on your cat.
Healing: Purring stimulates the self-healing process. The vibrations cause the whole cat’s body to vibrate (frequencies up to max. 150 Hz, usually between 20 and 40 Hz), which has a positive effect on regeneration. It has been proven, for example, that broken bones heal much faster in cats, as muscles and bones are stimulated and strengthened by the vibrations.
Fear, stress, discomfort: When purring, certain messenger substances are also released, such as serotonin. The so-called happiness hormone not only influences the mood, but also reduces possible tension and negative emotions.
Appeasement: When encountering conspecifics, purring can be a sign of “I come in peace”.
Communication: Purring can be understood as a call to play, a sign of “I’m hungry” or simply as sign to get more attention from the owner.
Mother-child bonding: The purring of the mother cat helps the kittens to orientate themselves, as freshly born kittens are still blind. On the way to the teat, the kittens often get lost.
Important: Unfortunately, there is no universal recipe for recognising what your cat’s purring means in every situation. Observe your cat’s entire behaviour. However, if she cuddles up to you, makes her little eyes small, lets her tail hang loosely and obviously enjoys every touch from you, it is very likely that she feels completely comfortable and secure.
Healing effect on humans
It is not only our beloved small tigers who benefit from vibrating their bodies. It has been proven many times that the vibrations also have a positive effect on humans. Muscles relax, bone and joint diseases can be reduced and also humans produce hormones when hearing and feeling the purring sounds, which have a favourable influence on our body and mind. Patients suffering from sleep disorders, cardiovascular disorders, depression and other mental illnesses can also take advantage of these healing vibrations.
Some cats, thanks to their 6th sense, notice when we are feeling bad and come to us of their own accord to support us with their purring.
According to the current state of knowledge, it has not yet been clearly proven how the cat purr comes about anatomically. What we can say, however, is that purring is a true all-round remedy that can help against bad moods, illnesses and pain. You just have to be a cat.