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Why Do Cats Purr?

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So, Vinny’s been home for over six hours now and he’s still doing splendidly. 🙂 He ate a full wet meal at dinner time, has taken his meds and seems quite at ease. He even let me ice his incision (only intermittently for a minute or so at a time, but I’ll take it for now). He’s moved around a bit, and is happy to stay close to me and the other animals – which is comforting.

One (kind of) weird thing… He’s been purring pretty much literally the entire time he’s been home – almost to the point where it concerned me. He is naturally a very friendly purry cat – but this seems way more than normal. Seems odd for a living thing who just lost a limb. I know that felines can also sometimes purr when they are stressed, but he’s totally relaxed and lounging here all stretched out with me on the bed, so I really don’t think he’s too emotionally or psychologically stressed at this point. But I was curious about the purring, so I decided to do a little Google search and came up with something interesting I thought I’d share.

From Scientific American:

Although we assume that a cat’s purr is an expression of pleasure or is a means of communication with its young, perhaps the reasons for purring can be deciphered from the more stressful moments in a cat’s life. Cats often purr while under duress, such as during a visit to the veterinarian or when recovering from injury. Thus, not all purring cats appear to be content or pleased with their current circumstances. This riddle has lead researchers to investigate how cats purr, which is also still under debate.

Scientists have demonstrated that cats produce the purr through intermittent signaling of the laryngeal and diaphragmatic muscles. Cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz. Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing.

This association between the frequencies of cats’ purrs and improved healing of bones and muscles may provide help for some humans. Bone density loss and muscle atrophy is a serious concern for astronauts during extended periods at zero gravity. Their musculo-skeletal systems do not experience the normal stresses of physical activity, including routine standing or sitting, which requires strength for posture control.

Because cats have adapted to conserve energy via long periods of rest and sleep, it is possible that purring is a low energy mechanism that stimulates muscles and bones without a lot of energy. The durability of the cat has facilitated the notion that cats have “nine lives” and a common veterinary legend holds that cats are able to reassemble their bones when placed in the same room with all their parts. Purring may provide a basis for this feline mythology. The domestication and breeding of fancy cats occurred relatively recently compared to other pets and domesticated species, thus cats do not display as many muscle and bone abnormalities as their more strongly selected carnivore relative, the domestic dog.

Perhaps cats’ purring helps alleviate the dysplasia or osteoporotic conditions that are more common in their canid cousins. Although it is tempting to state that cats purr because they are happy, it is more plausible that cat purring is a means of communication and a potential source of self-healing.

 

So, Vinny’s constant purring is likely partially an internal instinctual self healing mechanism! Very cool. Animals are so amazing!


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2 Responses to “Why Do Cats Purr?”

  1. benny55 says:

    So glad Vinny is settling in.

    WOW! The information on purring astounds me! I had no idea of the various possibilities…other than contentment or communicating with their babies! FASCINATING STUFF!

    Thank you for taking the time to share this! Hope others stop by and read!

    PURR ON VINNY…PURR ON AND KEEP ON HEALING!

    Sally and Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle

  2. sebastian says:

    Wow I never heard of the purring mythology. That’s pretty cool! My understanding has always been that cats will purr when happy, when stressed, and when in pain.

    With Vinny I imagine it could be from anything. Maybe he’s happy to be home. Maybe the pain meds are making him a little extra happy :). It could be that he’s in pain…pay attention to his mood. From your previous post that said he was purring and walking around and being chatty, it seems like he’s fine, but what do I know. Sebastian did really, really well while he still had his pain meds in him, then he was miserable for a couple days (didn’t want to get out of bed, didn’t want to be touched). Then he was back to doing great again in no time.

    Keep us posted!

    Jenn and Sebastian

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