One of the best things about owning a cat (or having one own you!) is having him or her curl up on your lap and purr to show contentment. At least that’s how most of us interpret a cat’s purr. Because cats make that rolling, melodic sound – high or low, smooth and constant, or choppy and rough – when they are experiencing what we think are pleasant sensations, such as a tummy rub, we assume they purr when they’re happy.
Most of us have experienced the sounds of cats purring in relaxing, positive situations, but sometimes, cats will purr when they are hurt or distressed. Female cats have been known to purr while giving birth.
There are theories floating out there about the meaning of a cat’s purr, but there are no concrete facts. Could purring be an expression of happiness, to comfort themselves or others, or as a form of communication with other cats and with humans? No one knows for sure.
With all these unknowns, there is one fact that studies have revealed – that cats purr in a frequency range which has shown to promote bone growth and healing (between 22.4 to 30.2 hertz). So, perhaps cats purr also to help heal themselves when they are hurt, or just to keep healthy in general.
Elizabeth von Muggenthaler presented “The Felid Purr: A Healing Mechanism?” an in-depth look at the purr’s healing power at the 142nd annual Acoustical Society of America, American Institute of Physics, International Conference in 2001. You can read this interesting study at www.animalvoice.com/catpur.htm.
Another mystery about cats purring is how they do it. Doctors and scientists still haven’t figured out exactly how cats make that endearing noise. Some think that cats purr by vibrating their vocal chords, while others think it could be the blood vessels.
We may never find out exactly why or how our cats purr, it certainly won’t take away from the joy we receive when cuddling with them.