The Magical Healing Power of Cat Purrs
The purr of your cat. Isn’t it the most mesmerising and relaxing sound? Cats usually purr to communicate contentment. It signifies comfort and security and tells you that your kitty is happy, but how much do you know about why cat’s purr?
A cat's purr begins in its brain. A repetitive neural oscillator sends messages to the laryngeal muscles, causing them to twitch, which separates the vocal cords when your cat inhales and exhales, creating a purr.
Feline behaviourists believe the primal purpose of purring is to enable a kitten to communicate with its mother, especially while nursing.
Kittens are born blind and deaf, but they do feel vibrations. It’s the mother’s vibrating purr that leads them to her body for nursing and warmth. Kittens purr while nursing and the mother purrs back, reassuring the kitten that all is well. When kittens reach the teats, they’ll press and flex their paws to stimulate milk flow. The combination of purring and kneading continues into adult life, which is what we are familiar with when cuddling with our kitties.
The Multi-Faceted Purr
Cats will purr for a variety of reasons and, unfortunately, not all of them mean contentment. Cats will also purr when they are distressed, scared, sick or injured. Has your cat ever started purring while at the vet? Experts believe this is the cat's way of reassuring and calming themselves. Purring releases endorphins, which is soothing for your cat. A mother cat may also purr during labour for pain control.
Purring is also believed to aid healing if the cat is injured or sick. Purrs vibrate at 20-140hz which is also the frequency that assists in physical healing and bone mending. It may also be that purring during resting is a form of physical therapy to keep the cat’s bones strong, since the frequency range can increase bone density.
Purring also benefits humans. Just patting a cat has been shown to lower blood pressure and stress, and the sound of a cat’s purr can make us feel more relaxed. Purrs are medically therapeutic for many illnesses, take a look at this infographic.
Cat-Human Bonding Signals
Cat owners know that purring is one of the several methods of communication. Others include slow blinking (if you slow blink back, it’s actually reassuring to your cat) and squinting, stretching, scratching and rubbing. Cats will also lick their owners as a display of affection and trust, the way they would lick each other or their mother. Meowing, however, is a language developed exclusively for humans. Kittens use their tiny meows to get attention from their mother, but once they're grown, the meows stop between cats.
Next time your kitty is purring, meowing or slow blinking, try mimicking the communication back to them – they might know what you're saying!