This is an age old question that has been asked countless times and no-one seems to ever have the right answer. Let’s delve into this one and see if we can finally shed some light on it!
Why Do Cats Purr?
Nothing is better than an affectionate and loving cat who likes nothing more than to curl up on your warm lap and enjoy a good bit of fuss.
That distinctive purring sound starts up and we know our pet is happy and content, but is this the ONLY reason why cats purr?
Studies also suggest that purring may also be a self comforting behaviour for cats too. This is suspected as purring often begins when your cat was just a wee kitten, only a few days old. This is thought to be a signal to its mother to encourage her to produce milk and feed them. This form of communication then naturally continues into adulthood and for the rest of their lives.
Other studies show that purring can also be a sign that your cat is NOT happy.
Yep, you read that correctly. Purring when a cat is not in a situation of happiness or pleasure can be a sign that they are in pain, discomfort or distress and the purring is another self comforting mechanism to help them cope with the situation. For example – many cats purr whilst giving birth, so this is obviously a way to help deal with the situation, kina like deep breathing is for humans!
How Do Cats Purr?
Believe it or not – cats have no special equipment for purring in their bodies, they just make good use of what they already have!
Purring seems to involve the rapid moving of larynx muscles in the throat (i.e. the voice box), combined with the diaphragm moving. When this hits that nice sweet spot of around 20-30 times per second, we get into purr mode.
Then, when your cat breathes – the air touches these vibrating muscles producing an undulating sound, which to us is the distinctive purr that we all love to hear.
Did you know – cats can produce a very special type of purr called a ‘solicitation purr’? This is kind of a combination of a purr and a meow at the same time and produces that little ‘trill’ meow cats often produce when asking for food and rubbing themselves against your legs in the kitchen.
Cats have developed this when they want our attention, and cats have learned that this works well with their owners and we tend to respond to this sound and attention calling – as if we would respond to the cry of our own human babies. Crazy, but true!