The sound of the cat’s purr is at once comforting, stress-reducing… and mysterious. Science has yet to identify one exact reason, but with observation it can be agreed that cats purr for numerous reasons, including happiness, relaxation, and for comfort. It is also notable that cats purr when they have fear, aren’t feeling well, or are just hungry.
Here’s the science: Unique to felines, the purr begins in the brain. The brain sends a message to the muscles that comprise the vocal cords causing them to twitch. This twitching determines how much air passes through the vocal cords, producing a sound from barely audible to loud. The purr manifests when the feline inhales and exhales.
The importance of the purr starts at birth. Newly born kittens are initially blind and deaf. The purr is felt as a vibration that keeps them safe with their mother. Their mother’s purr leads them back to where they can nurse and find warmth and protection. Their paws’ kneading on their mother produces milk for them. In tandem with the kneading instinct, they learn to purr for themselves. This can start as soon as the first two days of life. Purring becomes one of the feline’s first learned behaviors that they carry it into adulthood. In the grown cat, the purr is associated with both safety and being well fed.
The Adult Cat Purr: As the kitten matures, their purr allows them to communicate with other cats as well as with humans. Did you know that when a cat is hungry they can mix this purr with a cry that sounds not unlike a human baby? The domestic cat has evolved to use this sound to bring out the nurturing instinct in humans. This cry typically results in their next meal coming sooner. Quite manipulative; quite effective!
Just as we find the cat’s purr soothing and relaxing, cats also enjoy their own purring and use it to relax themselves when they are in high-stress situations. Again, it all goes back to when they were kittens and the purr served as a sign of safety and comfort.
Here’s the Research: There may really be actual healing properties associated with the vibrational frequencies in the cat’s purr. It has been noted that amongst themselves, one cat will knowingly purr when another cat shows signs of illness. It is almost as if they know that within their purr they possess the magical quality of healing.
Science experiments and sports medicine physicians have additionally shown that vibrations similar to the cat’s purr have been responsible for healing bones and joints, muscles and tendons. It is also known that high-frequency vibrational sounds can increase the human body’s production of its own anti-inflammatories. These will, in turn, reduce the severity of pain and swelling, leading to faster healing in people.
Further research has proven that vibration therapy can prevent bone loss by contracting and relaxing muscles that aid in the production of new bone cells. The cat’s purr literally resonates at between 25 and 150 hertz. This is well within the frequency that helps in tissue repair, pain relief, and increasing human bone density.
Their Conclusions: Since cats will also purr when they are in labor, frightened, or sick, the purr is determined to be an integral part of the cat’s survival instincts. The evolutionary advantage it provides to the feline is shown to carry over to their people. Beneficial effects in people exposed to purring include lower blood pressure and reduced stress and anxiety. Studies have proven that cat owners are actually 40 percent less likely to have heart attacks than non-owners.
Go pet your cat! Listen and feel the vibration of their mysterious purring. Not only will you get a break from your own stress but perhaps a bit of healing along the way.
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