Hello! Nigel, here. It has come to my attention as of late, that many of you humans don’t seem to understand why we cats purr. Purring is somewhat mysterious to non-feline beings. I mean…it seems impossibly difficult to do, yet we make it look so effortless. Would you believe me if I told you that cats do not have a special organ designed for purring in our bodies? Well, it’s true!
For a very long time, scientists had little understanding of how a cat purrs. There have been many theories over the years, but humans have finally figured out that purring begins in the feline brain. There is a special area of the brain that sends messages to the muscles in the larynx (voice box), causing them to twitch at rate of 25 to 150 vibrations per second. This twitch causes the vocal cords to rapidly separate during both inhalation (breathing in) and exhalation (breathing out). A coordination between both the muscles of the larynx and of the diaphragm produce the purr.
Some may wonder…do all cats purr? Surprisingly, the answer is “no”. Housecats purr as do many of the large exotic cats. However, cats that can roar (i.e.–lions, tigers, jaguars) cannot also purr. This has to do with the type of vocal cords that are necessary for producing a roaring noise, not being adequately tight enough for producing the purr. Click on the link below to hear the beautiful sounds of a purring cheetah.
Also of note, is that purring is not always a sign of happiness. Cats can purr in response to fear, pain or distress. Cats often purr while giving birth or when they have been injured. Purring releases endorphins, which reduce pain. The high frequency of the purr has been proven to aid in repair of bones.
In addition, it didn’t take long for us to figure out how unbelievably easy it is to manipulate human beings with our purring. Simply by purring, sometimes combined with a cute chirp or meow, we can get most human slaves to bring us food or give us a chin rub. And before you get all offended, remember that our purring benefits you as well! Studies have shown that people who own cats generally have lower blood pressure and are 40% less likely to suffer a heart attack. So, you’re welcome.
I hope that this has been informative and interesting for you. Want to learn more about your kitty? Come visit us at For Cats Only! Tell them, Nigel sent you. Meow