Why do cats purr? This is a question that has plagued cat owners for centuries! For many cat owners, the sound of a cat purring is good news as it symbolizes happiness and contentment. But, while the cat owner is happy when the cat purrs, scientists are burning the midnight oil trying to answer this this question (and other weird cat facts!). The interest in this study has been spurred by the fact that all felid species make a purring sound which has been considered a means of communication.
It’s this communication that scientists now believe might not be limited to happiness or contentment alone.
What does the research tell us?
Research has already shown that, apart from purring when they are being petted or when eating, cats also purr when in pain, sick and dying or when giving birth. Interestingly, in all these circumstances, nobody has conclusively determined why cats purr.
It’s believed that cats may have developed purring as a means of communication with their kittens when nursing them. Secondly, that, when cats purr in the presence of their owners, they are simply sending a specific message of intent. A message that signifies the intention to create a bond of friendship with the owner. This is why cats will purr when being stroked, when they are afraid, nervous or threatened, such as during a visit to the veterinarian.
Scientists have equated a cat purring when it is nervous to people smiling when they are nervous, or in an expectant mood or when they are happy or in need of something. Therefore, by purring, a cat seeks reassurance from the owner that it’s security and well being is guaranteed. This the reason why cats will purr nervously when they visit a veterinarian.
Scientists have also found that cats purr differently when they want to communicate different messages. When communicating one on one with the owner, a cat may purr to ask for food. This type of purring is distinctly different from the purring of a cat that is relaxing or in pain or distress. It’s also believed that when a cat purrs, it releases a hormone which promotes relaxation and acts like an analgesic.
Research scientists have gone further and looked beyond purring as a way of communication. They now believe that the vibrations that cats make when purring, may be a way of healing themselves. The vibrations have therapeutic properties for bone growth, and healing of wounds.
So, why do cats purr? It would seem that there is a lot more to cats purring than simple communication with the owners!