Purring is a characteristic of all felines. Yes, even tigers purr! But a word of advice, purring does not necessarily mean that your cat is happy.
It turns out that there are lots of reasons why cats purr. Purring can even be heard from animal species closely related to the feline, such as the mongoose and hyena. But why is it that cats really purr? Let's find out!
Why do cats purr?
From birth, kittens purr - even before they learn to walk or open their eyes. Instinctively, purring is believed to be a kitten's primary way of communicating with their mother who purrs in response to reassure and soothe their young. This is believed to create a sense of comfort and security during times of hunger, stress, pain, love and more.
Scientists believe purring results from the vibrations of the diaphragm and larynx in response to emotional changes in cats. In other words, it is their form of communication that allows them to interact with one another, even other animals. This means they can communicate the need for food, attention or support.
Purring can also express overall well-being, which perhaps explains the misconception that cats purr only when they are happy.
As most domestic cats typically live in safe and comfortable environments, purring will typically express a cat's feelings of contentedness and love. This will have likely been learnt as a kitten. Unsurprisingly, a kitten's "love" purr will be a feeling they continually seek throughout their lives. You may notice this when you are approached by your cat seeking a head scratch accompanied by a strong purr.
Types of purring
Although not always easy to detect, there are several types of purring that each express a different emotion. Much like a cat's meows, you can learn to identify them based on the context.
Most of us are familiar with the purr from lap cats soaking up the head scratches and strokes they receive. The beautiful rumble of a distant engine transfixes us and draws us to the cat. This can be described as a contented cat seeking love and affection, as it would have likely done with its mother.
However, if your cat is in pain or distress, it will trigger the purr as a means of self-soothing. Like human babies and rocking, it seems the movement, in this case vibrations, help to relieve the stress or pain. This does not mean a cat will instantly feel safe or pain-free, however the instinctive reaction helps to control the emotional response overall. For less stressful situations, purring can aid in the process of healing, meaning cats are often emotionally stronger than dogs and can contract fewer diseases.
Purring can also indicate the social status or the degree of submission when interacting with another cat, thus establishing the relationship hierarchy. Purring can also happen when your pet is stressed or scared; the purr becomes the animal's alarm signal.
If your cat purrs often while it's alone, for no apparent reason, it may be a sign that they are suffering from a non-visible condition or are in poor health. It might be worth getting them checked out at the vet just to be safe.
Several studies have shown that the purring sound a cat makes has soothing qualities for humans. The gentle, rhythmic humming sounds help to soothe and relax us. This is known as purr therapy. Just make sure that if you want to indulge in some purr therapy with your fur friend, it's best to determine if the purr is a happy or distressed purr beforehand.
If you don't have a cat, or they aren't purring enough for your liking, the cat purring CD "Purr Therapy" is designed to help humans relax and aide sleep. Why not check it out!
How often does your cat purr?