Have you ever sat on the bed or couch, but your cat jumped into your lap? Sometimes it seems as soon as you start petting them they start snoring. Some cats purr softly and softly, while others sound like racing cars.
What started this snoring? What happens when your cat sits in the middle of the room purring for no reason? How does purring happen, and why does it seem like cats can purr forever?
We answer all of these questions and more in this article on why and how cats purr.
6 Reasons Cats Purr
1. They are happy
The most obvious reason why cats purr is because they are happy. A snoring often signifies that they are satisfied with social interactions. This snoring could be because they enjoy being around humans or with their other animal friends.
2. They Feel Hungry
Many cats purr when they want something, especially when they want to be fed. If you listen carefully, you will likely hear a difference in the way your cat purrs when they are happy and when they want something from you.
Pet cats have perfected their mealtime purr. These snores combine their distinctive snoring sound with the less pleasant meowing frequency. It mimics the tone and pitch of a baby’s cry, which is an instinctive signal to humans. Cats know that we are more likely to respond to these sounds.
3. They Want To Tell Their Mother They Are Fine
Kittens purr when they feed or are near their mother to let them know they are okay. Snoring helps them bond with their mother. Mother cats also purr back to their kittens as a form of lullaby to help them feel comfortable and calm.
That’s why you’ll often hear the tiny purrs that come from feeding the kitten and the occasional mother cat purring.
4. They Are Upset And Want To Entertain Themselves
While this hasn’t been proven conclusively, cats who are in pain or fear will purr to comfort themselves. When cats are angry, they often start to purr. They do this to make themselves feel better and to let the other party know that they are not a threat.
5. They Sign Peaceful Intention
Cats who don’t want to fight will often purr when they approach other cats. Whether they are friends or strangers, they purr as they approach to signal the white flag. They are not interested in scratching it. They just wanted to say hello. You’ll often hear this happen when an older, weaker cat approaches a younger, more agile cat.
6. They Heal Themselves
One of the most prominent reasons why cats purr was only discovered recently. Interestingly, this supports a century-old veterinary myth about cats being able to heal themselves. When a cat purrs, the frequency is between 25 and 150 hertz.
These sound frequencies have been shown to increase bone density and serve as a natural healing mechanism. Studies have been conducted to find that purring can relieve pain, repair bones, and heal cat wounds.
This is an instinctive reason why cats seem to purr when they are in pain. Each snoring serves as a low dose of pain reliever while their bodies knit back together.
This behavior can be mistaken for a cat’s lethargy, although in this case, it’s generally nothing to worry about. Your cat just needs time to get back into shape
How Do Cats Purr?
Now that you have a better idea of why cats purr, you may want to know how they do it. For humans to make that sound, it takes concentration, and it makes our throats dry quickly. Happy cats, on the other hand, seem to be able to purr for days.
A cat begins to purr when their brain sends signals to their voice box, or larynx. The muscles in the larynx respond to these signals by vibrating. The muscles act as valves and open and close the cat’s vocal cords, allowing air to escape and with it, the sound of purring.
Because of this, cats may purr as they inhale and exhale. This method is not completely related to their respiratory system.
What triggers a cat’s purring is still a topic of widespread debate in the animal world. Some scientists theorize that cats purr due to the release of endorphins from their brains. It makes sense when they snore because they are happy or relaxed, but what about other times?
Another theory is that cat purring is a completely voluntary use of the nervous system. That means they can snore whenever they want to signal to those around them how they feel. Sounds like a cat, right?
A recent modern theory is that certain brain waves or rhythmic patterns of neural activity trigger cats to purr in some cases.
Fun Fact: Not All Cats Purr
Cats in the Pantherinae family cannot roar. This includes big cats like lions and tigers. Instead of purring, they roar. Their genetics changed from their common ancestor, so they didn’t have the proper processes and muscles to make snoring happen. Specifically, their epihyal bones are replaced by ligaments, which makes all the difference.
Most other cats in the world do have the ability to purr. All domestic cats can purr. There are also many big cats outside the Pantherinae family that can purr but not roar. That includes feral cats such as:
Scientists theorize that cats’ ability to roar or purr stems from their survival needs. Big cats in wilderness, like the savanna, roar to mark their territory and warn predators.
Smaller “big” cats, such as cheetahs and wildcats, which cannot roar evolved differently because of their function in the ecosystem. Instead of marking a territory, they roam and wander, following their food across the tundra.
Now you’ve learned that cats purr for many reasons, and you know how they purr. The next time you sit down for a cuddle session with your cat, you’ll have more insight than ever about why cats do what they do.
- You may also want to read: How Old Are Kittens When They First Walk?
Image Credit: EbneRol, Shutterstock