Why do Cats Purr?
We all lead busy lives. Most of the time we don’t notice the gentle purring & groaning sounds that Cats make, even when they are quite close to us. But when we have our felines’ attention, we tend to become aware of a new sound in our immediate environment. This ranges anywhere between a gentle regular ‘sighing’, all the way to the deep-bass throbbing “Puurrrrrr-rrr-rrr”. This can that resemble a Pneumatic Drill! We hear this in our own Tabby cat every day of course. But in our day-to-day work as Melbourne’s Cat photographers, we often hear this, as we work in the studio, or on location at the owners’ homes.
I’ve often wondered exactly why Cats purr, and sometimes; how do they purr to express different emotions?
First of all – our old vets back in the UK taught us a trick some years ago. Apparently, when your Vet needs to stick a stethoscope onto our Feline and listen to breathing or heartbeats, purring makes it impossible to hear anything! So they sometimes run the tap in the examination room for around 10-20 seconds. This often – although not always; stops the purring for a while :o)
Clearly, pleasure and satisfaction with their current environment has a lot to do with purring. We don’t need to ask a Vet to find that out! However, what I didn’t know was that when a more mature or nervous cat wants to approach another cat, purring is a message to say – “Hey! I’m very friendly … I’d like to come up and greet you … is that Ok?”
On rare occasions, we have heard some cats purr when they are distressed – not the least of which is when they enduring a long visit to the Vets! Having said that, nobody really knows why cats purr in these situations. The most likely reason is that the act of purring is almost as reassuring and listening to purring. Rather like humans talking to themselves when under stress, it is thought by many behavioural specialists that cats like to calm themselves with a deep, slow rhythmic sound.
Right now, there are scientists in Scandinavia and Asia that are studying the health benefits for us humans when we listen to purring moggies up-close. Early findings indicate that apart from reducing stress levels, there is an inexplicable correlation between extended exposure of purring, and healing of bone fractures – go figure!?
The sound itself comes from deep in the back of the throat. It is caused by small ‘wrinkles’ in the Larynx that – when combined with slow and relaxed breathing through the nose; causing ‘oscillations’ of between 20 to 25 times second. As humans, we can think of it as a very tiny ‘snore’. This ‘micro-snore’ is over and then repeated so quickly, that each time it occurs it merges into the previous sound. Hence that ‘throbbing’ quality to all types of purrs.
Have a look below at some of our more recent Cat Photography of ‘Purring Beauties’ around Melbourne …
For more information on Purring behaviour in Cats, we suggest you have a look here
For a bit of fun, try playing of these 4 different purring sounds on this Wikipedia page
Purring – Cat Photography Melbourne