Female hugging her cute long hair kitty.

The feline purr is a mysterious phenomenon that cat owners admire and marvel over. That comforting little buzz being emitted from our kitty companions has left many a human with questions. We may not know everything about purring in cats, but Brodie Animal Hospital has answers about many of your questions regarding this amazing phenomenon.

The How of Purring in Cats

The unique sound of purring in cats is unmistakable and incredible. It almost seems like they must have a little purr-box installed right in their throats. Of course, this isn’t the case, but even how cats produce that characteristic noise is a little mysterious.

The how of purring isn’t as obvious as one might think. For a long time many theories existed, and none of them were easy to prove or disprove.

At this time, we are pretty confident that purring in cats occurs by movement of the musculature in the back of the throat. As they contract around the structures surrounding the vocal cords, they constrict airflow. This yields a purring sound, no special purr-box required.

Speculations on When, Why and Where

While we are pretty sure we understand how purring in cats happens, the when, why, and where are a little more complicated.

In general, we assume that cats purr when happy and content. While this may seem to be true much of the time, it is well documented that cats also purr when injured, sick, and even dying. Like all things feline, it assumes purring is a little more complicated than a simple emotion. 

The current thought is that purring is not only a form of communication, but also has a role in appeasement and healing.

Purring to communicate — Little kittens start purring by just a few days old. Even from this young age, they are communicating, helping their mother to locate them. Later in life cats can be noted to purr as they try to solicit a meal, when exploring a new area, or when feeling anxious. Interestingly, cats have also been noted to have a slightly different purr when trying to communicate with us humans, more akin to sound frequencies that match an infant’s cries. 

Purring to appease — While we do not understand a lot about how cats communicate with one another, we do know that purring can be observed during things like mutual grooming. This may be a cat’s way of soothing themselves or their feline friends. 

Healing properties — Perhaps most interestingly, a cat’s purr seems to have healing properties. That magic frequency from 25-150 Hz is known to promote bone growth and provide healing support for soft tissues in both cats and humans. Purring at rest may be part of a cat’s way of recovering and healing. It may also have health benefits for us as humans. In fact owning a cat has been shown to reduce heart disease and stroke by up to one-third.

Your relationship with your cat is special. Now, besides just marveling over the amazing creature that you have brought into your home, you can appreciate the complexity and power of the purr. 

Don’t forget to return the favor by taking good care of your feline friend and providing good wellness and preventative care. If you have any questions about how to care for your cat best, please reach out to us. We are here to help.