There is nothing more relaxing than being on cat duty with a purry kitty and we’re super lucky to have lots of them in the squad. But, is the purr always a sign of happiness?
Cats actually purr for many reasons but sometimes it is difficult to tell why without taking into account the situation and their body language.
It’s pretty safe to say that if your kitty is laid on your lap and kneading a blanket then they are happy and content but if they are at the vets, ears down and curled into a tiny ball then the purr is a sign that your cat could be stressed or in pain. The vibration frequency is said to relieve discomfort and aid bone and muscle repair. If only we could do that!
Helping mama cat.
If you’ve ever witnessed a cat give birth, you might have also noticed her purring! That’s because the purr can help keep cats calm and ease breathing – cat lamaze if you like! Once the mother cat has given birth, that purr then helps her to communicate with her new kittens leading them to her for feeding and at just two days old, kittens begin to purr back to their mother and their littermates, long before they can hear or see.
If all of that isn’t clever enough, researchers now think cats have developed a ‘feed me now!’ purr (or solicitation purr if you want the scientific name). This purr is at a higher pitch than usual and can even include a meow that mimics the noise of a baby crying. Clever cats have worked out that this combination of the purr and meow results in urgency from their human and usually means they get fed in double quick time! You can usually hear this coming from me when I’m waiting for my food to arrive at Pizza Hut.
But how do cats purr? There is some debate over this however the most commonly accepted answer is that the vocal cords are moved by the cats muscles and when the cat breathes in and out, air hits the vibrating muscles resulting in that lovely, soft sound.
Did you know that not all cats can purr?
Cats that purr can’t roar, and cats that roar can’t purr, because of a small bone found inside the vocal cords called the hyoid bone, which in roaring cats (lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards), is flexible but is rigid in domestic and small wild cats such as cheetahs, cougars, bobcats and lynxes.
That tiny bone is also the reason why cheetahs and cougars are not scientifically classed as big cats! I don’t know about you but any wild cat that can eat me should definitely be classed as a big cat!
The purr isn’t just helpful to cats either, Purina’s cat experts have said “Cat owners have 40% less risk of a heart attack than non-cat owners and lower blood pressure after interacting with cats and hearing their soft purrs. Most interestingly however, is what’s known as ‘healing by association.’ This is the ability to calm, soothe and sympathetically heal illnesses in people just by being nearby.” If there was ever a reason to surround yourself with cats then I think we’ve just found it!