Why Do Cats Purr?

You may think you know why your kitty’s internal engine starts to hum whenever she gets scratched in all the right spots, but you’d be surprised at how complex the act of purring really is. Yes, purring can signify a very contented cat, but according to researchers, that may not be the only reason why felines have developed this very interesting vocalization trait. Read on to find out more!

A purr is a purr is a purr? Not quite!
Yes, cats will purr to indicate pleasure, but it turns out that not all purrs communicate the same message, nor do they sound alike. In a study conducted by researchers in the UK, it was found that cats will use a specific type of purr--what they called a “solicitous purr”--in order to request food from their owners. Even more fascinating, these “solicitous purrs” are very similar to the frequencies to those created by crying human babies! Those clever kitties definitely know how to tap into our innate nurturing instincts.

Purring starts a catversation
Cats also purr as a way to communicate different types of messages to one another. For example, a purr could mean something like: “hey there, little cat. I’m much bigger and older than you, but I’m friendly and just want to come a bit closer for a curious sniff. Please don’t freak out about it.” Or, “hi there bro. I’m in the mood to play, so first I’ll stalk and tackle you and then you can chase me down the hall.” Or, from a kitten to her mother while nursing: “my mouth is full right now because I’m in the middle of dinner, but I’ll just gently purr to let you know that everything’s A-OK and I’m getting enough to eat.” All right, so maybe I’m taking (a lot!) of creative license here, but you get the picture.

Purrs may be purrfectly healing
Perhaps the most fascinating of all theories regarding why cats purr is that purring may promote actual bodily healing! Specifically, scientists found that the pattern and frequencies of cat purrs, between 25 and 150 Hertz, are consistent with sounds known to promote the healing of muscles and bone as well as increase bone density. If purring really does help the body to heal, it may explain why cats also purr when they’re sick or recovering from injuries. By purring, they may actually be helping theirs bodies to repair themselves! If true that purrs have bonafide healing powers, then it would seem that cats truly are a species far and away superior to the rest of us! But, of course, we already knew that.

By Maya M.