Why Do Cats Purr?

It's always a great feeling to know that your cat is happy.
Currently, heart disease is one of the biggest health threats amongst Americans. Fortunately, cats can help. Wait, what? Cats can help? That's right; cats have been proven to be a health boost for cat owners by reducing blood pressure and relieving stress. There has even been a study conducted by the University of Minnesota that indicates cat owners are 40% less likely to suffer a heart attack!

Cats help to maintain an equilibrium of peace through their calm, happy energy. They soothe owners that seem to be stressed out, and they love to be loved. All of this manifests in one action: the purr.

What Is A Purr?
A cat's purr is the equivalent of a human's laugh. Being loved and petted is what causes cats to purr the most. It's their way to let everyone know they are happy, kind of like laughing lets others know we think something is funny. For the most part, purring and laughing is an indication of happiness. However, both can also signal other emotions, as well. Cats have been known to purr when they are excited, afraid, and nervous- just like we do with laughing. Like many cat owners, I've witnessed this nervous purring every time I take my cat Layla to the vet. While we're there, Layla is very afraid. She curls up into the back corner of her crate, and when I pull her out, I always notice a combination of purring and trembling. This type of behavior is not unusual for cats.

Layla the cat. When we take her to the vet, she purrs and trembles.

The Biology of a Purr
The physical act of purring all stems from the brain. The repetitive neural oscillator sends messages down to the laryngeal muscles in the throat, causing them to vibrate anywhere from 25 to 150 vibrations purr minute. This little purr box causes a cat's vocal cords to separate when a cat inhales and exhales, which provides the constant drone of a purr.

Interestingly, not all cats have a purr. Certain cats- like lions and tigers- can't purr because their throats are structured in a different way. Instead of purring, their stronger, tougher throats and larynxes produce a roar. A way to keep this making sense is: Any cat that can purr cannot roar, and any cat that can roar cannot purr.

Understanding your cat's purr habits helps you to understand your cat and be the best pet owner possible.

By: Tim Snyder
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