By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a cat insurance and dog insurance agency.
The phenomenon of purring has fascinated humans for ages. A lot of research has been conducted to figure out this magical feline motoring sound, but no one knows for certain why cats purr, though it is believed to be a voluntary act initiated by the central nervous system. In other words, cats purr on purpose, not just as an instinctive response.
1. Scientists report that cats produce purring sounds by using the diaphragm to push air back and forth across vibrating nerves in the larynx. Purring occurs in a frequency range between 25 and 150 Hertz. At the lower end of the range, that rumbling sound can resemble an idling diesel engine, which has a similar velocity.
2. All domestic cats and most wild felids are born with the ability to purr. Felines, from young kittens to senior citizens, purr when they are happy, such as when they are being petted; anticipating dinner, or snuggling on a warm, cozy bed. Mother cats purr when giving birth and nursing their kittens and kittens purr when nursing.
3. But many cats also purr when they are afraid or in pain. That helps explain why some cats start to purr when they are being examined at a veterinary clinic or when they are recovering from an injury. The purring might serve to reassure or comfort the frightened cat, and some studies suggest that the low-level vibrations of purring physically stimulate feline muscles and bones to keep them healthy and actually hasten the healing process.
4. Recent studies have validated that hanging around a contented, purring cat does a body good. The soothing sounds of purring can help people fight disease and cope with chronic conditions. Purring has been linked to playing a role in combating high-blood pressure, decreasing stress, conquering feelings of loneliness and even bolstering self confidence.
Did you know that cats can purr while inhaling and exhaling? That’s a feat we can’t imitate. That’s a true feline fact. Try making a purr sound as you inhale and exhale. It is tougher than trying to say, toy boat, 10 times fast.
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