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How Do Cats Purr?

Updated: August 11, 2022 by Kristen Chapple

We tend to believe that when our little furry friends are happy with living with us, they start purring, thus letting us know about how content they are for our very existence. We, humans, tend to think that everything is about us, don’t we? Especially good stuff. Well, that might just not be true with cats at all.

There are several scientific hypotheses going on around about how and why cats purr, and most of them don’t imply that cats purr because they’re happy around us humans. Sorry guys, don’t take it personal.

The Main Theory On How Do Cats Purr

While there were a few accepted possibilities in the past, today there’s still no clear answer as to how cats purr, yet there is a main idea accepted by most researchers around the world.

One recent theory that many scientists agree with states that the purring involves a neural oscillator in the cat’s brain, the larynx and the laryngeal muscles of the cat to produce the sound and that it happens during the entire cycle of a cat’s inhaling and exhaling.

It has been observed that cats with laryngeal muscles paralyzed cannot purr at all, leading scientists to believe that it’s one of the mechanisms used when cats purr, as those specific muscles are responsible for opening and closing the space between a cat’s vocal chords. It’s like a valve that closes and opens to let air pass, and the muscles around vibrate, thus creating that purring sound that most of us love.

The main idea here is that the mechanism might not be voluntary at all, which means that the cat doesn’t necessarily purr when happy. Sorry to shatter that belief, guys.

​Other Theories to Make You Smile Again

Some theories state that the mechanism is voluntary and cats purr only when they want to, that including the times when they’re sad, injured or scared, as a means to let the other human or non-human beings around know about their state.

What that says is that cats don’t purr only when they’re happy, but also when in pain, or in difficult circumstances when they need to comfort themselves that all is well or when they’re scared and try to communicate they’re peaceful and have no aggressive intention.

Another interesting theory is that the frequency of their purring is a natural healing mechanism, and there seems to be evidence that when cats purr, the sound can heal wounds, repair bones and relieve pain.

So it might be a good idea to still keep your funny feline friend around for those possible healing abilities. You never know.

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