The sound of a cat’s purr is music to any feline-lover’s ear. And though purring is most associated with perfectly content cats, the jury is still out on the true causes and functions of purring. Scientific research suggests that purring may occur for a variety of reasons, from communication and bonding to healing injuries.
Here are the most common theories on what cats are really saying when they purr.
Cats Purr When Relaxed
Popular culture and literature most commonly references purring as an expression of pleasure -- and for good reason. Cats are typically caught purring in relaxed conditions, and what pet owner hasn’t observed their kitties letting loose a purr when they’re cuddling or being brushed? The vibrations from purring can result in a soothing, therapeutic effect on humans, which is why some medical facilities allow cats on site as therapy animals.
Cats Purr When They Desire Food
Some believe that domestic cats have adapted purring to suit a request only humans can fulfill: supplying food on call. In domestic home situations where cats have one-on-one relationships with pet owners, this type of purr is meant to have the same effect as signalling a waiter at a restaurant.This brand of kitty communication is also known as the “solicitation purr.”
Cats Purr When Stressed
Cats purr in times of vulnerability, when they are weak, injured, newly born, or giving birth. Cat experts speculate that the vibrations from purring help the cat relax, even while in labor. Purring may also release hormones to the brain that trigger relaxation or suppress pain, and can even be a healing mechanism when cats are injured.
Cats Purr To Bond
Purring may also be a bonding and communication medium between mother and newborn kittens. Kittens cannot see or hear right after birth, but they can feel the vibrations from their mother’s purr to help them find food.
Are Cats the Only Animals That Purr?
Along with domestic cats, wild cats, larger cats, and some close relatives to cats like genets also purr. Aside from felines, other animals like mongeese, rabbits, and even bears have been reported to make purring-like sounds.
More on Cat Behavior
Why Cats Meow
The Benefits of a Playful Cat