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Why do cats purr?

Updated on November 29, 2007

As any cat owner will tell you there is nothing lovelier then when your cat jumps on your lap, starts to knead and begins to purr. Now that signals not only that your cat is extremely content but also that you have been initiated in her cat family (as you may or may not remember cats picks us rather then the other way around). At least that was the case when it comes to our family cats.

Purring is one of the most common sounds cats make however it still remains a mystery to scientists and not a lot is know about it. Kittens that are very little, will start to purr while they knead their mother's chast and nurse. Some cat owners have explained it to me that this is why start kneading and purring once in our laps, as this reminds them of their mums and also to show they are content. When kittens are very little, they cannot meow and nurse, they can nurse and purr. This is a sign to their mum that they are well and their mum will purr right back to reassure them. Cats will purr when they both inhale and exhale with a pause between breaths. Pressure builds up with the closing and opening of the glotis which results in the separation of the vocals cords and the purr is emitted. While you can hear Misko purring in another room, my other female cat sometimes will purr but there will not be any sound, just a soft rumble that you can feel. Some veterinarians claim that cat will only purr when they want to but the fact of the matter is purring still remains a mystery to scientists.

As stated before when cats are very little it is a mean of communication between them and their mum. However when cats grow up the nature of the purr can change. In fact all of the members of cat family (including the wild cats) can purr.

Although in general cats will purr when they are relaxed and content other occasions when cats have been known to purr include: female cats when giving birth often purr, if cat is very ill or under attack or sometimes when a cat is close to dying he or she can purr as well. In interaction with other cats animal behaviorists are of an opinion that cats will purr to calm themselves down, to reassure or comfort themselves or to show they are not aggressive. For example an older cat might purr when approaching a kitten to show he or she will not attack. The same might go for a feral cat when encountering another cat to signal there will not be an attack. A scared cat (like mine I might add) will purr to show the submissiveness.

Be as it may, in general cat will purr when they are relaxed, happy and content. And it is no wonder they have been used for quite some time as therapeutic animals all over the world. Go on, pet your cat and enjoy their purrs, I vet you will feel your own stress levels reducing in no time.

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