Why Do Cats Purr?

Image credit: Clarissa Rossarola

Cats are one of the most common household pets. These adorable creatures are playful, huggable and notoriously independent. They make great companions for adults and playmates for children. What makes them more fascinating is the interesting and well-known sound, the purr that they make. 

Although purring is a common sound from cats, you may have wondered why they make it. It can happen at any time of the day, much like humans when they sigh.

Some theorize that cats purr when threatened, even though they are not guarded against like some animals such as groundhogs, where people use live trap groundhog setups to keep them away from their properties. Cats are usually considered welcoming creatures, but what's causing your furry friend to give off this sound? Let's take a look at some interesting facts about why cats purr.

How Does a Purr Happen?

Purring is caused by a motion coming from the cat's central nervous structure. As the cat inhales and exhales, the vocal muscles in the larynx tremble and produce the sound burst that occurs every 30 to 40 milliseconds. This process produces the purring sound. The frequency of purring also depends on the cat's weight, sex and age. Research has found that cats purr in a range of situations.


Purring for Pleasure

Many are aware that cats purr due to experiencing pleasure like when they are nursing babies or when stroked or petted by a human. Purring can also occur during a cat's sleep or when it is rolling. It can also occur around familiar cats.

Purring for Pain

Cats can also purr while under pressure from stressful times like recovering from an injury or when in pain. Therefore all purring cats are not content with their current situations. When a cat is brought in for treatment at a hospital after a tragedy like being hit by a car, a cat may produce a purr. Interestingly, larger cats such as the leopard, jaguar and lion do not purr.

In general cats can purr in good times and in bad, but it's mainly associated with human interactions or positive cat exchanges.

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