Tip 71 – Cat purring – Why do cats purr?
Purring is the rhythmic vibrating sound that all cats can produce when they are in a content state. It is an instinctual response in domestic cats that can be seen at the onset of life when the newborn kitten purrs as it suckles milk from its mother. The mother cat often purrs back and there is a mutual feeling of reassurance. As they grow up, most kittens and cats continue to purr when they are content. This is often demonstrated by the purring that occurs when cat owners simply approach their pets, and of course when the pets are being petted. It should be noted that cats that are adopted (and readopted) may take a while longer to purr to any noticeable degree.
Sick cats and purring – Saying that cats purr when they are content is usually right on the money. The problem is that when cats are sick they still often purr. When it comes to being sick never trust your cat’s purr. Cats can and do purr at all levels of sickness, injury, sometimes even as they are dying. If your cat looks or acts ill then even if it is purring, the cat is sick and needs to be seen by a veterinarian. Some researchers have suggested that an injured or sick cat purrs to calm itself down, while others have suggested that it is a submissive behaviour communicating to other cats or predators that they are not a threat.
There is still a lot that is unknown about cat purring. Researchers are still undecided as to the original location of purring. Seemingly coming from the larynx, exactly where the purring comes from is unknown. There are interesting discoveries being made however. Current veterinary neurological theories about cat purring do demonstrate that during purring the cat’s brain releases endorphins, a chemical compound similar to morphine. This is the same hormone that humans produce when they feel euphoric but also while under stress. Further research into the genetic aspects of purring continue as well.