Why do cats purr?

As the parent of young children, I get a lot of “why” questions. One recent “why” occurred as my daughter was stroking our cat who was purring so loudly I could hear him across the room. “Mommy, why do cats purr?” We usually associate purring with happy cats, but this is not always the case. Here are some other thoughts as to why cats purr based on some recent research.
Scientists believe that the answer to this question is highly associated with the emotions of cats and that purring is a form of communication. When a kitten is born, it is both blind and deaf. It relies on the mother’s purr for food and comfort. A kitten develops the ability to purr when it is two days old, and this is an effective way for the kitten and mother to communicate.
In addition it is believed that cats purr as a sign of friendship, as a warning sound to threats and when they are nervous, stressed, or hungry. A new study has shown that a cat releases endorphins when it purrs. This is a natural analgesic that assists to reduce pain while your beloved cat is healing.
The actual mechanism by which cats purr is still up for debate, but scientists have shown that purring is produced from intermittent signaling of the muscles in the larynx and diaphragm during both inhalation and exhalation. Interestingly, cats purr with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 vibrations per second. Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing. Research also suggests that purring lowers cats’ levels of bone and heart disease and stimulates the growth of bone and muscles. A cat’s purring can work as a low and gentle workout to stay healthy and slim!
Finally, we are lucky that there is the added benefit to humans. Cats have often been shown to have a therapeutic benefit on humans and even lower blood pressure in some people. I certainly see the calming presence my cat has on my kids every night as I tuck them into bed and watch them pet a purring cat as they fall asleep.

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