You are relaxed on the sofa, watching a movie and cuddling your cat. And you feel the gentle vibrations growing stronger as you continue petting your furry friend. Your cat purrs in contentment. It feels happy and safe in your lap.
The next morning, your cat is sitting in the balcony, enjoying the warmth of the sun after a good meal. Once again, it is purring. So, cats can be happy and content by themselves, right? And that is why they are purring!
In reality, the mechanism of cat purrs is very complex. And because cats are such fascinating creatures, researchers tried to understand what they are telling us. It turns out that cats can create up to 16 different vocalizations.
You Are Special! Cats Only Meow to Humans
First of all, we have good news for you. Only kittens meow to their mom. As they become adults, cats rarely verbalize to each other (except when they are in heat or when two tomcats are fighting for territory).
Otherwise, a cat will only meow or purr to a human. Maybe they realize that we are not the mind readers they believed us to be, and we need guidance to understand their needs.
Or, as the president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society, Gary Weitzman, put it more bluntly:
“Cats vocalize so well to us because they’ve learned that we humans are really not all that on the ball in figuring out what the tail swish means, what the ear twitch means.”
But, let’s get back on track. Your cat purrs – and not only when it is happy and content.
How Exactly Does a Cat Purr?
Purring is a fascinating sound, which only felines can make – but only those that can’t roar. You can’t have it all as a big cat – you can only roar and establish who the king of the savanna is. Or you are a smaller cat and can purr and win treats from your human. So, how does your cat purr?
It happens like this: the cat’s muscles move the vocal cords in a vibrating rhythm. As the cat breathes in and out, the vibration of the vocal cords creates the purr. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Cat Purrs: More than Just Happy Sounds
Let’s get back to your furry friend. Maybe you have another cat and they got into a fight. The loser found retreat under the sofa and is licking a small scratch and…purring?
That’s right, a cat purrs even when it is in pain in some situations. Researchers, who studied the issue, believe that purring is a natural healing mechanism. The low frequency of the purr is the secret. It may appear to be out of the realm of science fiction, but it is science fact. Your cat that got into a fight purrs to heal its wound, relieve pain and even heal bones, tendons and ease breathing in some instances.
Is It Lunch Time? The Purrs Don’t Lie!
Did you just hear a new, plaintive note in your cat purrs? It is not your imagination! Cats actually have a so-called “solicitation purr”. It has a higher pitch, imitating a small baby’s cry.
Its purpose? To make you dash to the cat food shelf and give your furbaby a generous lunch. According to experts, cats developed this type of purr specifically for humans, by listening to babies and watching their mothers hurry to take care of their needs.
Yes, your cat is watching you and learning to adapt its behavior to make you do its bidding. If they weren’t such lovely and playful beings, this thought would be just a little bit worrying.
However, now that you know that cat purrs are not just signs of happiness, you will watch your pet with new eyes. If it purrs alone in a corner, you will probably realize that you should get an appointment at the vet.