The purring of cats, that gentle noise often associated with the well-being of our feline friends, can ultimately have many other meanings. Indeed, this kind of whistling so particular of cats would have for goal, according to several scientific studies, to communicate a feeling of appeasement and happiness to humans as to other cats. However, a cat can be heard purring when under stress or feeling inferior. But what does this sound really mean?
What is a purr?
Little is known about the physiological origin of purring. There are actually two hypotheses. For the first, it would be a very rapid and regular contraction of the muscles of the larynx, alternating with the diaphragm. The second hypothesis, she maintains that it would be the vibration of a vein bringing blood from the body to the heart (called the vena cava), amplified by the bronchi, trachea and nasal cavities.
According to some studies, purring is even useful for cats’ bones. Indeed, the vibrations would be emitted on different frequencies, including one around 26Hz, allowing to stimulate the regeneration of the muscular tissues present around the bones of the cat.
Why is the cat purring?
Most often, we can observe a cat purring during caresses, cuddles, or simply a moment of complicity between him and his master. In these situations, the manifestation of a moment of happiness, of well-being is not in doubt. Some cats also purr when they eat something they particularly like, such as mash. Again, the purring corresponds to a moment of happiness.
A cat will not purr, however, only to express a feeling of happiness. A cat can also be observed purring during times of great stress, such as during a veterinary exam. In this case, the purring does not have a communicative purpose, but it is a way for the cat to reassure itself.
A mother with her kittens will also tend to purr in their presence, to reassure them and make them understand that there is no danger. Its young themselves can sometimes purr to ask for food, which is why some cats separated from their mother too early, can, in some cases, purr to ask for food from their master.
Finally, two cats that come into conflict can sometimes purr too, at least the one who will feel in a position of inferiority. This is obviously not here to signify a state of well-being but, on the one hand, to reassure himself and, on the other hand, to try to appease his opponent in order to avoid conflict.
To discover the purpose of a cat’s purring, it is enough simply to observe the behavior which accompanies this sound. If a cat purrs lying down, eyes closed, or even lying on its back with all four paws in the air, this is obviously a purr signifying a moment of happiness.
If, on the other hand, the cat purrs when it has its eyes wide open, even googly, with the ears back and wagging its tail, it may mean that it is stressed or feels in a position of inferiority, and that he tries to appease himself.
Purring, a blessing for humans
Some specialists have proven that the purring of cats would indeed have a beneficial aspect for humans. A therapy based on this principle has even been created, and is called “purring therapy”.
According to these studies, the purring emitted by a cat acts on the tonsillar system, a system closely linked to human emotions. This would stimulate the amygdala to react as in a moment of stress, when this organ would produce enzymes to soothe us. The purring of the cat would therefore indirectly be a source of appeasement. So don’t hesitate to cuddle your cat if you feel stressed.