Peterborough West Animal Hospital – Why Cats Purr

Brought to you by Peterborough West Animal Hospital……….

Have you ever wondered how or why your cats purrrrrr? Most of us think that when a cat purrs it is happy but a cat also purrs when they are scared, sick and some cats even purr when they are dying. There’s so much more to purring then meets the ear!


  1. Kittens learn to purr when they are only 2 days old!!
  2. Cats purr while inhaling and exhaling.
  3. Cats purr on an average of 25 to 250 vibrations each second. Frequency range and tone does vary from feline to feline. At the lower end of the range, that rumbling sound can resemble an idling diesel engine, which has a similar velocity.
  4. Purring is believed to be a voluntary act initiated by the central nervous system. In other words, cats purr when they want to!

So how and why do cats purr? This is something scientists and veterinarians have been trying to figure out for years. No one knows exactly why cats purr, this is partly because the cat has no unique anatomical feature that is clearly responsible for the sound. BUT there are several theories.

How cats do it:

  • Scientists report that cats produce purring sounds by using the diaphragm to push air back and forth across vibrating muscles in the larynx.

Why cats do it:

  1. One theory is that cats purr as a form of communication. Example: cats may purr to let other animals know that they are not a threatening presence, that it is a sign of friendship. Also kittens are born blind and deaf and mama cat uses purring to communicate with her kittens.
  2. Another theory is people believe is that cats purr to reassure or comfort themselves when stressed and that is why we see cats purring when visiting their veterinarian or when they are ill or even dying.
  3. Some veterinarians believe that cats purr to extend their lives. Research has shown that purring lowers their levels of heart and bone conditions, as well as stimulates the growth of their bones and muscles. A new study shows that a cat releases endorphins when it purrs. This is a natural analgesic that assists to reduce pain while your beloved cat is healing.

MAYBE all of these theories are TRUE!  We may never know!

Did you know that lions, leopards, tigers, and jaguars can’t purr but raccoons, guinea pigs, hyenas, and mongooses can? Cats that purr, such as mountain lions and bobcats, can’t roar. And cats that roar, such as lions and tigers, can’t purr. The structures surrounding their voice box (larynx) aren’t stiff enough to produce a purr.

The Veterinarians and the entire team at Peterborough West Animal Hospital want you to know that petting a cat can help release anxiety and arterial pressure that can diminish the risk of heart attack and stroke!

Have you pet your cat today?

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