There are few things as comforting as a purring cat in your lap. The reason why cats purr may seem obvious – cats purr because they are happy, right? This is not necessarily true. In fact, cats may purr for a variety of different reasons, and we continue to find out more information every day about the function of purring.
Purring is a form of communication. The most common reason cats purr is to let others know that they are content. Mother cats will purr comfortingly by their kittens while nursing, and kittens will purr back. When our cats purr while being stoked, they are telling us that they feel safe and happy.
In addition to purring while pleased, cats will sometimes purr when they are hungry, scared, or even hurt. This is important to recognize for the safety of your cat. If we assume that purring is always a sign of happiness, we may not realize that a cat is actually trying to communicate that she is in pain or under a great deal of stress. We do not know the exact reason for this response, but one theory is that the cat is trying to comfort herself while in a stressful situation.
Another interesting fact about purring is that it has proven to aid in bone regeneration. The vibrations produced by the larynx promote healing in injured bones. For this reason, cats will sometimes lie next to an injured cat and purr. This is sometimes called “purr therapy.”
In this way, purring isn’t only good for cats, it’s also good for people. Being near a purring cat has been shown to reduce blood pressure and lower stress in humans. It can even aid in healing our own broken bones.
Purring is a much more complex form of communication that it seems on the surface. The next time your cat begins to purr, it may be interesting to imagine exactly what she is trying to communicate to you with her interesting ability.