One method of communication cats have, that few other creatures have, is the purr. We’ve always assumed that cats purr only when they’re happy, but that’s not true. Cats purr when they’re nervous, too, and when they’re injured. Mama cats purr right after they’ve given birth. Besides all that, cats have different purrs; some purr loudly, some purr softly, and others purr silently. Why do cats purr, and what do their purrs mean?
Cats purr to help heal themselves
First of all, the frequencies at which cats purr are frequencies that promote healing; specifically, healing of broken bones and damaged muscle tissue, according to Scientific American. However, purring is also thought to be an evolutionary way of conserving energy; in other words, it’s a low-energy way of promoting healing.
This is why cats purr when they’re injured and in pain. There’s also speculation that cats’ purrs help them alleviate problems with bone density, dysplasia and other bone problems that plague domestic dogs. However, cats do purr when they’re happy, and other times too.
Cats purr as communication, too
Purrs are the first form of communication between a mother and her kittens, according to Cat Wisdom 101. Newborn kittens are blind, and mama’s purr tells her kittens, “Here I am.” Cat Wisdom 101 says that cats’ purrs are, in general, a way of saying, “Here I am,” when they’re feeling affectionate. They’re also a way of saying, “Here I am, but don’t hurt me,” when they’re nervous or frightened. It could also be self-soothing, in that the purring helps to calm them a little when they’re scared.
Did you know that the great cats, such as lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars can’t purr, even though they can roar? The lesser cats, like cougars, lynxes, bobcats, servals, caracals and ocelots can purr. Cheetahs can purr, too. Oddly enough, these cats can’t roar.
Each cat has its own, unique purr
We have four cats in our house, and four different types of purrs. Chase purrs almost silently, even when he’s at his happiest and most relaxed. Kali’s purr is a little louder, but oftentimes, we can still barely hear it. We have to scratch her certain ways to make her purr loudly.
Gizmo and Aria, on the other hand, both purr rather loudly, especially when they’re happy and relaxed. They both purr so loudly that they almost trill when they exhale. None of our four cats purrs nonstop for long periods of time; however, Kali and Aria can both purr for awhile when they want to. Gizmo and Chase, on the other hand, purr for short periods of time, off and on.
You can’t tell the difference between pleasure purrs and pain purrs, just from the sound alone. You also have to look at their behavior to know if they’re sick or injured, and purring from pain. Pay careful attention to your cat, especially how she reacts to your touch, if she seems to be purring for no real reason. If you suspect that she’s sick or injured, call your veterinarian.