Purring is the most common sound in cats – and yet it is the one that is least understood. Of course, cats purr when happy: but they do the same when they are nervous or wounded. What is the reason ? Here are some explanations about the most common situations:
Cats purr when they are happy
If your cat looks relaxed, on his back, eyes half closed and purring, you can assume it is because he is happy. Same thing if it comes rubbing against you purring on your return from work. This little engine noise is the equivalent of a feline smile.
Cats purr when they are hungry
British scientists have compared the purring of hungry cats with those of satiated cats, and they are not quite the same. When a cat purrs because it has an empty stomach, it will also emit unpleasant cries or screams that remind one of a baby’s crying. It is believed that cats have learned that this plaintive and irritating sound increases the chances of their being noticed and nourished!
The mothers purr to reassure their kittens
After giving birth, the mother purrs to establish a link with their offspring, much like a lullaby.
Cats purr to strengthen their muscles and bones
Cats remain passive for the majority of the day to maintain their very high energy levels, ready to be spent in a blitz to suddenly escape or hunt prey. It is possible that cats purr to vibrate their muscles and bones to prevent them from atrophying without having to make a lot of effort.
Cats purr to comfort themselves and heal
During periods of stress – such as a visit to the veterinarian – or after being injured, it is common for cats to purr. Although it may be merely a comfort – the feline equivalent of sucking his thumb – some research suggests that purring actively contributes to healing. Cats humming at both inhalation and exhalation, at a steady rate, and at a frequency between 25 and 150 hertz: exposure to such vibrations could contribute to the healing of bones, muscles and Tendons and reduce inflammation.
How do you know which explanation is right? Observe your cat, analyze the situation and determine the most likely explanation. When in doubt, show him affection by a few scraps or caresses: whether he is happy, nervous or hungry, he will not complain!