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January 24, 2021

Bits & Bytes: One Reason to Purr

04.22.12 Kittens, born blind and deaf, find their first nourishment, guided by the vibrations of their mum’s purr.

Purring Their Way to Stardom!

I’m very proud of my movie star cats. I feel like one of those parents who can’t stop talking about their talented progeny. Maybe my car should wear a bumper sticker that proclaims that my cats are honor students.

Maulee and two of her buddies, Sudan and Jinniyha were on network TV last night helping solve the mystery of the purr. Thanks to modern technology, you can see them unravel the mystery on the web at CBS 5  .

The segment is called: Why Do Cats Purr?

The Enigmatic Purr

Part Three:  The Anatomy of a Purr

The anatomy of a purr is shrouded in controversy. There are many diverse theories about how a purr is created. One theory is that purring is produced through a combination of the laryngeal, diaphragmatic muscles and a neural oscillator.  This theory probably makes the most sense because when a cat suffers from laryngeal paralysis, he can’t purr. Another theory claims that the vibrations come from the hyoid bone, a small bone located between the skull and the larynx. Still another veterinarian argues that purrs are initiated from the central nervous system. A long time ago people believed purrs were the result of blood rushing through the vena cava (large vein that carries blood to the heart).

Domestic cats don’t have the monopoly on purring, though they are one of the only animals who purr both while inhaling and exhaling. Servals, Cheetahs and Ocelots purr. Not all members of the Felidae Family purr though. Big cats that are members of the sub family Pantherinae are supposed to not purr. These include Lions, Tigers, Jaguars and Snow Leopards, along with other big cats. Though it has been reported that lions make a noise that may be kind of purr like. Other residents in the animal kingdom also purr. I read that Hyenas, Civet Cats and even Elephants purr.  I wonder if an Elephant really purrs. I would like to know in what circumstances these other animals purr. Does an Elephant purr when he’s feeling contented and safe? Does a Hyena purr when he’s stressed out? Is the mechanism behind these purrs the same as in our domestic cats?

I conclude my musings on purrs with more questions then answers…

The Enigmatic Purr

Part Two:  Purr as Healer

Do cats help heal themselves through the vibrations of their purr?  Fauna Communications Research Institute has compiled evidence as well as conducted research about the therapeutic benefits of purring. Their findings support the healing properties of The Purr. Cats purr at a low frequency between 25-100 herz. The research shows that low frequencies promote bone healing and easing of muscle pain. Other studies support this, saying that cats heal faster then other animals that don’t purr. In other words, cats give themselves ultrasound treatments when they purr… healing sound waves.

Purrs aren’t always happy purrs. Domestic cats will purr when they are severely ill, stressed or in pain. They also will purr when they are dying.  It is possible that these sad purrs are self-reassuring purrs. Perhaps cats purr to themselves the same way people who are alone and afraid sometimes sing to themselves. Another theory about these distressed purrs is that the purr is instrumental in releasing endorphins.

An article in Scientific American states that purring improves muscle tone without exercising. The vibration stimulates the muscles and bones, without the cat having to extend a lot of energy.  So, when you see your cat contentedly relaxing and purring on the computer equipment, she is in reality doing calisthenics.

Maulee Purring

Maulee Purring

My Cats Are Stars!

I was interviewed today by Ken Bastida, the news anchor for the 6:00 CBS news. He came to my house with his cameraman, intent on interviewing me about purring. He wanted me to answer the enigmatic questions: why do cats purr? And how do they purr? I prepared all week for this interview, both cleaning the house and in researching the mystery of the purr.This, by the way, is why I haven’t posted on my blog all week.

Ken and his cameraman were here for about 2 hours. It was fun, but I don’t know how the interview went. Ken adores cats and spent a good portion of the time admiring and enjoying my cats. I really enjoyed watching him interact and seeing the admiration and love he has for cats. I also enjoyed hearing about his wonderful elderly cat. My cats are great around cameras and strangers. They enjoy performing, and spent part of the interview licking the camera and giving Ken kisses on request. I also did a little demo with a couple of the cats sitting on their stools, shaking hands and finding my keys. They did film it, but that’s not what Ken had originally intended on interviewing and filming me about. I’m not sure if we got enough footage about cats purring…

They will edit this down into about a 1.5 minute segment. It will be shown in about two weeks on TV CBS news at 6:00 PM and 11:00 PM.