We all know that cats purr when they feel contented, and most of us owners will experience this lovely sensation whilst our feline friend is sitting on our lap, (or right on top of what we are concentrating on including our keyboard, notes, or some useful bits of paper).
Kittens learn to purr as a means of letting their mother know that all is fine around them. The mother cat then purrs in return to let her kittens now that she’s relaxed and content too. So purring begins as a form of communication, and we should feel very privileged that they purr in our presence as they view us as their parents!
But, did you know that they can purr for other reasons?
Cats have been known to purr when they are injured, in pain (such as when in labour) or even scared (seeing the vet). Whilst the true cause is not known, it’s thought to be a means of calming themselves, or even promoting healing. Purring uses a lot of energy, so cats must do it for a specific reason… but what is it? From a survival viewpoint, nature never wastes energy.
The most remarkable aspect of this question is that scientists have known for a while now that vibrations at specific frequency levels can promote healing. These vibrations are thought to induce bone growth, even when the bone is broken. Pretty remarkable.
A lot of this research was conducted decades ago in the former Soviet Union, with its use in sports training and medicine. However, in the 90s, a scientist called Elizabeth von Muggenthaler (a bioacoustic specialist) recorded the purrs of 44 feline members (including cheetahs, pumas, and the domestic cat) and found that they purr in the range of 20-140 Hertz (Hz) with the average house cat purring between 20-50 Hz. Interestingly, it is within these frequencies that increase in bone density, pain relief and healing occur.
As Muggenthaler concluded, “An internal healing mechanism would be advantageous, increasing recovery time and keeping muscles and bones strong when sedentary”.
The other (anecdotally reported) ability cats have is “healing by association”. This is quite simply the ability of cats to sympathetically help cure illnesses in people just by hanging around them. Many people swear by links such as that their migraine disappears if a cat purrs close to them, or their stomach pain improves if a cat lies on their abdomen. And most cat owners will immediately recognise the feeling of relaxation and comfort they get from their cat. It’s widely known that cats have shown to reduce blood pressure in older people, and even that you may live longer if you have a cat! Of course, much of this is based on anecdotal evidence, but if you ever wanted another reason to rescue a cat, you just got it.