A lot of cat owners find their cats purr comforting – it can lower blood pressure and reduce stress in humans. Some studies have even shown that cat owners are 40% less likely to suffer heart attacks than non-cat owners and some of this effect is put down to the effects of purring!
But some owners report that their cats don’t purr. You might have a cat that doesn’t purr. If this is the case it is more than likely that your cat hates you, thinks you are doing an inadequate job and resents your human feebleness – just joking! Check out what we basically know about the cat’s purr to date :
What is a purr?
Truth is we really are not very sure how cats even actually create that purring sound. We have got as far as identifying that the purr seems to be some kind of vibration of the vocal chords but no one can confirm whether the vibration is voluntary or just a muscle twitch!
We know that the purr seems to happen both when the cat breaths in and breaths out and that the noise is created by air flowing over these vibrating vocal chords which may or may not be voluntarily activated.
Why do cats purr?
Ok, so we don’t know how they do it, but surely we know why they do it? Again there are quite a few theories, but really your guess is probably as good as anyone’s.
Some learned people theorise that the cats’ purr originates from kittenhood – as newborns kittens are blind and deaf and have few means of communication. As a result, both mother and kitten communicate via vibration – purrs. The queen purrs to indicate the direction to the food source and the kitten purrs, at different resonances, to indicate hunger or satisfaction.
Researchers at The University of Sussex found that cats purr as a method of communication with humans. They have found that the cat can hide a plaintive cry within its purr that stimulates the human nurturing response and results in food being presented to them in quick time. The hidden cry is said to occur at a similar resonance to that of an infant child stimulating adult human response!
Other researchers believe that cats purr to heal themselves.The frequency of the purr (between 24 – 140 vibrations per minute) is said to promote bone growth and repair, reduce inflammation in soft tissues and have a positive impact on an infection.
Cats have been heard purring as they groom each other – indicating that the purr could be a general form of communication. Again, in truth, we don’t know for sure why they purr, but there are clear benefits that can be identified by the ability to purr!
Cats that don’t purr
Not all cats purr. The large roaring cats – lions, tigers, jaguars etc – do not purr. The roaring cats have a roar to highlight to others their territory, health, strength and such. The structure of the throat and vocal chords has to be much stiffer to create a roar. As a result of this hardened structure, purrs are just not possible. Maybe your cat is related to lions?
Some have noted that kittens born to feral mums tend not to purr. This is thought to be a learned tactic to avoid predation. Maybe your non-purring feline friend came from the wild side of town?
Others suggest that cats have similarities to humans – they come with many different personalities and characters. It could be that some cats are able to purr but find they have more success communicating in other ways such as through body language or facial movements. They may have learned that purring doesn’t work so well for them!
Maybe the cat that you think doesn’t purr, really does. Some purrs can be at such low volumes and resonances that you genuinely can’t hear them. Their purrs are beyond human hearing. The best way to check is to see if you can feel your cat vibrating in the chest area. It might be that they are purring away, vibrating happily, without any outward indication…
Should I Be Worried If My Cat Doesn’t Purr?
Don’t worry if your cat doesn’t appear to purr. As we have noted some just aren’t into it as a method of communicating. It is also important to understand that cats purr regardless of whether they are content, happy or stressed. A non-purring cat is likely to be just as happy as a purring cat!
It is also worth noting that some cats can be late developers. Some cats don’t actually develop a purr until they hit maturity – whether that is because their vocal structures are not correctly developed or whether they just learn the benefits, if any, of purring later in life – we don’t know.
If they used to purr and then stop check for other signs of poor health otherwise accept that purring is generally without meaning.