Question of the week: Why do cats purr?

Happy kittyDelving into the whys and wherefores of purring presents many mysteries and theories. Nobody actually knows exactly how the sound is made or why it is made. That said, we can make very educated guesses.

Is is assumed that cats use the vocal folds and/or the muscles of the larynx to alternately dilate and constrict the glottis rapidly, causing air vibrations during inhalation and exhalation.

These vocalizations often appear to be a positive response to stimulation. Some even purport that it has a soothing effect on humans. In reality we don’t truly know what makes a cat purr or why some are more prone to doing it than others.

Purring is sometimes observed in cats that are severely ill. Veterinarians have theorized  that this serves as a self-calming behavior. Kittens will purr even before they meow. It’s thought that this is to communicate to the mother that all is well. The mother will often respond with her own reassuring purr.

There is no explanation for why some cats purr more than others. It is not necessarily a reflection of their state of being. Purring can be a means to get attention, which not all cats desire.

We may never have an exact answer to this week’s question. The cat is a mysterious creature in many ways and perhaps that’s part of their allure. If you have any of your own theories we’d love to hear them!  We always like to encourage our clients to call us with additional questions regarding this or any other issues concerning their pet’s health.