The other day I was working at home and my cat was sitting next to me purring away. I just got this new Chromebook and I’m a little obsessed with the “OK Google” feature. You can ask the computer whatever you want, set a timer, open apps, anything and it will even talk back to you. I’ve been asking my computer pretty much anything I can think of…and yes, this may be mostly attributed to my extremely bad procrastination habit, but still it is super neat.
So I say, “OK Google…why does my cat purr?” and Google answered out loud and said to me in a robotic voice,
“A cat’s purr begins in its brain. A repetitive neural oscillator sends messages to the laryngeal muscles, causing them to twitch at a rate of 25 to 150 vibrations per sec…yadi yadi ya”
That’s all well and good, but I wanted to know why was Neka sitting there purring so deeply as I worked, not just how it happened. It’s not like I was petting her or even really noticed she was there until I heard the sweet noise of her purr. This is what I found out:
It starts when they are kittens
When kittens are newly born, one of their primary means of communication is through purring. It’s a popular thought that they purr is to let their mother know that they are in fact okay and thriving in her care.
Non-verbal communication to other cats
This continues into adulthood where older cats often purr to communicate that they are friendly. Since it was long regarded as and “All is well, mom” signal this makes it almost like the “friendship” sound, unlike growling or hissing.
They are conveying how they feel
It has long been thought that happy cats purr and all purring cats are happy. However, this is not always the case. It is true that they do purr most when feeling content and happy with loved ones in a comfortable place. But they can also purr when they are hungry, stressed (like a visit to the vet) or even injured.
There is nothing quite like cuddling up while your cat purrs happily on your lap. The low soft sound of contentment is pretty much instantly soothing. A cat purr is such a special sound that they have been known for their healing power for years. But next time your cat’s food dish is empty he’s purring at your feet insistently know that he’s probably not just happy to see you.