Your cat’s purr is definitely helping to keep you alive and well!
By Jennifer Grant
Image: Impact Photography
If you have a cat, you likely have your own morning rituals that involve purring and quality snuggle time. Every morning, I wake to the soothing hum of Sam’s purr just beside my ear. He is patiently waiting for me to open my eyes so he can start with morning clean up. Sam saunters from from person to person, bed to bed, licking hair and snuggling faces in a joyful “good morning” greeting. Sometimes, I will just lay with my eyes closed, fully awake, so that I can feel the low rumble of that purr for just a little longer.
Image: Africa Studio
It may surprise you to know that purring does not equate with happiness in cat language. Cats will purr to calm themselves during moments of high stress, when they are in pain, even when they are dying. That low motor hum is a source of self-soothing and self-healing. It is also healing for us!
Elizabeth von Muggenthaler, from the Fauna Communications Research Institute in North Carolina, explains why cats purr even when they are dying.
“For the purr to exist in different cat species over time, geographical isolation etc. there would likely have to be something very important (survival mechanism) about the purr. There also would have to be a very good reason for energy expenditure (in this case creation of the purr), when one is physically stressed or ill. The vibration of the cat’s diaphragm, which with the larynx, creates the purr, requires energy. If an animal is injured they would not use this energy unless it was beneficial to their survival.”
The physical act of purring is accomplished by rhythmic signaling from the laryngeal muscles and the diaphragm. The frequency is 25 to 150 Hertz and cats can purr as they inhale and exhale, creating a continuous pattern akin to the chanting of monks. Science has already determined that this frequency range matches that used during vibrational therapies to promote tissue regeneration. Indeed, cat purrs may improve bone density and hasten the healing of wounds and fractures.
Image: MN Studio
Cats who know their humans very well have been found to sit on, or very near a point of injury and purr. There are many anecdotal reports of cats providing healing, including my own uncle. At 70-years old, Uncle M received his final knee replacement. He was reluctant to take on this procedure as the other knee had taken forever to heal, and that was a decade ago. In the end, he chose probably mobility to disability. Plus, this time, he had a rather large orange cat named Eddie on his side. As soon as Uncle M was home and into recovery, Eddie would spend his days laying over Uncle M’s thigh, purring in the direction of the swollen knee. Sure enough, Uncle M healed three times faster than the previous knee; even the surgeon was astounded!
Image: Fabrizio Misson
Aside from helping heal your body, the health benefits of cat purring extends to reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. In fact, a recent study found that people with cats in the household had a lowered risk for heart attack; 1/3 less than that of their non-cat loving peers! This longitudinal study spanned 10 years and involved 4000 Americans followed by the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute. Dr. Adnan Quershi, lead author, said, “For years we have known that psychological stress and anxiety are related to cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks.” And cats, along with their purring, reduce that stress and anxiety.
Great news for cat lovers! Do you love a cat? Give him a shout out in the comment section. Kitties deserve a little attention for all that they do for us.