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Why Do Cats Purr?

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When we think of cats purring, we often picture a warm tabby curled up in our lap. She’s relaxed, happy, and contented! But did you know that cats actually purr for a wide range of reasons? 

Read on to discover 4 primary reasons why cats purr.

Because they’re happy

Both indoor and outdoor cats often purr during positive experiences like grooming, hanging out in their outdoor cat house, and cuddling with their favourite people. Purring is a way to say, “I like being with you.” And purring actually helps their cat parents de-stress. We’ve all experienced the relaxing effect of having a purring kitty in our laps. Who can stay stressed out after that?

Because they’re stressed or upset

Just as purring helps you relax, it also helps your cat relax. Cats often purr as a self-soothing behaviour. Purring releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that cause a feeling of pleasure.  So purring helps alleviate stress and anxiety—whether it’s caused by a new housemate, a painful experience, or a visit to the vet.

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Because they’re injured

One of the most fascinating reasons why cats purr is because of injury. When cats are injured, both they and their kitty friends will often purr. Kitties purr at a frequency of about 26 Hertz, in the correct range to aid in tissue regeneration. This means that the vibrations of purring may help bones heal faster. It is also possible that purring increases bone density. Even if outside cats are just hanging out and purring, they can be strengthening their bones to prepare for the next hunt or playtime.

Because of maternity and nursing

Cat behaviour expert Pam Johnson-Bennett writes, “The mother cat purrs during labor which may be to self-soothe and also for pain control.” She explains that, although kittens are born deaf and blind, they can still feel vibrations. The mother’s purr leads them to her body so they can nurse and stay warm. When they are just a few days old, kittens start to purr in order to communicate with Mom. Purring plays a key role in the kitten’s early life.

The next time your outdoor cat or kitten starts purring, take a moment to consider why she may be purring. Is she happy? Could she be stressed out or injured? 

Tony Buffington, a veterinarian at Ohio State, says, ”All behavior depends on history, context and expectation. So it's naive to think that cats can only purr for one reason—it's like thinking that people can only laugh for one reason." 

Now that you know several common reasons why cats purr, you’ll be able to understand your cat better.

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