Purring is a well-known way for cats to communicate, but have you ever wondered why your cat doesn’t purr when you’re around? Understanding the physiology of purring can shed some light on this mystery.
Table of Contents
The Mechanism Behind Purring
While scientists are still not completely certain about the exact process of purring, it is widely believed that the vibration of a cat’s vocal cords causes purring when they breathe in and out. Purring is a complex action that involves coordinated signals from the brain to the larynx and diaphragm.
Domestic cats typically purr at a frequency of 25 to 150 vibrations per second, and different circumstances can trigger this behavior. Interestingly, lions cannot purr, whereas cheetahs, pumas, ocelots, servals, and tigers can. This is because the structures surrounding the larynx in these big cats are not rigid enough to produce a purring sound.
Why Do Cats Purr?
Traditionally, purring has been associated with a cat’s contentment and affection. Some cats have even learned to purr as a way to elicit more attention from their owners. However, purring serves various other purposes and offers several benefits to cats:
- Newborn kittens rely on the vibrations of their mother’s purr to find their way towards her and nurse.
- The specific sound frequency produced by a cat’s purr has been found to have therapeutic effects on bone growth, pain relief, and wound healing.
- Cats may also purr when they are in pain or under stress. Purring may help release endorphins, providing a calming and soothing effect. It’s important to remember that if your cat seems unhappy or displays other signs of distress while purring, there may be an underlying issue.
Benefits of Cat Purrs for Owners
The frequency of a cat’s purr has been scientifically proven to have positive effects on cat owners’ well-being. Cats are often used as therapy animals in hospitals, and their presence, particularly their purring, has been linked to:
- Decreased stress levels and blood pressure
- Faster healing of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- Aid in the recovery of infections and swelling
- Potential reduction in the risk of heart attacks (although it is unclear whether this is solely due to the purring or the overall stress-reducing effect of having a pet)
- Improved mental health and overall well-being
Reasons Your Cat May Not Purr
While most cats purr regularly throughout the day, there may be instances when your cat doesn’t purr. Each cat has its own unique purring style, which can vary in volume and intensity. Some cats purr very quietly, while others may not purr at all when they are scared, lack confidence, or are new to a home. It may take time for these cats to feel comfortable enough to start purring around their owners.
In some cases, certain cats simply do not purr due to subtle anatomical differences in their larynx. However, they will find alternative ways to communicate with you through changes in body language or facial expressions. It’s essential to remember that not all cats purr, and this doesn’t necessarily indicate any health issues.
If your cat has previously been a regular purrer and suddenly stops, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Sudden cessation of purring may suggest stress, injury, or illness. If you notice this change in behavior, it is advisable to have your cat examined by a vet.
Furthermore, if your cat appears to be unhappy or shows signs of stress despite purring, it could indicate an underlying problem. Changes in the home environment, disruptions in their routine, or other stressful events can cause cats to feel unsettled and reduce their purring. Medical issues, such as pain or illness, can also lead to stress and a decrease in purring, although some cats may still purr as a means of pain control.
If you observe a sudden stop or change in your cat’s purring, especially when accompanied by other behavioral changes or symptoms, we recommend seeking advice from your local Greencross Vet.
Can I Teach My Cat to Purr?
If your cat has never purred before, it is unlikely that you can teach them to do so, as it may be a physical limitation. However, if your cat is capable of purring, there are certain behaviors you can engage in to stimulate purring. Cats are motivated to purr to express satisfaction and contentment. To encourage your cat to purr:
- Stroke and gently scratch areas they enjoy, such as behind the ears, under the chin, or along their back.
- Create a comfortable and stress-free environment for your cat, reducing any potential sources of anxiety.
- Provide plenty of soft surfaces and bedding for your cat to relax on.
- Engage in cuddling, gentle talking, or even singing lullabies, as cats often enjoy these interactions while resting or napping.
Other Forms of Cat Communication
Aside from purring, cats have developed various ways to communicate with humans. They rely on body language and vocalizations to express their emotions, desires, and needs. Meowing is a form of communication used specifically to interact with humans. Cats may develop their unique range of meows to convey different messages, emotions, and requests.
Moreover, cats use body language to communicate. Their tails play a significant role in expressing their feelings. A low-hanging and tucked tail suggests anxiety, stress, or fear, while an upright tail held high signifies confidence and comfort. Cats may also use other body postures and flattened ears to express different emotional states.
Is It Strange if a Cat Doesn’t Purr?
While purring is common among cats, it’s not unusual for some cats not to purr. In such cases, it may be due to physiological reasons, such as vocal cord or respiratory system issues that prevent them from producing a purring sound. However, if your cat has previously been a regular purrer and suddenly stops, accompanied by other symptoms or behavioral changes, it is advisable to consult a local Greencross Vet Clinic to rule out any potential health problems.
If you are concerned about your cat’s behavior or overall health, don’t hesitate to visit your local Greencross Vets for professional advice.
Cat Not Purring FAQs
Why Does My Cat Purr So Much?
If your cat frequently purrs, it is likely a sign of contentment and satisfaction. Cats often purr while grooming, relaxing, and sleeping. However, excessive purring in older cats could indicate self-soothing due to stress or an attempt to alleviate pain. If your cat is purring more than usual, monitor for any additional symptoms or behavioral changes.
Why is My Cat Purring in Their Sleep?
If you observe your cat purring during sleep, it’s comparable to humans talking in their sleep. Cats purring during sleep is their response to dream events. Contented purring indicates a pleasant dream, while distressed purring suggests a bad dream. Cats commonly purr as they settle into sleep or during light sleep.
Remember, every cat is unique, and their communication styles may differ. Understanding your cat’s signals and behaviors will help strengthen your bond and ensure their well-being. For more information and expert advice on cat care, visit 5 WS.