Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM
We know that cats frequently purr as a sign of happiness and contentment, but did you know that they also purr when fearful or stressed? From time to time, we get cats who will start to purr when they come to the vet clinic and unfortunately, it’s because they’re stressed. A cat will purr as a comfort or self-soothing measure like when a child sucks their thumb. Mother cats will purr when their kittens are born to help guide them to the mother since kittens are born with their eyes and ear canals closed. Kittens can purr at a very young age too which helps them communicate with the mother cat. Research also shows that purring can help promote healing and improve bone density in cats.
When cats purr, signals are sent to their vocal cords and diaphragm muscles. The signals stimulate the vocal cords to vibrate. When the cat breathes in and out, the air moves across these vibrating muscles to make the purring sound. Cats purr during inhalation and exhalation. Their purrs are generally between a frequency of 25-150 Hertz.
Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.