CROSSROADS Language Studio’s Newsletter November, 2022 Heal it with a Purr…
Why do cats purr? Most people would say that it is because they are expressing contentment, even happiness. But research has found that this is far from whole story.
Yes, cats often purr when they are happy, noticeably when they are being stroked by their human or when they are being fed. But they also purr when they are nervous or stressed, very often when they are severely injured, when giving birth and even when dying. Most intriguing however, is that they have been observed to purr when their human is stressed, hurt or sick!
When a cat purrs, they do so within a frequency of 20-150 Hertz, and this may have therapeutic benefits for themselves as well as their humans. Purring has been linked to lowering stress, helping relieve dyspnoea, lessening the chance of a heart attack (cat owners have 40% less risk of having a heart attack), even strengthening damaged bones, joints and tendons. There are many reports of people suffering from migraine who have had their headaches eased, even cured, when they lie down with their head near a purring cat. And scientific research suggests that cat owners live longer than people without a pet around the house.
So, what’s in a purr? All feline species purr. For this to be so, purring must have an important function in their lives. There has to be a very good reason for cats to use up energy purring at times when they are physically stressed or ill. It has been surmised that purring is, in fact, a part of their survival mechanism.
Research has found that “sound therapy” can promote bone growth, aid healing of bone fractures, relieve pain, breathlessness and inflammation in people. The frequencies used to achieve these results correspond exactly to the frequencies in a cat’s purr, 20-150 Hertz.
If a cat is injured or stressed, they know how to take care of themselves. But what explains their tendency to purr when their human is suffering? This is truly fascinating. Is it unadulterated love your cat feels for you? Or, are they only worried about securing their next meal? Whatever it is, to behave in such a way requires a level of (cat) intelligence and is also proof that cross-species communication is very real.