Q: Dear Healthier Talk,
The other day my cat slipped out and got into a tussle with the neighbor’s cat. Penny’s no fighter so she ended up getting a bit banged up.
I found her on the back porch nursing her wounds. But when I went to scoop her up to take her to the vet I noticed she was purring before I ever touched her!
That seemed strange to me since she was obviously in some pain.
Why do some cats purr when they’re hurt or scared?
Penny’s Mom, Boise, Idaho
A. Dear Penny’s Mom,
Sure, everyone knows that cats, like Brewster the big adorable furbaby in the video above, purr to express happiness or contentment when we pet them.
But sometimes you cat will purr at other not-so-happy times as well.
For example a mother cat might purr while giving birth. Clearly giving birth is a stressful and painful experience so she’s clearly not purring to express happiness.
Maybe your kitty tends to purr when you take her in for a vet visit?
Or perhaps your fluffy pal purrs up a storm when you have a new unknown person or animal visit the house?
Purring may help your cat heal!
Well, according to Leslie A. Lyons, assistant professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, there’s a surprising reason your cat may be purring at unexpected times.
She may be doing it to promote self healing!
Studies have found that a cat’s purr registers in a consistent pattern and sound frequency that runs somewhere between 25 and 150 Hertz.
It turns out this is the same range of frequency that has been shown to both improve bone density and promote muscle healing.
Scientists say that your cat may be using purring as a natural and low energy way to promote muscle and bone health.
Which means that purring in other stressful or painful situations–like when Penny proved she’s a lover and not a fighter– is likely an extension of that self-healing instinct.
In other words, it looks like your cat believes in natural healing just as much as you do!
Scientific American (website), “Why do cats purr?,” April 3,2006
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