It’s true: your cat purrs with happiness when it lies on top of you. But also when you look placidly through a sunny window. And he purrs when you brush him (if he enjoys brushing) or when he gets a few strokes from his favorite human or human. But, although it is usually a sound that your feline makes when he is happy and happy, there is much more behind that sound than we usually think.
Why does my cat like to sit at my computer so much?
How do cats purr? More than a vibration
If you live with a cat or kitten, you have probably wondered why it purrs. But, also, how it produces that characteristic sound: a vibration of an average frequency of 27 hertz (Hz), which you can produce without rest while you exhale or inhale the air.
Feline ethologists say that the purr it is, technically, a murmur-type cat vocalization: that is, a sound that your cat makes with its mouth closed; unlike other vocalizations, such as the meow, for which you need to open it. There’s more: the purr is the lowest frequency feline vocalization; much less than that of the meow, but also that of the growl or snort of a frightened cat.
The question is how cats create this distinctive sound. Well, it comes from the contraction of the muscles of the larynx when the mouth is closed (hence its name for whispering vocalization) and during breathing. In fact, your cat’s purr is heard both when it inhales and when it expels the air, giving it the rhythmic cadence that we like so much, and that your cat can maintain for relatively long periods of time.
Every cat, its purr
Now, the frequency of the purr (that is, whether it sounds more or less deep) depends on each cat. The same as its volume: there are cats that purr with much more intensity than others.
Thus, there are people who believe that their cat “does not purr”. Although it does, but at a low volume. And the opposite: there are those that purr at such a high volume that there are those who cannot sleep in the same room as their feline. Purrr.
Why does your cat purr? And what does he want to tell you?
As you suspect, the most common reason for purring is to communicate a pleasant sensation: your cat tells you that it is happy and that it loves you. Or that he’s glad you’ve come home. He also purrs when he sleeps with another cat friend (if he has the chance).
In fact, cats begin to purr from very young and cat mothers also purr their little ones while cleaning them: cats are born blind and deaf and (in addition to being guided by the smell) the purr helps them to find the breast of the mother.
But there are more reasons: because cats also purr when they are hungry or want something from you: for example, that you get out of bed. In fact, the nocturnal activity of cats, and how to get them to let us sleep through the night, is a frequent reason in feline behavior inquiries.
This type of purr is known as “solicitation purr” and your cat usually emits it at a higher volume and faster: in addition, and unlike the pleasant purr, it contains higher frequency peaks (around 380 Hz). That is, your cat also purrs when it wants something from you, for example, that you open that can of tuna that it likes so much, or that you pay it, at once, some attention.
And works: a study from the University of Sussex performed an acoustic analysis of this solicitous purr: and indeed, when we hear it, we notice the urgency, and we perceive it as less pleasant than the usual purr.
There’s more: sometimes your cat’s purr can express pain, or grief. In fact, veterinarians claim that felines purr when they are very sick, or they die. Thus, interpreting the purr of a cat is not as simple as we sometimes think. And we cannot assume that, because it purrs, our cat is happy. [Descubre, además, qué te pide tu gato cuando maúlla.]
So what does my cat want with that purr?
Now, it is no coincidence that most of us associate the purr of our cat or our kitten with a pleasant emotion: happiness is still the main reason that the purr awakens.
And a cat purring on your lap is most likely telling you how happy he is to have you. It is simply his purring way of letting you know how much he loves you.