• By Beth Oleson, Marketing Director

I love you, now feed me

It’s Valentine’s Day – what better day to talk about the way cats say “I love you”? Whether you’re a cat person or not, a purr is a pretty charming thing. But in actuality, a cat’s purr can be much more than a simple love-letter to their favorite person. Read on to unravel the mysteries of the purr!

The physical act of purring is a vibration of the muscles of the larynx; cats can do it whether they’re inhaling or exhaling, and purr at a frequency of 25-150 vibrations per second. Big cats purr, too, but the little ones do it more. Most of us see purring as a sign of contentment, and it frequently is; cats often purr when they’re enjoying friendly attention, and a purr can definitely be a friendly gesture.

But cats may also purr when they’re injured, afraid, or in pain – female cats often purr during labor, and many cats purr as they pass on. Clearly these aren’t happy purrs, so what gives? Well, the purr may be a lot more important to cats than we’ve given it credit for. Researchers have theorized that the frequency of the cat’s purr – 25 vibrations per second – may function as a sort of built-in physical therapy for a cat in distress. As it turns out, that same frequency of vibration is used to help humans heal faster; although it’s not yet proven, a cat’s purr may help it heal faster as well.

And now for our favorite purr: the solicitation purr. Cat owners, you may recognize yourself in this section; I certainly do. As it turns out, cats are extremely tuned-in to their owners, especially in a single-person household where the cat and the owner have lots of one-on-one time. They observe us and learn from us, and yes – dog people have been saying this for decades – they even control us. Does your cat ever sit on your bed (or directly on you) in the morning and purr to get you up and on your way to the food bowl? That, cat-lovers, is an entirely unique type of purr: the solicitation purr. It’s a higher frequency purr peppered with meows. Over years of domestication, cats have learned that just meowing at the Food Bringer is less likely to achieve the desired results; but who among us can resist a hearty purr, even if it’s 4 a.m.? This is also the most persistent purr. I can say from experience that a hungry cat is not a cat who gives up easily.

Although there’s still a lot that scientists don’t know about purring, one thing is for certain: it’s part of what makes us love our feline friends. Maybe we’re just comforted by that magical, healing frequency; maybe it’s just nice to have an audible “I love you,” even if it’s actually an “I love you, now feed me.” If you’re looking for a purr to call your own, get in touch with us at 859-873-5491 or manager@woodfordhumane.org and ask about our adoptable cats!

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