Shocking New Fact About Cat Purrs, Revealed!

Up until now, how a cat purrs has been a mystery, even to scientists. But just recently, it looks like a team of researchers may have cracked the purring code! And there’s one fact that may give you pause. Before I explain how they figured this out, I’ll tell you the shocking truth.

A cat’s purr is likely involuntary!

That’s right, a cat’s purr is an automatic response and apparently can’t be done willfully. Humans can fake a smile, but a cat can’t fake or force a purr. It happens, or it doesn’t.

How the Research Came Together

An international team, headed by Austrian voice scientist Christian Herbst studied the larynges of eight cats. The cats, ranging in ages from 6 months to 18 years, all were terminally ill. When it came time to euthanize them, the owners voluntarily allowed their cats’ larynges to be donated to this study. So you can be grateful to these people for serving this research during such a sad time.

Each larynx was flash frozen with liquid nitrogen until it was time to do the study. They focused on the part of the larynx that involves purring, which are pads in the vocal fold. These pads create the deep, low frequency vibrations that wouldn’t otherwise be possible in small cats with a tiny vocal fold.

Now here is the interesting part. When the pads were pushed together and warm, humidified air was blown through them, they created purrs. Without any muscle contractions, and no neural stimulation. (Because of course, they had the larynges and no other part of the cat.)

The fact that conscious muscle contractions didn’t control purrs was a surprise to the researchers. And while it didn’t completely prove that cats never use muscles during purring, it did show that it can and does happen.

What’s Still Unknown

So now we know more about how a cat purrs, but why is still a question that hasn’t been fully answered. We do know that cats purr when they’re happy, and sometimes when they are in pain. Older research has already shown that the vibration and frequency of purring aids in healing.

Wouldn’t it be great if scientists developed ways to use purring to help enhance cat wellbeing? Or even human wellbeing! Maybe that’s not as far off as you may think.

Have you noticed anything surprising about your cat’s purr? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

Here are some other fun facts about cats:

Shocking New Fact About Cat Purrs, Revealed!

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