We all know how wonderful it is to be around a purring cat. If there’s anything more soothing than to be lulled to sleep or woken up by the sound of purring, I don’ t know what it is. But a cat’s purr is not only calming and relaxing: research shows that the cat’s purr has healing properties and can actually heal bones, muscles and tendons.
Why do cats purr?
While we still don’t know the exact answer to this question, we do know that cats purr when they’re content and happy. They also purr when they’re frightened or stressed. In those situations, purring may be a self-soothing mechanism.
Cats begin purring when they’re only a few days old, which is thought to help the mother locate them for feeding time. This may also be why some adult cats purr when they eat.
The more scientists look at the cat’s purr, they more they seem to uncover.
Is purring a healing mechanism provided by nature?
In a 2006 study conducted by Fauna Communications, researchers found that the frequency of a cat’s purr is between 25 and 140 Hz. This covers the same frequencies that are therapeutic for bone growth and fracture healing, pain relief, swelling reduction, wound healing, muscle growth and repair, tendon repair, and mobility of joints. This would support the theory that purring is not just self-soothing for cats, but is actually a form of self-healing.
The researchers at Fauna Communications believe that it’s possible that evolution has provided the felines of this world with a natural healing mechanism for bones and other organs. From the Fauna Communications website:
“Being able to produce frequencies that have been proven to improve healing time, strength and mobility could explain the purr’s natural selection. In the wild when food is plentiful, the felids are relatively sedentary. They will spend a large portion of the day and night lounging in trees or on the ground. Consistent exercise is one of the greatest contributors to bone, (Karlsson et al, 2001), and muscle (Roth et al, 2000; Tracy et al 1999), and tendon and ligament strength (Simoson et al, 1995; Tipton et al 1975). If a cat’s exercise is sporadic, it would be advantageous for them to stimulate bone growth while at rest. As well, following injury, immediate exercise can rebreak one and re-tear healing muscle and tendon (Montgomery, 1989). Inactivity decreases the strength of muscles (Tipton et al, 1975). Therefore, having an internal vibrational therapeutic system to stimulate healing would be advantageous, and would also reduce edema and provide a measure of pain relief during the healing process. “
Can the cat’s purr help heal human ailments?
There are a number of studies that show that cats are good for our health. A 2008 study at the University of Minnesota showed that cat owners have a 40% reduced risk of heart attacks. Other studies have shown that just petting a cat can lower your blood pressure.
There are numerous reports from cat parents recovering from surgery or injury of cats insisting on laying on or near the area of the human’s body that needs healing. So I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to think that they don’t just do this because they love us or are worried about us, but that there’s actually a tangible physical benefit when they literally purr us back to health.
I’ve always believed that animals, and cats in particular, are healers. Isn’t it nice to know that just listening to our cats purr is not only good for our soul, but also good for our body?
And just in case your own cats are too busy chasing toys or watching birds right now, here’s a video of a cat with a seriously strong purr to tide you over until your own kitties can get back on the job.
This post was previously published in September 2009, and has been updated.