Tagged with " purring"

Why do Cats Purr? (Part 2 of 2)

Mar 9, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Behavior

Last time I wrote about purring and what it is for and why it is a wonderful evolutionary capability. I missed some very important information about purring in that post. Over the holiday, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a little time off that was not as over-scheduled and stressful as those days can be. I got some down time that was sorely needed.

So every morning, I sat with a cup of coffee and my iPad to read the daily paper. Inevitably within 5 minutes of sitting down, my “dearest, smartest, sweetest, most intuitive kitty ever” would leap into my lap for his daily facial. The spots on his head that are acupressure points – the area at the top of his head, right between his ears, his cheeks and under his chin – and a few others that he taught me he prefers would get a massage. He would purr his head off for as long as I would do it.

As his facial and purring went on, I would find myself relaxing. I stopped planning the day, making lists in my head and worrying about whatever I ordinarily worry about, which seems to be another endless list. My heartrate slowed as I entered a kind of meditative state that was delightful, slow and luxurious. Researchers know the benefits of meditation on general health and all that has been widely published.

After decades of research, most investigators agree that meditation practice reliably reduces physiological arousal and psychological anxiety. Likewise, to the extent that a clinical problem is exacerbated by stress, it is thought that meditation can serve as a helpful intervention. Meditation is similar to other self-regulation techniques, such as biofeedback and progressive relaxation training, in that they all involve a conscious attempt to control attention. We have known for a very long time that meditation can have large beneficial effects when done consistently and over time.

There are many forms of meditation and schools of training – walking, Zen, mindfulness, transcendental. The list is very long. Think about the physiological benefits of purring and touching a cat and incorporate that into another practice, “purring meditation”. I have been called type A and “high stress” and other less kind descriptions of my pace and preferences. If I can slow a bit and focus and relax more fully with a cat in my lap, so can you. Give it 10 minutes and your best “motor” kitty. You won’t regret it and it may become a delightful addition to the rituals of your day.

Why do Cats Purr?

Oct 31, 2013 by     3 Comments    Posted under: Behavior

Lions can’t purr. If you can roar, you can’t purr. But if you are another wild cat, like a civet, mountain lion, or bobcat, purring is your unique gift. The laryngeal muscles oscillate at 25 – 150 Hz causing a sudden separation of vocal cords during both inhalation and exhalation. Our companion cats do seem to purr more often when they are contented with their situation but that isn’t the only time they purr. The purr is so low pitched that we almost feel it as much as we hear it.

Cats also purr when they are frightened or stressed. Often, cats will purr in the context of the veterinary visit which is always a bit stressful. Theories abound, but like the smile in humans, perhaps it is an appeasing gesture in that context. It might be similar to the reasons people smile, contentment surely, but also when we are nervous or want something.

If you have found your cat’s purring to be a bit annoying in the morning when he wants you to get up but not when you are petting him, it is because the two are different! Cats learned to add a higher pitch purr to the lower 25 Hz pitch that is more of a cry-meow. This insistent purr is intended to elicit a faster reaction from humans. Researchers theorize that cats may have learned to tap into a mammalian response for nurturing offspring by embedding a cry within a call that is normally associated with contentment. The baby who wants to be fed cries, hence cats learn to add the high pitch to their purr.

Cats also purr when they are giving birth, nursing, or wounded. Researchers have shown that purring may have an evolutionary healing advantage. Many experts theorize that the range of 25 Hz might be a sort of built-in physical therapy. This frequency is used in humans to accelerate wound healing and improve bone density. Purring may be a form of pain management and self-healing. Because cats have adapted to conserve energy via long periods of rest and sleep, it is possible that purring is a low energy mechanism that stimulates muscles and bones without a lot of energy, too. It may contribute to the lower occurrence of osteoporosis or bone dysplasias in cats than dogs.

Purring may also have contributed to the fact that there are more companion cats than dogs these days. We regularly pet our cats for their sake but also for the sense of peace and relaxation that comes from listening to a cat purr. It calms us down, lowers our blood pressure, and reduces the risk of heart attack.

Continue to Why do Cats Purr? (Part 2 of 2)

Dr Elizabeth Colleran

Diplomate ABVP Specialty in Feline Practice

Dr Colleran attained both her Masters (in Animals and Public Policy) and Doctorate from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She opened Chico Hospital for Cats in 1998 and the Cat Hospital of Portland in 2003. In 2011, she became President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Dr Colleran is a member with: American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, and American Association of Feline Practitionesr.

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Purr Power!

Aug 29, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Behavior, Tips & Advice

What’s not to love about a purring cat on your lap?  We know it’s a great feeling, and now it seems that there might be some extra and unexpected benefits to our physical health—would you believe a cat purr can strengthen our bones and reduce our risk of heart disease?

Just another reason people should live with cats!

No one is really sure why cats purr.  We know they purr when they’re happy and content, and when they’re trying to be calm, and sometimes when they’re really, really sick.  Little kittens have incredibly loud purrs.  Some cats have subtle purrs, and some cats come with “insta-purr,” where one touch turns on the motor.  Other cats, such as a British cat named Smokey, come with a volume that competes with the noise of a subway train.

I’ve seen many sick cats in my practice who are purring, even though they were clearly not well.  We’ve often thought that this kind of purring was a cat’s way of helping themselves feel less fearful and more relaxed.  But what if that purr was actually helping to relieve very real physical signs of disease or distress?

Most cats come with a purr that vibrates between 20-140 Hertz, which is a sound wave range that might have a therapeutic effect on people and other animals, not unlike that of a therapeutic laser.  This vibration range has been shown to relieve swelling and its associated pain, and also to promote healing in bones and soft tissues.

Truth or science fiction?  When I was a vet student studying bone diseases, our professors would tell us that cat broken bones would almost always heal, regardless of any medical or surgical intervention.  In fact, they would even joke that a treatment for a dog with a broken bone would be to put it in the vicinity of a cat, because cats were so good at healing.  Why was there such a distinct difference in how these species responded to an injury?  Could the cat’s purr be a piece of the puzzle?

The use of therapeutic or cold laser devices in medicine has been somewhat controversial, with proponents touting the use of lasers as a treatment for everything from back pain to gum inflammation.  What these lasers do is emit a low-level wave frequency in a therapeutic range that lowers the components that make up an inflammatory response.  Advocates say laser use can dramatically lessen the symptoms associated with conditions such as a sprained ankle or chronic arthritis.  Frequently, these laser therapies are layered with vibration therapies to complement the effects of the light waves.  The vibration modality is postulated to increase nerve activity and stimulate muscle and bone strength and resilience.

Cat purrs obviously do not emit light.  But there is speculation that the vibration associated with the purr creates its own similar “force field” effect.  Chiropractors have been using vibration therapy for years to help break down scar tissue, relieve pain, increase blood flow and enhance mobility.  Vibration therapy has been used to decrease swelling in injured tissues and drain lymphatic fluids.  Researchers have more recently identified full body vibration therapy as a means to increase bone strength and aid mobility in people born with cerebral palsy, a progressively debilitating neuromuscular disorder.

Vibration therapy in the 90 Hz range is also used to help astronauts combat the bone loss effects of being in a zero gravity environment and has been used successfully in the space program for years.

What else can that feline purr accomplish?  Well, we know how soothing being around a purring cat can be, but there also seem to be even more tangible health benefits for us humans.  Cats lower our blood pressure and relieve stress—all pets do this but cats are the undisputed champs.  Cats have even been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases—if people do not own cats, they are an astonishingly 40% more likely to have heart disease or strokes, based on a paper presented at a 2008 meeting of the American Stroke Association.

What could be next for our amazing felines?  Perhaps the day is not far off when we see doctors writing prescriptions for cat ownership, and astronauts will set off for outer space with Kitty in the co-pilot seat.

Dogs can only drool with envy!

Dr Cathy Lund

Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

City Kitty
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