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We think we know what the purr of the cat means.
It is undoubtedly one of the most recognized signs of an animal's satisfaction: a squeak of pleasure every time a cat is tickled or caressed, the sound track of countless sessions thrown in the lap of its owner.
But that is not the whole story. There is much more behind the purr of a cat than you could imagine
How they do it has been the subject of debate for a long time.
Some thought it was linked to blood circulation through the inferior vena cava, a blood vessel that carries deoxygenated blood to the right side of the heart.
But, after a little more research, most likely the sound is produced in the muscles inside the cat's larynx.
As they move, they dilate and contract the glottis - the part of the larynx that surrounds the vocal cords - and the air vibrates every time the cat inhales or exhales. The result? A purr.
A mysterious mechanism
Although science is pretty sure that this is the process, there is no definitive answer about what motivates him. The biggest key is in a neural oscillator that lies deep in the feline brain, which has no other obvious function.
But is that neural oscillator activated only when the cat is happy?
Sometimes. But only some.
Marjan Debevere, a photographer at a cat shelter in London, is currently studying feline psychology. She is also the owner of four cats: Clive, Hula, Luigi and Archie, who they have become a sensation inInstagram (with about 33,000 followers that are increasing).
Part of the mystery surrounding purring is that we only notice it when we "tickle them where they like it," Debevere says. But they also purr when we are not present and the amount of that purr varies among animals. "All cats are different, some never purr and others do them constantly," he says.
She makes the comparison between Luigi - a stray cat who followed someone to her office and then was taken to a shelter - and Archie, who "moved out of the neighboring house" and became part of the family. Luigi purrs little and Archie a lot.
"I have photographed more than 3,000 cats to date (in shelters) and no two are alike," Debevere says. "I have seen a lot of purring when they are dying and when they are sacrificed. The vet will be able to say that they 'purr to the end' and people presume that it is because they are happy. But that is not always the case."
The study of the behavior and communication of cats is lagging compared to dogs, which generally participate more easily, especially if it involves a food reward. But, in recent years, more has been elucidated about purring.
"We are just beginning to understand it and there are many more questions than answers," explains Gary Weitzman, veterinarian and executive director of the San Diego Human Society. "Although purring generally represents contentment in cats, can also express nervousness, fear and stress. Fortunately, most of the time it is an indicator of the first.
"It has been speculated for decades that purring was a form of communication. In the early 2000s, we used the hypothesis that purring had other purposes. The work of Elizabeth von Muggenthaler, Karen Overall and others has led us to a better understanding of the purring goals. It is likely to have to do with communication, appeasement and healing, "says Weitzman.
Alarm and care signal
Cats begin to purr within a few days after birth, which helps the mother to locate them to feed them. This can continue in some adult cats that purr when they eat, or do so before to communicate to the human that it is time to eat.
Some purr loudly when they investigate their surroundings (my own pleasant purrs very hard when it is exploring the inside of my closet). They also purr when they are startled or after a moment of stress such as when they are being chased by a dog.
The more science purring has investigated, it seems to have discovered more. "Researchers have recorded 'ordinary purrs' and purrs that asked for food from their owners," says Celia Haddon, author and expert in feline behavior.
"Even those who don't own cats they could tell the difference. Inside the ordinary low purr there was a higher frequency, like a meow. "
"That particular sound is like the whimper of isolation from kittens or the crying of an anguished baby. We humans are naturally sensitive to the crying of a baby, so that we also respond to a cry that comes out in the purr."
Sam Watson, a scientist at the British animal protection society RSPCA, says there is still little clarity on how cats purr among themselves in the wild, although it is apparent that they purr when they groom each other. "There could be a purr for 'I like that', another for 'share resources'. There are many things like those we don't know."
"Feline communication has been completely ignored and deserves much more attention and study of what he receives today. "
One hypothesis is that purring is a powerful healing action. It is believed that the vibrations produced by that activity physically rejuvenate - a way in which the cat is cured of stress.
It is believed that the frequency of these vibrations - ranging from 20 Hz to 150 Hz - promotes bone growth, as the bones harden in response to pressure. Other frequencies could do something similar to soft tissues.
"The purrs of frequencies between 25-100 Hz correspond to very established frequencies in human therapeutic medicine," says Weitzman. "The bone responds at 25-50 Hz and the skin and soft tissues about 100 Hz, according to the researchers."
That's why we see cats purr with apparent happiness when they nap. It is really a way of "self healing." Cats possibly adapted their normal behavior - which currently involves a lot of rest - as a way to avoid excessive strain injuries.
Purring developed as a low energy way that keeps bones and tissues in good condition while resting.
And the purr may not be of exclusive benefit to cats. Petting a cat has long been consideredweatheras a way to relieve stress - Having a cat could reduce the risk of a stroke or heart disease by up to a third. Those frequencies at which a cat purrs might well be benefiting us.
"I think that purring is of great benefit to humans," says Weitzman. Apart from the physiological benefits, we have always responded to the psychological effects of purring. It calms us, we like it, it's like watching the waves hitting the beach. We respond to the purring of a cat as a calming stimulus and even genetically we could have chosen cats more likely to purr. "
Haddon agrees. "If it hovers around your feet, raising your head, looking towards the pantry or the fridge, you cannot ignore the signs accompanied by a high purr that says you want food - yourself!"
"In the morning, the hard purr can be used, combined with caresses to the face, to wake up the human and thus have breakfast. Most feed their cats before ourselves, which shows how effective your communication is. "
In the end, the search to define the meaning of a purr could benefit from knowing better the body language of cats, from the periscope tail of a friendly and sociable cat, to the wide open eyes and whiskers thrown back of a cat in They are fighting. With this deeper knowledge, the ties between cat and owner can only narrow.
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To know where to pet a cat It is important to make your pet feel happy with you and purr.
Contrary to what happens with other animals, it is not enough for the cats to show them your love of the way you want, but it is important that you do it by caressing at the time they prefer and only at the right points.
Otherwise, you could cause stress and nervousness in your cat. You know how to pet a cat Why purr? We tell you.
Where to pet a cat to make you happy
Cats are, on many occasions, individualistic animals who like to spend time alone, playing or exploring. Therefore, when they decide to lie down to rest with us, we like to caress them and make them relax until they purr. Here are some of your cat's favorite places to receive caresses:
- Under the chin and also on the sides of the jaw.
- Between the ears and behind them.
- On the cheek, Next to the mustaches.
- Along the loin to the base of the tail.
The right time to make your cat purr
A fundamental point to know where to pet a cat And making him happy is choosing the right time for them. Even if you do it with the best intention, if you try to pet your cat at a time when he prefers to be alone, the only thing you will get is to cause stress and dislike in your pet
Let him choose the moment and approach you. To invite him, you can reach out and let him smell it. If he rubs on her and approaches you, this can be a positive signal for you to start caressing him. The key to knowing that you feel happy is in the purr. The moment your cat has enough and moves away from you, let him go and don't try to keep him.