Science has shown that sharing your home with an animal is beneficial to your health. It is supposed to reduce blood pressure, works as an antidepressant, provides companionship, reduces stress and anxiety – the list goes on.
Cats are one such animal. Some studies suggest that petting a cat adds years to your life.
Cats calm us down and provide an escape. Even more appealing is the purr of a cat, which to some is as good as any Zen music.
Cats purr when they are content and happy. Maybe the waves of calm are transferred to us when we pet them.
When I was pregnant with both of my sons, I would always put a cat on my belly when it was purring. No classical music for my boys. After a serious car accident,, one of my cats would lay on one of my fractures and purr. It relaxed me and numbed the pain.
What many people do not realize is that cats also purr when they are stressed out, anxious, fearful, nervous, as well as for many other reasons. Purring is one of the most common sounds that cats make, and yet we really know very little about its meaning.
Some researchers have found that cats purr when they are hungry. Mother cats purr to their babies. It is their way of comforting their young ones.
Alternatively, kittens purr to their mothers, most likely to convey a sense of comfort. Research has also shown that cats purr in order to heal themselves. The low frequency purrs causes a series of related vibrations within the body that can heal bones and wounds, help breathing, and reduce pain and swelling.
You may notice sometimes when you take your feline to the vet he purrs. It’s most likely not because he adores his vet, nor having his temperature taken.
In this case, the purr may signify fear or anxiousness. For many years I had a diabetic cat and we struggled to get his blood sugar under control. When his blood sugar was too low, he would purr so loud you could hear him throughout the house. It wasn’t because he was happy. It was because he was feeling weird and the purr most likely meant he was frightened and confused. When we gave him something to bring the blood sugar up, and sooth him, he would stop purring or purr much quieter.
In the shelter, there are many animals that have been hurt or mistreated. Quite often someone who is not familiar with cat behaviour will assume a cat is fine because it is purring while they pet it. However, if you look at the body language, you can see that the purr is anything but contentment.
The ears are flat against the head, the eyes are wide open, and the tail is doing quick sweeps of the floor. That is a sign of a cat that is fearful and not trusting of the situation. The purr can easily be misleading.
When a cat is purring because she is happy, content, at ease, and relaxed it is probably one of the most soothing sounds you will hear. They will often kneed with their claws, and sometimes even drool a little. That’s when you want to snuggle with your cat and reap all the health benefits.
– By Magdalena Romanow,
a volunteer at Katie’s Place, an animal shelter in Maple Ridge.