It has long been speculated that pets are good for a person’s health. Stress relief and encouragement of a healthy lifestyle are commonly cited as two positive outcomes from owning a pet. But when it comes to cats, scientific evidence suggests that their purr can be specifically beneficial to their owner.
There are many tales of cat owners who are sick or in pain, feeling better, sometimes even healed, by their cat’s purr. This may sound like the plot to your favourite disney film or simply the ramblings of a besotted owner, but over the years research into the mystery of the cat’s purr has backed up these curious stories.
How exactly does this work you may ask? Well, research has shown that the frequency of a cat’s purr actually works in a similar way to high-impact exercise.
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A cat’s purr frequency is exactly 26 Hertz. This frequency corresponds with the frequency that scientists use in vibrational therapies to promote tissue regeneration.
How exactly does vibrational therapy work? When the body is exposed to high intensity pressure & strength training exercise, bones and muscles become stronger, reinforcing themselves and adding muscle.
Vibrational therapy creates the same healing and reinforcement using low frequency vibrations instead of intense high impact activity. So, theoretically, a cat’s purr can help healing.
But it’s not just about healing bones, the healing power of cats can work in a number of magical ways:
- Lowering stress — petting a purring cat can calm you
- A cat’s purr can decrease the symptoms of dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing) in both cats and humans
- Lower blood pressure by interacting with the cat and hearing the purring sound
- Reducing the risk of heart disease (cat owners have 40% less risk of having a heart attack)
- Purr vibrations help to heal infections, swelling, bone healing and growth, pain relief, muscle growth and repair, tendon repair and joint mobility
So why do cats purr?
The common belief is that cats purr to show their happiness but they also purr when frightened, severely injured, giving birth and even while dying.
Elizabeth von Muggenthaler of the Fauna Communications Research Institute in North Carolina, delved further into why a cat would waste energy purring in its last moments:
“For the purr to exist in different cat species over time, geographical isolation etc. there would likely have to be something very important (survival mechanism) about the purr. There also would have to be a very good reason for energy expenditure (in this case creation of the purr), when one is physically stressed or ill. The vibration of the cat’s diaphragm, which with the larynx, creates the purr, requires energy. If an animal is injured they would not use this energy unless it was beneficial to their survival.”
“It is suggested that purring be stimulated as much as possible when cats are ill or under duress. If purring is a healing mechanism, it may just help them to recover faster, and perhaps could even save their life.”
So it seems a cat’s purr really is magical. In addition to soothing and healing the people around them, cats are actually able to heal themselves, too. A curious animal and a curious noise indeed.