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Get your motor running ...

October 21, 2010 - Lee Smith
Some things are so intrinsic that once we learn them at an early age, we think no more about them. And then, in adulthood, we may reflect on these things for just a moment, and be forced to wonder again about the oddity of nature.

I have two cats. If you're around cats, you know they purr. It's like they have their own little trolling motor. They do it, presumably, when they are happy, contented. And I, like everyone, take it for granted.

But why do they purr? You don't purr and neither do I.

So I looked it up.

According to Wikipedia: "Although purring is a universally recognized phenomenon, the mechanism by which cats purr is elusive. This is partly because the cat has no unique anatomical feature that is clearly responsible for the sound. One hypothesis, backed by electromyographic studies, is that cats produce the purring noise by using the vocal folds and/or the muscles of the larynx to alternately dilate and constrict the glottis rapidly, causing air vibrations during inhalation and exhalation. Combined with the steady inhalation and exhalation of air as the cat breathes, a purring noise is produced with strong harmonics."

The articles goes on: "There is no known reason to why cats purr but the following reasons are speculated: Cats often purr when being petted, becoming relaxed, or when eating. Female cats are known to sometimes purr while giving birth. Domestic cats have been reported to purr when injured, sick, in pain or dying. Purring may have developed as a signaling mechanism between mother cats and nursing kittens. One theory is that it is not a sign of showing relaxation or content, but an attempt at "friendship" or a signal of "specific intent". For example, when a cat is nervous and cannot escape the situation (at a veterinarian perhaps), its purr may serve as an attempt to avoid being hurt. German ethologist and cat behaviorist Paul Leyhausen interprets it as a signal that the animal is not posing a threat."

Hmmm. Who knew?

 
 

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