Eliza the catDuring a recent session, Tonto the cat was explaining to his person that when he lays upon her chest and purrs, he is content but is also purring to increase the blood perfusion to the cells of his gastrointestinal tract.

Tonto further explains, “‘When I purr, I activate a particular frequency within my body that has a powerful effect on my cells.  My purr can boost my immune system temporarily and can increase the blood flow to my heart, teeth/gums, lungs and other specific areas like the intestines.  I don’t specifically tell the vibration of my purr what to do with the blood in my body, it just takes care of things naturally.”

Me:  “Tonto, are you saying that purring isn’t just something cats do for the sole purpose of showing contentment?”

Tonto: “Cats can purr when happy. Some cats purr when in distress or sad.  It’s like a self soothing mechanism then.”

Me:  “I understand that some cats can’t purr.  My vet tech training explained it was due to a gene that determined if a cat could purr or not.  So not all cats can per… according to what I was taught.  What are you aware of here?”

Tonto:  “It’s like people.  Some are born with a good sounding voice and others have low voices that are barely audible.  Cat’s have purrs to varying degrees- some loud and soft.”  He reacts in surprise to the idea that some cats don’t purr at all and has little comment on it.  He does say, “I’ve always had the ability to purr and can’t imagine life without the mechanism.”

In asking my own feline family what purring does for their body or health (if anything) each cat replied as follows…

Lyra “I like the feeling of my own purr.  It’s soothing, relaxing.  It relaxes you. You respond well to it.  It also ‘shakes’ my cells up to make them healthier because they get more blood flow.”

Beetle Bailey “Purring is an immune booster for me.  It also warms me up by increasing blood circulation.”

Eliza “Purrring is a deep-seated tradition for me and many other cats.  It’s health benefits is that we do it to decrease our stress so we can be more alert, without stress in the way.  I use it to calm and center myself.  Sometimes there is an effect on the immune system.  A happy can can purr and an unhappy or fearful cat may not.  I purr a lot which is an expression of being happy or wanting your attention.”

In Joy of the Animals,