Why Cats Purr...
Dr. David Williams, the American medical researcher, biochemist and chiropractor, recently wrote about some fascinating research from the Fauna Communications Research Institute in Hillsborough, North Carolina, a group devoted to animal
acoustical sounds, who decided to investigate the very fundamental question of exactly why cats purr.
Although most of us believe cats purr to give voice to joy or contentment, cats also purr when they are under stress, when they
are caged, or injured, or even during the rigors of birth.
In these circumstances, it stands to reason that purring was invented for a larger purpose than just happy noises. Purring,
a sound involving both the larynx and the diaphragm requires a lot from a cat.
As the Fauna researchers put it: "When was the last time you heard someone singing, or humming to themselves . . .
when they were in the emergency room with a broken leg? The purr has to be somehow involved with survival."
After recording the purring of all manner of cats, from domestic cats to cheetahs and ocelots at the Cincinnati Zoo, the
researchers discovered something untoward. The dominant frequency for all the big and small cats besides the cheetah
was 25 Hz or 50 Hz, the same frequencies that are optimal for bone growth or repair, although cats seem to be able
to ramp up the range to 140 Hz.
In their paper, presented at an International Conference on Low Frequency Noise and Vibration in Bristol, the UK, in 2006,
the North Carolina researchers said, these various purr frequencies exactly "correspond to vibrational/electrical
frequencies used in treatment for bone growth/fractures, pain, edema, muscle growth/strain, joint flexibility, dyspnea, and wounds."
Studies show that frequencies of 25 and 50 hertz promote bone strength by 20 per cent and stimulate fractions to heal faster.
Other low frequencies help to heal muscles and alleviate acute and chronic pain, heal wounds, repair tendons, make joints more mobile,
and even aid and regulate breathing.
So, the researchers wondered, is purring some sort of in-built frequency modulator to aid self-healing, the reason for the ancient adage that
"cats always land on their feet?"
Researchers from New York's Animal Medical Center examined this phenomenon "what vets call 'high-rise syndrome' - by studying 132 cats who'd fallen at least five and a half stories from high-rise buildings. Although the cats had all manner of trauma, contusions and fractures, emergency treatment was required for less than a third of the cats, mostly for shock and trauma to the chest. Another third had simple non-emergency care and the final third, nothing at all. Astonishingly, 90 per cent of the treated cats survived their gigantic fall.
Another old adage from vets is, "Put a cat in a room with a bunch of broken bones and the bones will heal." Although cats get osteoarthritis, they don't have the high level of lameness that dogs do. In one recent study in Veterinary Record, nearly a third of cats had signs of degenerative joint disease, and 16 per cent had joint osteoarthritis. Nevertheless, of 218 cats, only six had clinical signs of lameness. Cats also rarely suffer from many bone illnesses, like bone cancer.
Problems after surgery also occur far less in cats than according to one study, where dogs had problems 19 per cent of the time, and cats only 12 per cent.
"By changing the frequency of their purring, cats may be fine-tuning their healing abilities," said Williams.
Better than Reiki
I shared this story with Sharyn, my production editor for What Doctors Don't Tell You, who is also a Reiki practitioner and an ardent cat lover. Sharyn's cat Egg loves heights and has no fear of falling. Twice she fell off her balcony two stories to the ground, after which she began to limp on both front paws. Sharyn gave her Reiki three times.
"She just curled up and purred away happily," Sharyn wrote me. "Her limping cleared within days. And here I thought I had healed Egg's limping with my Reiki!"
The interesting question is what this means for we humans when we're in close proximity to cats. Williams claims to know people who say they rid themselves of migraines by lying down right next to a purring cat.
Sharyn says she noticed something else strange. "When either of the cats rests on or near my wristwatch for at least a half hour - say when watching TV - my watch has stopped. I wonder if it has to do with an electromagnetic-field-cancelling effect, which somehow can also interfere with watches, in my case a self-winding one?
Maybe felines were put on this earth to remind us of what to do when the going gets tough: just put your lips together and ... purr!