Guardian readers give their answers to the age-old question; why do cats purr?

A quick read for your Sunday evening; the question ‘Why do cats purr’ is posed by a Guardian reader and answered by other readers, resulting in some candid, touching and eye-opening anecdotes.

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We found this comment from user maricaangela particularly true:

I think it is more than warmth, though that plays a part. Our cats are always eager for us to go to bed so they can snuggle up, whatever the temperature, though there is more incentive in the winter, but they like it in summer too. If you are lying down ill, they love the opportunity to be near you and with you, not only at night, and their purring certainly helps to calm and destress you.

The scientific explanation

This article from Mother Nature Network on why cats purr goes into more detail:

A cat’s purr begins in its brain. A repetitive neural oscillator sends messages to the laryngeal muscles, causing them to twitch at a rate of 25 to 150 vibrations per second. This causes the vocal cords to separate when the cat inhales and exhales, producing a purr.

But not all cats can purr. Domestic cats, some wild cats and their relatives — civets, genets and mongooses — purr, and even hyenas, raccoons and guinea pigs can purr. However, cats that purr can’t roar, and cats that roar can’t purr because the structures surrounding roaring cats’ larynxes aren’t stiff enough to allow purring.

What makes your cats purr? Let us know in the comments below.

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