But it turns out that it's not the comforting sound of the purr that heals, so much as the gentle vibration. Think of a purring cat as an ultrasound treatment on four feet.
Chickens, gorillas, ring-tailed lemurs, rabbits, raccoons, guinea pigs, squirrels and elephants also purr. But you probably wouldn't want to snuggle up to an elephant or gorilla when you need pain relief. That's where cats come in.
Purring For Nine Lives
Cats, she found, purr at a frequency of about 20-140 Hz, the range that promotes healing. When a cat is injured, purring can promote tissue regeneration, repair and strengthen bones and tendons, and build muscle. And that, she suggests, gives them an evolutionary healing advantage over other species and could explain the notion that they have nine lives.
It could be the healing power of the purr, along with their "righting reflex," which helps cats land on their feet when they fall, that makes it possible for many of them to survive falls from high buildings.
Cats are less prone to arthritis and lameness than other species.They rarely get bone cancer, and when they do, it's usually in their paws, where the vibrational signal from purring is weakest.
Getting Purrsonal With Your Cat
But they could. Getting up close and personal with a purring cat can...
- Strengthen bones and help fractures heal faster and cleaner.
- Help torn muscles and ligaments heal more quickly.
- Reduce the swelling of a wound, fight infection and stimulate healing.
- Relieve the symptoms of dyspnea, or shortness of breath. Since purring mimics the in-and-out of breathing, feeling the vibrations will help you breathe easy. Of course, if you're having a serious allergic reaction or other serious respiratory problem, you'll need more than cat purrs!
- Lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
As for my aching back, Katie is ready to go to work. She'll curl up against my back and purr and purr. I used to think it was her body heat that made me feel better. But now I know it's the magical power of the purr.