What Purring Does
There’s more to purring than we think. Cats purr when they are content, when they are giving birth, when injured, and when stressed. It helps their healing and it may also help ours.
Cat owners already know that a purring moggie on the knee relaxes them and makes them feel better, but even cat lovers probably don’t know just how helpful their purring pussies may be.
We know the value of pets as companions and for relief of stress, anxiety and depression, but now science is finding that cats are important in another way for human health and wellbeing. Purring can actually help to strengthen our bones.
Studies for years have shown that vibrations or energy currents in the range of 20-50 (cycles per second) stimulates bone growth, heals fractures faster, heals muscles and rebuilds and strengthens bones.
Vibrators for Stronger Bones in Humans
For some years low frequency mechanical vibration has been used in sports medicine and gyms around the world, especially for injuries in athletes and to combat musculoskeletal problems. It has been used since the eighties for pain, with good results. The dominant frequency of a cat’s purr is 25-50 Hz – the most effective frequency for promoting bone growth and repair.
Recent studies suggest that exposure to similar sound frequencies can improve bone density in humans. Scientific teams researching sound treatment hope that it can halt osteoporosis and renew bone growth in post-menopausal women.
They are testing cats purring and mechanical vibrators to try and strengthen the bones of elderly people unable to exercise. Weight bearing exercises like walking, jumping, dancing or using weights creates muscle action pulling on bone, thus stimulating bone growth. This type of exercise is not always possible for the elderly.
Research on Vibration and Purring for Bone Health
National Geographic reported a study in 2001 about chickens being placed on a vibrating plate for twenty minutes a day and growing stronger bone.
Dr. David Purdie from Hull University’s Centre for Metabolic Bone Disease reported that the human skeleton needs stimulation or it begins to leak calcium and weaken.
He said that it was often difficult to devise physical exercises for old people suffering from osteoporosis, and speculated that it might be possible to create a mechanism using cat’s purring to help strengthen elderly bones.
Clinton T. Rubin, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Biotechnology, Distinguished SUNY Professor, and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at State University New York Stony Brook, has developed a vibrating device that assists bone healing and prevents bone loss.
He is also working with NASA in an effort to prevent loss of bone mass, which happens quickly to astronauts while in space, where there is no gravity and therefore no weight bearing stress on the body.
His vibration machine has already been successfully evaluated in several studies here on earth and is currently being used to prevent osteoporosis. Who knows, we may even someday see cats heading into space!
Cats Purr for Healing and Building Bone
Almost all big cats in the world, apart from tigers, purr, and studies on lemurs have shown that they often break bones but rarely die of their fractures. Similar to the use of ultrasound as a treatment in humans, certain sound waves created at a particular frequency triggers the healing process in cats.
Common house cats can fall from great heights and break many bones, yet recover quickly, and it’s not just their proverbial nine lives that helps them to survive. The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported on a study of 132 cats who fell an average of 5.5 stories from high rise apartments. 90% of them survived, including one who fell forty five stories !
Cats purr when they are wounded and the purring heals and even mends broken bones. The purring is a natural way of increasing strength and decreasing healing time.
Consistent exercise is vital for bone strength and, as all cat owners know, cats sleep quite a lot, as do lions, tigers and all wild cats. Studies suggest that purring is an evolutionary feline mechanism which stimulates bone growth during rest and acts as an internal vibrational therapeutic system, providing pain relief and healing while the animal rests.
Other Values of Purring for Health
Some studies suggest that purring may also help with healing muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries, in fact any type of joint injury, wound healing, infections, pain relief and even chronic pulmonary disease, in cats and possibly in humans. Some websites now carry purring CDs for human health
Osteoporosis is common and forecast to become even more common over the next decade as more of us age and live longer, so anything that helps to strengthen bones is good news.
Future doctors may diagnose low bone density and prescribe “more calcium rich foods, more weight-bearing exercises, more sunlight/vitamin D …and get yourself a cat.”
Or the doctor may prescribe 20 minutes a day on the vibrator.
Dogs have long been known as man’s best friend but they’d better be careful. Unless they start purring soon, they’re likely to be replaced.