Purring isn’t just for cats. Several other species are also thought to make the same soothing sound.
Cats, being the best-known purrers and frequently underfoot, are the most observed. They are believed to purr to express pleasure and to soothe themselves when they are stressed or in pain. Purring is a form of communication, not a reflex, as my dear departed cat Howard demonstrated: when he wanted the attention of someone far away from him, he purred louder. He also turned the volume up when, at dawn each morning, he stuck his nose in my sleeping husband’s ear and purred his insistence that it was time for breakfast.
Newborn kittens purr to communicate with their mother. They are born deaf and blind, so they use vibratory purrs to let mom know where they are and to find her.
Being around a purring cat is good for humans’ health. It has been shown to decrease stress and even strengthen bones.
Whether other species purr for the same reasons isn’t clear, but they are all nice to listen to.
Gorillas have big purrs to go with their size. In this video (well, this photograph with a soundtrack), Koko demonstrates her happy sound.
2. Ring-Tailed Lemurs
Raccoons have lovely loud purrs, and they have got stamina. Watch these two purr for three and a half minutes straight:
5. Guinea Pigs
Happy guinea pigs purr much like cats. Beware if their purr rises to a high register and the animal seems tense, because that may signal “annoyance, fear or confusion.”
Turn the volume up around 0:24 on this clip to hear a squirrel purr.
At about 0:42 in the video below, there is a noise like a motor starting. That is an elephant purring.
Scientists say that this rumbling vocalization doesn’t require muscle control and so is fundamentally different from cat purrs. It still sounds great. You can hear more elephant purring by clicking on the second audio file in Time Magazine’s article on the subject.
Photo credit: Thinkstock/iStock