The therapeutic power of a purring cat

If you love curling up with your cat, science is on your side.

Is there a more relaxing sound than your cat, curled up and cozy, purring away on your lap? If you agree, the science is on your side. Research has proven that the vibrations of a purring cat can be beneficial to their owner’s wellbeing in several different ways.

Credit: Gemma Busquets / Buy a poster version here

Sound advice

Dr. Thompson, director of the Center for Neuroacoustic Research, San Diego, has been exploring neuroacoustics and the therapeutic application of sound. Sound is crucial to the human experience and sounds can create an emotional response — the sound of the ocean can be relaxing, but the sound of cars honking in a traffic jam can be extremely stressful.

A cat’s purr vibrates within the range of 20-140 Hz, which can have many therapeutic benefits including lowering stress levels. That vibration can decrease the symptoms of dyspnea, also known as difficult or labored breathing. You can also reduce your cat’s dyspnea by stroking it — a win win situation!

The purring sound can reduce blood pressure, says the National Library of Medicine. The vibrations can help with infection and swelling. One study found that cat owners have their risk of having a heart attack reduced by 40%, while the same did not apply to dog owners. Woof.

Physical health benefits, too

Some of this may seem obvious. Sitting down and stroking a cat is of course a relaxing pastime. But a cat’s purr is beneficial on an even deeper level. The aforementioned vibration frequency can aid in joint and tendon repair, and with healing wounds. According to some anecdotal reports, putting a cat on your belly can reduce the symptoms of PMS.

The application of sound for healing has been a treatment used in different cultures throughout history. The first known people to use sound healing were the Aborigines in Australia. They used a didgeridoo — a long, man-made instrument in which a person blows air in to produce low vibrations.

Aboriginal healers would create sounds to heal ill members of their tribe. Not only did these sounds help with broken bones and muscle tears, they also stabilized individuals who were struggling with mental illness, soothing their minds and internal flow.

So, as if you needed any excuses for a snuggle with your cat, now you have a legitimate, scientific reason to cozy up.

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