We’ve always intuitively felt that a cat somehow knows when we’re not feeling well and even where it hurts. Got a headache and a cat just seems to wrap around your head. A stomach ache and a cat can’t seem to get off your abdomen. And purrs and purrs and purrs!

It was always believed that a cat’s purr was relaxing or stress reducing and that that led to any number of healthful benefits. While that may be so, science has shown that the cat’s purr is much more than just relaxing.

Science has known for many years that vibrations at specific levels or frequencies cause healing changes in the body. They can, for example, induce bone growth and regeneration. Bone fractures heal faster and weakened bones begin to strengthen and rebuild.

Also, in the higher frequency ranges, the production of the body’s own natural anti-inflammatory compounds increases thereby reducing joint pain and swelling. There is further evidence of muscle, tendon and ligament repair within these frequency ranges as well, which has led to some popularity in sports medicine and gyms around the world, especially in the former Soviet Union where so much of this research was conducted.

It was also known through various veterinary studies that cats rarely suffer bone or joint related diseases, including hip dysplasia, arthritis and ligament problems. Even bone cancers, such as myeloma or osteosarcoma, are almost unheard of in cats.

But it took researcher Elizabeth von Muggenthaler of the Fauna Communications Research Institute in North Carolina (FCRI), a specialist in the field of bioacoustics (the study of the frequency, pitch, loudness, and duration of animal sounds as it relates to the animal’s behavior) to put it all together.

Nature tends not to select traits without this evolutionary survival advantage and contentment purring just doesn’t make the grade. There had to be another reason and Muggenthaler set out to find it.

She recorded and then measured the purr of 44 felids (members of the cat family) including cheetahs, ocelots, pumas, and domestic cats. Felines, from your house pet to lions and tigers in the wild, generally purr in the range of 20 to 140 Hertz (Hz). Some are as high as 150 Hz but the average housecat comes in at about 25 and 50 Hz.

Research has already shown that exposure to frequencies at that same 20 and 50 Hz level induces increased bone density, promoted bone strength and fracture healing. There’s even a popular saying amongst veterinarians “If you put a cat and a bunch of broken bones in the same room, the bones will heal.”

There is also substantial documentation that low frequency vibration induces pain relief and healing of tendons and muscles and cats purr at those very same frequencies.

Remediation of other illnesses due to the cat’s purring ability is also being put forward. For example, respiratory problems associated with heart disease in cats are almost non-existent. In fact, respiratory problems resolve quickly once purring is activated.

In effect then, by changing the frequency of their purring, cats may be fine-tuning their healing abilities which creates this distinct evolutionary advantage.

It is this unique healing advantage that has probably given rise to the notion of cats having nine lives. They survive conditions that normally kill other animals, such as falls from heights. In a study of 132 cat falls with an average fall height of 5 ½ stories, 90% survived. The record height for a cat falling and surviving is 45 stories!

The extrapolation of this research may prove vital. Dr. Clinton Rubin in a 1999 study discovered that such frequency exposure creates the robust striations of increased bone density, suggesting applications for osteoporosis, particularly in post-menopausal women and the elderly.

But it’s the cat’s “healing by association” that most people find interesting, that ability of a cat to sympathetically help cure illnesses in people simply by being around them. Studies have also shown that owners, especially senior citizens, who have cats have lower blood pressure and can live longer than humans who don’t own pets.

Many individuals swear they can ease or completely eliminate their migraine headaches simply by lying down with a purring cat next to their head.

Can’t hit that minimum recommended daily dose of bone-enriching calcium? Maybe grabbing the nearest cat and holding it close may just prove to be the answer to brittle-bones.

Having surgery? Perhaps after coming home, keeping a cat nearby will reduce your recovery time.

So, go get a cat. Keep it happy and purring. You’re both likely to be healthier and you’ll have a great friend who truly understands how you’re feeling.

Interesting facts about the anatomy of a cat

  • Cats have 220° field of view where humans only have 180°.
  • Cats’ sense of smell is 14 times stronger than that of humans.
  • Cats have 30 permanent teeth, while adult humans have 32.
  • Cats have 30 vertebrae, while humans only have 25.
  • Cats have 230 bones in their bodies, this is 24 more than humans.
  • Cats have a body temperature of between 101 and 102.2 °F (38 and 39 °C).
  • The lifespan of cats are usually between 15 and 20 years.
  • Cats have a heart rate of between 120 – 240 beats per minute. (This varies highly between different breeds cats)
  • Cats take between 20 – 40 breaths per minute in an inactive state. (This varies highly between different breeds cats)
  • The print on a cat’s nose is like that of a fingerprint of a human, each is unique.
  • Cats have a top speed of about 30 mp/h (48.28 km/h).