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Why and how do cats purr?

What's behind a cat purr? Read on for two explanations from the experts.

Experts disagree on the hows and whys of a cat purr. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Experts disagree on the hows and whys of a cat purr.

Experts cannot agree on how or why cats purr, or on where the sound originates. Some think that the purr is produced by the vibration of blood in a large vein in the chest cavity. Where the vein passes through the diaphragm, the muscles around the vein contract, nipping the blood flow and setting up oscillations. These sounds are magnified by the air in the bronchial tubes and the windpipe.

Others think that purring is the vibrations of membranes, called false vocal cords, located near the vocal cords. No one knows for sure why a cat purrs, but many people interpret the sound as one of contentment.

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