• How do cats purr?

    Mark Mikhalev
    Mark Mikhalev
    March 28, 2013
    How do cats purr?

    Cats are the oldest and most common pet in human culture, along with dogs. For centuries, people kept cats at home, we all love cats, and we all like the way cats purr. Cats can make 16 different sounds, but cats are the only animals that can make this charming sound.

    However, despite the long presence of cats in our lives, we still do not know what cats purr. Initially, it was assumed that the purring is made by oscillations of the diaphragm and vocal cords. Later, false vocal cords, two folds below the main vocal cords, were found in the larynx, and it was suggested that they were the source of these sounds. And that was partly true.

    The true nature of purring in cats lies in another anatomical feature of these unique animals. As it turned out, in some small representatives of the cat family, the hyoid bones are ossified to the ability to resonate from the vibration of false vocal cords.These bones link the base of the tongue to the cat's skull. So, all domestic cats, servals, ocelots, lynxes, cougars and some others can purr. In larger cat species such as lions and tigers, the hyoid bones are covered with thick cartilage. The cartilage prevents the bones from resonating, however, it strengthens the animal’s vocal apparatus so much that, together with an elastic and stretching ligament in the larynx, makes it possible to make rolling growling sounds with a capacity of about 115 dB.

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