Q&A: Why and how do cats purr?

Q. How would I deal with a cat involved in a road accident

A. The actions you take in the first few minutes can make all the difference. Firstly remain calm, not only for your own sake but for the sake of your wounded companion. Approach the injured cat quietly and avoid sudden movements. Assess the situation before acting as injured animals are frightened and in pain and may try to bite, scratch and claw anyone who touches them. Treatment can usually be provided more quickly if the cat is taken to a surgery, rather than calling the vet to your home. All cats who have been hit by a car should have a vet check as internal injuries are not always self evident.

Your first priority at the accident scene is to move the animal out of harm’s way. Be gentle in your actions and speak in a calm, soothing voice when addressing her or anyone in the vicinity. Move the cat to the side of the road without further injury by gently sliding her onto a coat, towel or piece of cardboard, and pull her off the road. If you don’t have anything at hand and you have to carry her, be as gentle as possible. The best way of lifting an injured cat is to put one hand under the chin on the front of the chest and the other behind the hind legs. The cat may have fractures including damage to the spine, so any movement can make things worse.

When transporting to the vet, place the cat in a secure container like a cat basket. If the cat is unconscious, keep her warm in a blanket with her head tilted downwards in case she vomits. Notify the veterinarian that you are on your way. If you need to travel quite a distance to your veterinarian, it is best to notify him about the situation so that he can be prepared on your arrival.

There are also a few actions you can take to ensure that the cat has the best chance of survival. If she is conscious she will probably be in shock. Stop any noticeable bleeding. Place clean cloths over the wounds where there is a lot of blood. Pressure applied to the cloths will slow the bleeding. If there is bone protruding from the wound, pack a cloth around the protruding bone and apply light pressure to the area to hold the cloth in place. If the cat is on her feet but seems to have a broken limb, the limb will be misshapen or the animal will refuse to put weight on it and leave it hanging limp. If the cat is unconscious, check for a heartbeat before starting artificial respiration (AR).

Small animal veterinarian


Q. Why and how do cats purr?

Purring is part of every cat’s repertoire of social communication, apparently created by the movement of air in spasms through contractions of the diaphragm. The purr comes from two membrane folds called false vocal cords that are situated in the larynx behind the actual vocal cords. Cats purr both when inhaling and exhaling, keeping the mouth completely closed. Cats purr 26 cycles per second, the same as an idling diesel engine. Cat purrs will range from a deep rumble to a raspy, broken sound, to a high-pitched trill, depending on the physiology and/or the mood of a cat. A cat will often wind down when going to sleep, with a long purring sigh that drops melodically from a high to a low pitch. Kittens begin purring at about one week old. It is a signal to the mother cat that they are getting milk and are content. Since purring is non-vocal, it does not interfere with the suckling.

Normally purring is associated with a happy cat, but they do not only purr for pleasure. A deep purr can indicate that a cat is in pain or distress. Female cats will purr when in labour. The domesticated cat can purr for hours. Big African cats only purr in short bursts.



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