Does the cat’s purr help alleviate symptoms of dyspnoea in humans?

Dyspnoea describes shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. It is claimed that listening to the cat’s purr can help alleviate the symptoms of dyspnoea. Is this correct? To answer that question, you have to dig around in scientific studies which is something people don’t really like to do because the authors use language which is unintelligible πŸ˜‰. But you need to rely on science rather than anecdotal evidence to get to the bottom of these questions.

Anyway, I dived in and discovered that scientific studies support the statement that the cat’s purr helps alleviate shortness of breath which is what cat lovers claim.

Cat's purr heals
Cat’s purr heals. Infographic from Reddit.com.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I will use non-technical language in interpreting the studies. The first study involved the purring of a wide range of cats, mainly wild cat species such as ocelots, cheetahs, pumas and servals including the domestic cat (The felid purr: A healing mechanism? – 2001).

They found that every cat in the study generated strong frequencies when they purred of between 25 and 150 Hz. They produced strong frequencies at 25 Hz and 50 Hz and there was a strong harmonic exactly at or within 2 Hz of 100 Hz. The frequencies are important in answering the question in the title because at 100 Hz the purring vibrations do the healing.

This study concluded in the summary that at these frequencies purring can be therapeutic for dyspnoea, wounds, oedema and pain. It can also help alleviate muscle strains and improve joint flexibility.

Moving onto the next study which looked at vibrations applied to the chest wall of people suffering from shortness of breath. They describe the vibrations as an “in-phase chest wall vibration”. They found that the vibrations reduced dyspnoea and that the participants breathed more efficiently when suffering from COPD. They used an ergometer (an exercise machine which allowed them to measure breathing) to conduct the tests. COPD stands for “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease”. This study is titled: Effect of chest wall vibration on dyspnea during exercise in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – 2002.

Cat purring in contentment
Cat purring in contentment. “He was purring the entire ride home” – Photo: Reddit.com

Another study on the PloS One website starts off with the words “direct chest-wall percussion can reduce breathlessness”. In other words, there are saying the same thing in that oscillations in the air can alleviate breathlessness. However, the frequency seems to be lower at 3-15 Hz. This study is titled: Inspiratory High Frequency Airway Oscillation Attenuates Resistive Loaded Dyspnea and Modulates Respiratory Function in Young Healthy Individuals.

Separately, on a slightly different but linked topic, it has been found that if you suffer from sinusitis, you can alleviate the symptoms by humming. Humming can increase air circulation and the production of nitric oxide in the nose and sinuses. Nitric oxide can have health benefits.

Interestingly, the Internet does not tell me the frequency of the human hum so I’ll make the bold assertion that it can be as 100 Hz. It has a variable frequency. This is the frequency at which purring can heal.

There will be a question mark over how effective the purring is in alleviating dyspnoea. I’ve not seen information which tells us the degree of improvement in alleviating breathlessness. I’ve just said that science supports the notion that it helps.

Clouded leopard purring
Clouded leopard purring. Screenshot.

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