A Unique Imaging Technique Reveals What a Cat's Purr Looks Like, And It's Beautiful

The mystery of why cats purr has long been debated by scientists. While we're still not sure as to the why, we can now see what a cat's purr looks like - thanks to acoustical physics research scientist Casey Attebery, AKA Mr. E-Scholar, and a special cymatic device.

Cymatics is the study of sound and vibration made visible. Cymatics uses this device as a frequency generator that uses sand, powders, or liquids to create and capture animated patterns. 

While cymatics doesn’t really ‘show’ what a cat’s purr looks like, it can create patterns using liquids activated by the resonance of a cat purring. Using a small dish of fluid attached to a speaker, Attebery is able to capture in image form the unique purrs of four cats: Fran, Yuri, Tigger and Effie.

why do cats purrA still image of cat Fran's purr.

As the vibrations from the cat purrs move the liquid, custom-colored lights illuminate and capture the movement of the liquid, and thus the ‘movement’ of the purr.  

The video below demonstrates the results of cymatics to a beautiful effect - and as a bonus, soothing cat purrs. 

Do you see any recognizable shapes in these almost psychedelic patterns?

Scientists have learned that cats purr with a consistent pattern and sound frequencies between 25 and 150 Hertz; these fluctuating frequencies provide the varying visual patterns shown in the videos.

We may not know exactly why cats purr. But we know that many species of felid produce a “purr-like” sound. And in domestic cats, the sound is most prevalent when a cat is nursing her kittens or through human social contact. 

Many cat parents may assume that a cat’s purr is a pleasure response, but did you know that cats also use purring during stressful moments, or in response to pain? Some researchers believe purring acts as a form of self-soothing - and maybe even self-healing.

Remember those 25 and 150 Hertz frequencies we mentioned earlier? Investigations have shown that frequencies in this range can "improve bone density and promote healing" as per Scientific American.

[h/t Cole and Marmalade]

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