Cat spin: How cat talk and feel

Spinning isn’t just for your fluffy friends at home. Wild cats, like tigers and lions, along with their relatives such as hyenas, guinea pigs, raccoons, and even squirrels, also engage in this behavior. While many assume that spinning is merely a sign of comfort, recent studies reveal that it’s much more than that. Cats spin not only to convey messages but also to soothe themselves in times of stress or discomfort.

If you’ve ever owned a cat, you’re likely familiar with their habit of spinning. They spin when being petted, eating, or even dozing off. Cats don’t just spin when they’re content and secure; they also spin while tending to their kittens. Experts suggest this spinning serves as a means of communication between the mother and her young. It reassures both parties that everything is alright.

What’s less known, especially for those without feline companions, is that cats also spin when they’re in pain or facing stressful situations. Some veterinarians liken this behavior to a human fake smile during moments of nervousness. Dr. Kelly Morgan, a veterinarian, suggests that spinning might serve as a soothing gesture. It’s similar to how people laugh when they’re nervous or seeking comfort.

Previously, biologists thought the sound of spinning was caused by blood rushing through a cat’s veins. However, recent research indicates that the sound actually originates from the muscles in the larynx. When a cat prepares to hunt, its brain sends signals to the larynx and diaphragmatic muscles. These muscles then vibrate, momentarily constricting airflow before relaxing to allow free breathing. These rapid muscle movements, occurring at a rate of 25-150 vibrations per second, cause the vocal cords to briefly separate, enabling the cat to spin while breathing in and out.

While each cat spins in a similar manner, there are subtle variations in their spinning styles. Some cats may produce louder or softer spins, but they all fall under the category of “muscle tremors” rather than actual vocalizations.

But why do cats spin in the first place?

Spinning serves various purposes, including expressing comfort or discomfort and communicating with both feline and human companions. Some domestic cats develop specific spinning styles to interact with their owners, akin to a baby’s cry for attention. This behavior, known as demanding spinning, often includes vocalizations aimed at eliciting a response from their human guardians. Essentially, when a cat spins and vocalizes, it’s saying: “I need something!”

According to researchers at the University of Sussex, domestic cats can modify their spins to include a plaintive cry designed to grab human attention. This behavior taps into humans’ natural tendency to respond to crying, prompting them to address the cat’s needs. Dr. Benjamin L. Hart, a veterinarian, suggests that cats have learned how to manipulate people into providing them with care promptly.

Beyond communication, spinning also has health benefits for cats. Studies have shown that cats spin when they’re unwell or in pain, and this behavior can act as a form of physical therapy. Spinning has been linked to increased bone density and faster muscle healing in cats. Similar frequency treatments are used in humans to speed up wound healing, leading some experts to recommend spending time with cats during recovery.

Research indicates that cats can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure better than other pets. A decade-long study at the University of Minnesota found that cat owners are 40% less likely to experience a heart attack than non-cat owners, with spinning playing a significant role in this effect.

Despite its medicinal benefits, most experts agree that spinning primarily serves as a non-verbal means of communication for cats. It allows them to interact with both their feline companions and their human caregivers.

If you still prefer dogs, then you must be interested in what your dog is trying to say when they bark.

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