How science debunks the popular legend of purring cats

Like Bigfoot, ghosts, angels, gnomes, fairies, astrology, homeopathy, the Loch Ness monster and chupacabra, purring cats are a popular myth for which there is still no valid scientific evidence, after all these years, despite numerous claims by lay people.

Let us start with the basics. We have many videos of supposedly purring cats. What we don’t have, is any video that shows how the purring takes place. It could be sound that is edited in.

It could be the video was recorded by someone doing the purring himself. You don’t need any technical expertise, to producing a purring cat video. You don’t even need AI. I could produce a purring cat video, without leaving my home, or using any advanced equipment.

The videos never really show how the cat is purring. You can put purring sounds on a random cat video, it will look like the cat is purring. On the other hand, the bark of a dog, or a person talking reveals clear evidence of the animal making the sound. Supposedly, cats pur without moving their mouths. Very convenient.

Scientists have never established how a cat is supposed to pur. There are people who insist their cat will pur, but methods to achieve this pur sound differ from believer to believer. Some claim the cat will pur if it’s petted. Others claim it will pur spontaneously upon walking between their legs. Yet others claim the cat needs a blanket or a toy to start purring.

Under controlled conditions, purring by cats has never been established. Cats that are said to pur have been observed in controlled laboratory conditions with their owner present. Some still show evidence of purring. Upon the owner’s removal from the experiment however, the purring almost always seems to come to an abrupt halt and the cat shows signs of distress instead. This suggests the owner is somehow responsible for producing the purring himself.

There are no placebo-controlled peer reviewed studies that have shown evidence that cats pur. So far, the idea of purring cats remains a folk tale, a belief that has no scientific rationale or evidence in its favor whatsoever. Studies that do claim to have found evidence of purring cats tend to be published in low impact journals, by authors with poor credentials.

I have seen cases of what are said to be purring cats. I saw a cat rub against its owners legs, followed by a purring sound. However, a skeptical examination clarifies that this is not evidence of a purring cat. It’s not possible to establish clearly where the sound originates, especially as the sound consists of such low frequencies.

Does it originate from the cat itself, or from the owner’s leg? I have asked the owner to pull down her pantyhose, so I could check whether she is concealing a device that produces the sound. She refused to cooperate. I inspected the cat itself. I held its head and asked the owner to make it pur. Suddenly it would not pur, the owner claimed it could not be made to pur in this manner. It turns out the cat will only pur, under the sort of conditions where we can not PROVE that it is purring!

I began offering a one million dollar reward for anyone who can offer me evidence of a purring cat ten years ago. The challenge is very simple. Allow me to see your cat. Make it pur. Then allow me to measure where the purring comes from, just to establish it is coming from the cat. Then allow me to put a tube into the cat’s mouth and make it pur again, so I can check where the puring is exactly originating, what organ is responsible. Then allow me to euthanize and disect the cat, so we can ensure you are not engaging in a hoax, by implanting some device in your cat, or showing me an animatronic fake cat. So far, nobody has taken me up on the offer.

And if a phenomenon as bizarre like a purring cat can be claimed to exist without scientific evidence, then it can be dismissed on that same basis just as readily.

In other words, just as we can dismiss folk tales about ghosts, gnomes, fairies, bigfoot, skinwalkers, alien abductions, angels, demonic possession and witchcraft, it’s time to finally lay the folk myth of purring cats to rest. And anyone who still claims to believe in such a thing as a purring cat, is not someone I would trust when it comes to medicine, politics, or any other major responsibility over other people’s lives.

12 Comments

    • Yeah that’s a topic that deserves some clarification. I’m perfectly aware of the limitations of the scientific method.

      I’m also perfectly aware there are situations imaginable where despite its limitations we have no better option available than to trust on it.

      Imagine my son has a weird bump on his throat. I don’t think much of it, but then he says he feels feverish a lot. And he just looks sickly to me, not like how I remember him.

      I take him to a doctor, who tells me he has thyroid cancer and needs immediate treatment. The treatment is costly, it will take me and my son a lot of time, he’ll have to visit a hospital on the other side of the country a lot. To make matters worse, the radioactive iodine used to treat him will contaminate our house. It might very well damage my own thyroid.

      I don’t like the sound of it, so I take him to another doctor, who says the same thing. And then I take him to another doctor, who also says the same thing.

      In total I visit a hundred doctors.

      Ninety doctors say my son has thyroid cancer and needs immediate treatment. They have run a variety of tests, they’ve checked his blood values, others had photos taken of his thyroid, yet others just look at the symptoms and yet another claims it could be related to his mother being in Fukushima during the meltdown of the power plant. But based on the very different lines of evidence they check, they come to the same conclusion.

      Now there are two doctors, who say my son has thyroid cancer, but it looks benign to them. Based on their interpretation of the literature, the thyroid cancer may soon just regress on its own, the risk of death is very low and the damage from the treatment, both to my son and myself, just isn’t justified.

      There is also a doctor who claims my son doesn’t have thyroid cancer. He has a goiter, needs to eat some seaweed and the problem will be over. Another doctor claims my son actually just has a congenital birth defect that makes his thyroid look weird, which is remarkable, but harmless.

      There are also three doctors who say my son has thyroid cancer and rather than giving him radioactive iodine, they suggest just surgically removing a part of the thyroid.

      There is one doctor who has taken a lot of LSD in the past. He thinks the thyroid cancer exists in a quantum superposition, where it only exists because I believe in it and fear it. And through the power of positive thinking, by cutting through the invisible barriers in my mind, by eliminating all the fear propaganda I am exposed to, my son will just turn out fine.

      Finally, there are two doctors who feel very sorry for me, but say there simply isn’t anything we can do. My son has thyroid cancer and I am a bad father, because I waited for weeks with taking him to the doctor. They’re pretty sure by now the cancer has metastasized and there isn’t really a point anymore to any of these treatments, I should just try to enjoy the time I have left with him.

      I’m not really in a good relationship with my ex-wife, the child’s mother. I talk to her on the phone, try to convince her our son has thyroid cancer and needs to be treated. She thinks I listened to the liberal media too much, who also promoted the failed vaccine.

      I tell her that has nothing to do with thyroid cancer, which has been regularly treated with radioactive iodine for decades. She tells me I’m brainwashed and the doctors just found a good cash crop: They treat my son with radioactive iodine, then I get thyroid cancer from being exposed to the radioactive iodine used to treat my son.

      I tell her: LOOK, OUR SON IS GOING TO DIE IF WE CAN’T COME TO AN AGREEMENT ON THIS PROBLEM. I KNOW YOU HATE ME, I KNOW WE DISAGREE ON JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING. BUT YOU HAVE TO TRUST ME ON THIS MATTER. PLEASE.

      But she won’t have it. She won’t consent. And we both need to consent, to treat our son. Otherwise the judge will have to intervene and we just don’t have that sort of time.

      And so I meet up with my wife, we bring the grandparents too.

      I try to convince her that we have to do this. I tell her I visited a hundred doctors, to make sure.

      And then my dad opens his mouth:

      “Oh the 97% argument. Yeah, heard that one before. It’s actually more like 70%. If you visited a hundred doctors, you would find that seventy think you need to treat the thyroid cancer with iodine. There is no consensus.”

      “You’re not helping dad.” I respond.

      Then my father in law begins.

      “So why aren’t you looking into the doctor who says its goitre. Have you consider that? Just feeding your son some more seaweed, then looking to see whether the swelling goes away.”

      “And if he’s wrong, it will probably be too late to treat your grandchild, it will have spread throughout his body. Or they may have to remove his whole thyroid after all.” I respond.

      “Yeah but you could at least seriously listen to his argument.” He answers.

      “Yeah but this isn’t some abstract intellectual exercise. We have to make the right decision here, with limited time and knowledge, or my son dies.” I respond.

      “You’re sounding alarmist and hysterical again, just like you usually do.” My mom begins.

      “Yes mom. I’m being alarmist, because we need to be alarmed. My son is sick and if we don’t give him the proper treatment, he will die.”

      “You’re saying he will die, as if it is a certainty if he’s not treated.” My mother in law starts.

      “You can be pretty sure the result will be catastrophic yes.” I respond.

      “So you’re saying you’re a 100% sure he’ll be dead in a year, if he’s not treated?” She responds.

      “No. But they told me there’s a 90% chance he’ll be dead in five years.” I answer.

      “Based on what information?” She asks.

      “Previous cases in people and extrapolations.” I respond.

      “Ah, so it’s all models. Well the models are as good as the data that goes in. Shit goes in, shit comes out.” My mother in law says.

      “Yes that’s a fine thing to keep in mind. But we’re working with the best information we have, in an effort to KEEP MY SON ALIVE.”

      “There you go again with the emotional rhetoric.” My mom interjects.

      And so my ex-wife, who hears all of this, decides that I’m wrong again. She refuses to consent. She thinks it’s just not settled yet that our son has thyroid cancer and needs to be treated. It could be something entirely different and before we damage his thyroid, she’d rather be absolutely sure and check whether he gets better or not.

      I call her a week later, hoping she changed her mind, but to no avail. I start looking for a lawyer, I begin preparing for the court case. But in the meantime, our son gets sicker. And after a month he looks so bad, my ex-wife agrees he needs treatment after all.

      By now the doctor we needed turns out to be on sick leave. It takes another week before our son can finally be seen.

      And the doctor who sees him has bad news:

      “You should have come to me earlier.”

      • Looking at previous data – or rather making correct predictions in the past about data that would be collected in the future – is the scientific method. Since there are a lot of people, and many people have died of cancer, it has been possible to make scientific cancer treatments.

        Direct climate observations have a granularity of 10-20yr, so there are few of them, and one or none from after current computer models were produced. Climate predictions are not scientitic (note, that doesnt mean the same as that theyre wrong or that their probability of being correct is zero, it just means the scientific method does not apply).

  1. I have had several cats and I can not agree more, purring cats is a myth.
    It was first introduced in the late 1880s by a certain H P Blavatsky and was indeed a very sophisticated way to make us want to pay higher taxes. The myth started to be widely spread around the founding of the Federal reserve by Gods chosen people.
    By the way JFK figured this out and the rest is history.

  2. There is no good enough evidence cats pur, we need more data. I am science and you need to use this medical device in order to receive the correct dose of low frequency vibrations, scientifically developed by Pfizer and approved by the CDC. For your protection.

  3. I have come to the point where I quite literally hate and do not believe in science.

    So many scenarios I’ve been through during the course of my decade of professional involvement in science, a subspecialty of which I have a terminal degree and postgraduate training in, have led me to the position that you just cannot trust large groups of humans with data. They will mismeasure it, measure the wrong stuff, measure it with the wrong rationale in mind, report the data only if it complies with their biases, misinterpret well measured data, and then stack misinterpretations of data in layers like a masturbatory game of telephone.

    I’ve set science aside in favor of primitive superstition, because at least superstition requires no centralized intermediates.

    I for example superstitiously believe forests are good and dense human settlements are bad, and that there’s good magic in a diet of plants and a little bit of fish. I believe you should grow all of your food if possible because there’s an evil ghost in big corporations and the minorities they employ that will contaminate your spirit of you use their products.

    Via superstition I end up at basically the same place you end up, but with far less exposure to soy children and their lies.

    I’ve come to live by the principle that it’s much better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.

  4. Just for the dimwit LSWMs among us, I will point out the obvious: “purring cats” is a metaphor for “climate change”.
    Am I too sane to comment here?

    • >Just for the dimwit LSWMs among us, I will point out the obvious: “purring cats” is a metaphor for “climate change”.

      No, it isn’t. You’re seeing what you want to see.

      • >No, it isn’t.
        Sorry about that. This was the line that got me concluding that this was pure satire – no cat owner would be so batshit crazy:
        “Then allow me to euthanize and dissect the cat … so far, nobody has taken me up on the offer.”

  5. LSWF Michael E Mann’s crime in the Global Warming swindle was in altering temperature data to show warming when there was none, and you bought it. Physionomy is real.

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The patients in the mental ward have had their daily dose of xanax and calmed down it seems, so most of your comments should be automatically posted again. Try not to annoy me with your low IQ low status white male theories about the Nazi gas chambers being fake or CO2 being harmless plant food and we can all get along. Have fun!

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