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.