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And why can some felines roar while others meow?

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I guess the first question to ask is: "Why do cats purr?". If I remember correctly it is not really clear, so I doubt an evolutionary mechanism for it is known. As for the roaring I suspect that size matters. –  nico Apr 5 '12 at 6:45
    
Also, are you looking for an ecological answer (as in why cats perform the action of purring), or a physiological/anatomical answer (as in why a cat's purr sounds like it does)? –  LanceLafontaine Apr 5 '12 at 17:18
    
I just think there's no purpose to purring as far as I can tell. 'meow' seems like a more valid form of communication. –  ironcyclone Apr 5 '12 at 20:43
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It makes sense that the ability to express your emotions improves the quality of the interaction you have with those around you. If a cat purrs those around it know it's feeling good, which can be useful information for future interaction.

I'm sure there have been cats who had a worse life because they didn't bond as well because they didn't purr, and consequently had a slightly lesser tendency to have their DNA end up in the next generation.

This argument goes for every ability to express emotions.

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Indeed, so I suppose that cats use purring to communicate with one another? –  ironcyclone Apr 5 '12 at 10:40
    
I would think so yes. –  Hermann Ingjaldsson Apr 5 '12 at 15:44
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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purr#Reasons lists several other possible reasons for purring. I'm not a big fan of antropomorphisation of animal habits, but I guess a clear response is still elusive in this case –  nico Apr 5 '12 at 20:06
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