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ShadesOfMe
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14 Jul 2009, 2:19 am

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8147566.stm

Quote:
Cat owners may have suspected as much, but it seems our feline friends have found a way to manipulate us humans.

Researchers at the University of Sussex have discovered that cats use a "soliciting purr" to overpower their owners and garner attention and food.

Unlike regular purring, this sound incorporates a "cry", with a similar frequency to a human baby's.

The team said cats have "tapped into" a human bias - producing a sound that humans find very difficult to ignore.

Dr Karen McComb, the lead author of the study that was published in the journal Current Biology, said the research was inspired by her own cat, Pepo.

"He would wake me up in the morning with this insistent purr that was really rather annoying," Dr McComb told BBC News.
Larry the cat
Impossible to resist: cats use sounds that humans are "highly sensitive" to

"After a little bit of investigation, I discovered that there are other cat owners who are similarly bombarded early in the morning."

While meowing might get a cat expelled from the bedroom, Dr McComb said that this pestering purr often convinced beleaguered pet lovers to get up and fill their cat's bowl.

To find out why, her team had to train cat owners to make recordings of their own cats' vocal tactics - recording both their "soliciting purrs" and regular, "non-soliciting" purrs.

"When we played the recordings to human volunteers, even those people with no experience of cats found the soliciting purrs more urgent and less pleasant," said Dr McComb.

How annoying?

She and her team also asked the volunteers to rate the different purrs - giving them a score based on how urgent and pleasant they perceived them to be.

"We could then relate the scores back to the specific purrs," explained Dr McComb. "The key thing (that made the purrs more unpleasant and difficult to ignore) was the relative level of this embedded high-frequency sound."

Stan the cat
They learn how to do this, and then they do it quite deliberately
Karen McComb
University of Sussex

"When an animal vocalises, the vocal folds (or cords) held across the stream of air snap shut at a particular frequency," explained Dr McComb. The perceived pitch of that sound depends on the size, length and tension of the vocal folds.

"But cats are able to produce a low frequency purr by activating the muscles of their vocal folds - stimulating them to vibrate," explained Dr McComb.

Since each of these sounds is produced by a different mechanism, cats are able to embed a high-pitched cry in an otherwise relaxing purr.

"How urgent and unpleasant the purr is seems to depend on how much energy the cat puts into producing that cry," said Dr McComb.

Previous studies have found similarities between a domestic cat's cry and the cry of a human baby - a sound that humans are highly sensitive to.

Dr McComb said that the cry occurs at a low level in cats' normal purring. "But we think that (they) learn to dramatically exaggerate it when it proves effective in generating a response from humans."

She added that the trait seemed to most often develop in cats that have a one-on-one relationship with their owners.

"Obviously we don't know what's going on inside their minds," said Dr McComb. "But they learn how to do this, and then they do it quite deliberately."

So how does Dr McComb feel about Pepo now she knows he has been manipulating her all these years?

"He's been the inspiration for this whole study, so I'll forgive him - credit where credit's due."


*looks warily at my cat*



OddFinn
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14 Jul 2009, 3:47 am

I am glad my cats have learned to communicate with me.


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Vanilla_Slice
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14 Jul 2009, 4:26 am

My cat Rosco doesn't talk too much but he's my best friend. He's also a four-legged alarm clock and wakes me up at dawn every day 8O

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activebutodd
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14 Jul 2009, 8:09 am

Ha ha, tell me something I don't know! :cat:
A cat I used to feed while his owner was out used to visit a lot, and make a sort of baby gurgle kind of meow.



Bonny
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14 Jul 2009, 9:28 am

My cat has been told, "i don't want more babies." But he is an accurate rescue alarm when i have slept past the electric one and so scores more little thank yous. I appreciate his working attitude, but mabye I just being socially naive. Yet again!



Ebonwinter
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14 Jul 2009, 9:30 am

My cat never purrs



Tomasu
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14 Jul 2009, 9:57 am

^^ I am very sorry if I am horrible, however I personally feel that this report is perhaps rather biased against kitties. I believe that this report suggests that human babies manipulate their parents by crying when they wish for food, and this conclusion follows directly from what is said about kitties (Also, I find the term "owner" in this case a very naughty term"). The phrase that is put into use, "a way to manipulate us humans", I also find rather naughty. I do not believe I associate myself with the author of this report, simply due to the fact that he is human (I am very sorry if this is confusing, I am reffering to the term "us" used within the statement).
^^ I believe I very much agree with OddFinn as I am very happy that Nell and Plato, my kitties are happy to communicate with me. I am sorry if I have been rather horrible, it is but that I become rather frustrated when such studies disrespect non-humans so great an amount.
^^ However thank you veyr much ShadesOfMe for posting this. ^^ I certainly believe that the mechanism described that allows kitties to purr was very interesting indeed.



sartresue
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14 Jul 2009, 10:09 am

The cat's meow (purr) topic

My cat is more NT than AS, and now I suspect there are many closet NT cats! 8O

They have learned from dogs. :(


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activebutodd
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14 Jul 2009, 10:46 am

Tomasu wrote:
^^ I am very sorry if I am horrible, however I personally feel that this report is perhaps rather biased against kitties. I believe that this report suggests that human babies manipulate their parents by crying when they wish for food, and this conclusion follows directly from what is said about kitties (Also, I find the term "owner" in this case a very naughty term"). The phrase that is put into use, "a way to manipulate us humans", I also find rather naughty. I do not believe I associate myself with the author of this report, simply due to the fact that he is human (I am very sorry if this is confusing, I am reffering to the term "us" used within the statement).
^^ I believe I very much agree with OddFinn as I am very happy that Nell and Plato, my kitties are happy to communicate with me. I am sorry if I have been rather horrible, it is but that I become rather frustrated when such studies disrespect non-humans so great an amount.
^^ However thank you veyr much ShadesOfMe for posting this. ^^ I certainly believe that the mechanism described that allows kitties to purr was very interesting indeed.


Don't worry, the article shows just how smart kitties are! :D



Michjo
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14 Jul 2009, 10:54 am

Of course the cats are manipulating their owners for food... children, and people in general are just as manipulative.



Locustman
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14 Jul 2009, 11:02 am

That doesn't surprise me at all. Another thing my cat does in the morning when he wants me to feed him is to open his mouth but not maiow at all - the impression I'm supposed to receive being that he's so weak from hunger he can't even speak! This despite the fact that I feed him twice a day and that he's a very healthy weight.



dustintorch
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14 Jul 2009, 11:24 am

I've know for years that I'm just a puppet for my cat to control... I wouldn't have it any other way.



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14 Jul 2009, 11:36 am

My cats are more direct they go to the bowl look sad meow in a sad sort of way then come back and kiss my feet. It's when my black siamese mix Cleo wants under the covers that I find annoying as she'll wake me by poking me with her paw and breathing hard on my face until I give in. My other girl Mia a orange tabby who howls at the top of the stairs at night when she wants someone to go play with her or she thinks we've left her home alone with her sister. But I'm happy that cats have found away to get their points across to us dense humans. :)



Trystania
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15 Jul 2009, 3:10 am

Locustman wrote:
Another thing my cat does in the morning when he wants me to feed him is to open his mouth but not maiow at all - the impression I'm supposed to receive being that he's so weak from hunger he can't even speak! This despite the fact that I feed him twice a day and that he's a very healthy weight.


Lol aww what a little character. I've always had a soft spot for rascals :lol:
My kitten is 11 weeks old and is already so spoiled. I adore her.



phil777
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15 Jul 2009, 10:05 am

Well, we have 3 cats and my mom is at their beck and call..... She even goes after them when we walk the dg out in the park because she's soooo afraid they'll be lost (even though said park is directly linked to our home...) . Oh and huh... Babies are manipulative, it's a "defense" mechanism meant to force us to keep em ^.- I can't remember the details, but it creates a chemical substance in the brain that makes us fawn over them. And that's true for every other animal babies btw. If you don't believe me, go watch baby seals and tell me they don't have that "cute" look that makes you want to protect them. <.<



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16 Jul 2009, 11:14 pm

i posted a response earlier, but something happened to it. probably fortunate, since it was ridiculous.

in defense of purring to get food: i'm not so sure it's unreasonable. imagine being dependent on some large, unpredictable being for your basic needs. humans do this too, in a way. i mean, imagine being rude to someone who's interviewing you for a job. in general, people try to be friendly in those situations. maybe it's our equivalent of purring to be fed.


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