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 Cats 'exploit' humans by purring

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Fo'andles
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:28 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Cheeky little devils.


Cats 'exploit' humans by purring


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.

"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."

"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."

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Roycropper
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:19 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I heard recordings on the radio of her cats.

Definitely recognised them as 'happy cat' then 'whiney cat', the sort of whiney purr that got them chucked out of the bedroom at aruond 5.30 this morning.

Cats don't have owners, they have staff.

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N N N
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:47 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Cat's should be shot on sight ... especially if they're anywhere near my roses! Grrrrrrrrrrrrr
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r2d2
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:12 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Fo'andles wrote:
it seems our feline friends have found a way to manipulate us humans.

they do say that 'dogs have masters, but cats have staff'. Smile

babies have different cries for different occasions, and i wonder which is being mimiced.
from memory they are - pain, hunger, discomfort, tiredness and boredom.

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Badgerbait
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 5:06 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

My my, cat people are sensitive...

I second that N N N...

The best are free...sans picture (which I would have edited out if asked to do so, rather than find a deleted post).

That doesn't change the fact that cats are evil and take away your breath in the night if you are not careful.

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Titania
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 12:10 am Reply with quoteBack to top

<graciously ignoring the anti-cat sentiments>

I had a cat who purred so loudly during a physical exam that the vet coudln't hear her heart beating. He said he'd never had a purring cat on his table before.

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Dorothy
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 12:19 am Reply with quoteBack to top

^^I have one of those who used to be like that too (after many many years she outgrew it)--my vet had encountered it before, and would hold her in front of the sink and turn the water on to stop her purring and check heart.

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Catcher In The Lie
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:30 am Reply with quoteBack to top

A remark I'll always remember, perhaps from here was:

Quote:
Cat's who fall from high places hide out for a while until they figure you won't laugh at them anymore, or they walk off nonchalantly as if to say I meant to do that.


Well, that's exactly what I do. Very Happy

But I love dogs and all critters as well. Always had em, always will
Very Happy

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Bombast
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:02 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I've found that it's possible to trick a cat into biting its own tail ONCE. Immediately after, the cat will pretend that its intent was to groom its tail all along. And later, they're hip to my jive and will not fall for it again.

I have two cats, and they're kind of like my children, except for the fact that I had the option of getting them fixed. And I'll never have to say, "So, you think you're tough enough to take on your old man, huh?" Laughing

On the other hand, they won't take care of me in my old age, either. Sad

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r2d2
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:09 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Titania wrote:
I had a cat who purred so loudly during a physical exam that the vet coudln't hear her heart beating. He said he'd never had a purring cat on his table before.

was that before or after he took her temperature?

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Badgerbait
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 1:22 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

^^^

Are you implying the red thermometer? (I hope I don't have to explain...)

Laughing

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Titania
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:24 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

@r2d2 - it was after the temperature. The vet figured the cat was so distressed that she was purring in an attempt to get us to treat her better.

@Bombast - my cat (the one in my avatar) "nursed" me when I came home from the hospital after my amputation. She was always in the room with me, and when I lay down on the bed to rest, she'd jump onto it and lie next to me, purring.

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frank.lester
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:35 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

slightly off topic - once my cat did teach me how to catch mice.

one day she did very importend, made sure I will follow her into the cellar, and then .. did a demonstration, showing how it is done.
partly only imaginary, hunting a shadow without real object, and at last she was quick away for 2 mins., and did bring a mouse. / true, no joke!

back to topic - and she knew how to purr.
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