Feeds

Cats mix baby 'cry' with purr to score dinner

puurrIcanhazcheezburgerrr?

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Hungry house cats have a way of changing their purr to manipulate humans into making a dash for the can opener, a new study shows.

Karen McComb and her team of researchers from the University of Sussex say some cats mix a high-pitched cry within their purr specifically to push their owner's buttons when angling for a meal. They claim cats appear to be burying the "cry" within an otherwise pleasant purr to exploit innate tendencies humans have for nurturing offspring.

This vocal blend, which McComb calls a "solicitation purr", is hard for humans to ignore but is also less likely to get the cat ejected from the bedroom than meowing.

The researchers say a crucial factor of the noise is a high-frequency element embedded within the naturally low-pitched sound of a cat's purr.

"The embedding of a cry within a call that we normally associate with contentment is quite a subtle means of eliciting a response — and solicitation purring is probably more acceptable to humans than overt meowing."

McComb and her colleagues said they played recordings of regular and solicitation purrs to volunteers. They found even those with no experience of cats found the solicitation purrs to be "more urgent and less pleasant" than regular purring. When the team re-synthesized these purrs to remove the embedded cry, the urgency ratings for the purrs decreased significantly.

Not all cats, however, are in on the ruse: "It seems to most often develop in cats that have a one-on-one with their owners rather than in large household where there is a lot going on and such purring might get overlooked," she said. "Meowing seems to be more common in these situations."

House cats the team studied also apparently had a tendency not to perform when strangers were on the premises. "Cats exhibit this behavior in private with their owners, typically at anti-social times, such as first thing in the morning," McComb said.

"I've worked on communication and cognitive abilities in a wide range of mammals, including elephants and lions, but domestic cats were one of the most challenging subjects to date," she added.

The team's findings, The cry embedded within the purr, appear in the July 14 issue of the journal Current Biology.

Audio examples of solicitation and non-soliciation purrs are available here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.