Feeds

Cats mix baby 'cry' with purr to score dinner

puurrIcanhazcheezburgerrr?

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.