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Imperative Purring

From the BBC, 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.

“Soliciting” ? I think not. It’s imperative. Just try ignoring it at 5AM and the outraged meow will follow.


1 Jack K., the Grumpy Forester { 07.13.09 at 11:26 pm }

…actually, around Rancho Grumpy, the 5 AM purring and subsequent angry ‘meow’ is usually followed by an assisted trip out the front door. That’s when I’m getting up to get ready for work; feeding cats is only listed in my job description under the heading of “When Mrs. Jack K. Is Out Of Town”, coupled with the stipulation that I haven’t been stirred awake by being walked all over at some point – or multiple points – during the night. I’m not a ‘cat guy’, so a Mrs. Jack K. business trip accompanied by one or more interruptions to my beauty sleep make a 5 AM “Feed Me” demand a really dicey proposition, if you are the cat…

2 Kryten42 { 07.13.09 at 11:28 pm }

Ahh yes!! How true! Hell… They coulda slung me the money they spent on research and I’d have written that report. LOL

From my own personal experience of several different cat breeds, purebred Siamese have the sound down perfectly! I had neighbors wondering a few times whose baby was in my house when I had a pair of Siamese siblings. 😐 😆 The calico was also very good at it. I had a fierce little gray striped cat that didn’t bother with making sounds, she found claws to be more effective. Quietest cat I ever had, I just needed to ensure stock of bandaids and dettol was kept up. Bloody cat’s! *sigh* (I miss her actually. When she wasn’t trying to draw a pint of blood, she was quite a sweetie. Really!)

3 Bryan { 07.13.09 at 11:50 pm }

They need to establish the rapport first, Jack, otherwise they are just being annoying, which is another cat trait directed towards non-cat people. I had a cat that would hide if a “cat person” entered the house, but was instantly in view is someone who didn’t like cats showed up, just to be aggravating.

Siamese probably have the largest repertoire of vocalizations among the breeds, and the volume to go along with it.

Fortunately among my crew a damp nose applied to any exposed skin is the alert method of choice.

4 Steve Bates { 07.13.09 at 11:56 pm }

Well, duh!

Samantha has a tiny “mew” and very seldom purrs. OTOH, she is aggressively friendly, head-butts frequently, loves firm strokes along her back, and seldom causes trouble around the house. Tabitha meows loudly and (in the middle of the night) nearly ceaselessly, but she also purrs every second she’s near us and not meowing. Both have developed sound-based strategies for making us love them even at their most unlovable. U. of Sussex needed a study to tell us that?

5 Bryan { 07.14.09 at 12:23 am }

Well, they have oscilloscope graphing and audio recordings along with a footnoted report and tables of numbers. This was serious work to find out cats have staff. We would never have considered doing all that to prove something everyone with a cat already knows, which is why we aren’t in academia any longer.

You probably need a musician’s ear to even notice the secondary cry that is mixed with the purring, although you might pick it up if you were adjusting equipment sound levels with an o-scope to set up filters for recording in an urban environment.

Anyone who has ever spent any time in a dairy barn knows that cows pass gas from both ends, but it takes scientific research to determine the types of gases, and the volume. This was silly at the time, but has turned out to be significant in the production of greenhouse gases, as well as bad jokes on the floor of Congress.

OTOH, everyone assumed that heavier objects fell faster than light objects until it was tested.

The real question is: does each cat have to come up with this solution on their own, or are they communicating this though a cat network?

We should be paying closer attention to telephone usage and ‘Net connections.

6 Jim Bales { 07.14.09 at 9:53 am }

Bryan, you may need to listen a little more closely, as it actually isn’t an outraged “meow”. Careful research has shown that the entire vocabulary of cats consists of a single word — in English, no less! What your cats are saying is a drawn-out rendition of the word “NOW!” 😉

7 cookie jill { 07.14.09 at 11:30 am }

Spider insists on watching MSNBC show.

.-= ´s last blog ..Happy Bastille Day! =-.

8 Bryan { 07.14.09 at 12:51 pm }

Well, Jim, I wish they would enunciate. Of course, they do have a drawl.

Jill, Spider looks like the Food Network takes precedence over MSNBC.

9 SSG { 07.14.09 at 2:17 pm }

I had a black cat who had quite the voice. He made the oddest sounds, sometimes, including one that was very nearly a bark, usually when running through the house like a streak and playing.

My current cat can holler up a storm when he wants to, but he prefers to lick me-elbows, fingers, legs and face.

10 Bryan { 07.14.09 at 5:36 pm }

They seem to imitate other animals at times, as well as finding their own “voice”. The Korat genes among my crew leads to chirping, while my older cats “speak” standard “cat” with normal purring and meowing.

My grey tabby meows, but you have to be looking at her to know it. She moves her mouth in a meow, but the sound is so muted you have to be next to her head to hear it. Her mother, Ringo, on the other hand, provides a running commentary of chirps whenever she is actively doing anything other than eating.

11 cookie jill { 07.14.09 at 7:05 pm }

Bryan – Spider is constantly complaining how she is starved day and night by her furless captors.
.-= ´s last blog ..Happy Bastille Day! =-.

12 hipparchia { 07.14.09 at 8:53 pm }

mine get fed once daily, near bedtime, so i can get a chance to fall asleep before they start midnight racing around the house. i fill up the food bowls with dry cat food and put out the special yummy wet food at the same time.

curmudgeon cat dispenses with the purring entirely and goes right to the demanding now!, sometimes varied to yow!, while all the others have nearly inaudible purrs, and all but two of them have tiny little mews and chirps.

so how do you tell it’s feeding time at chez hipparchia if [almost] all of them are marcel marceau impersonators? easy, follow the sound of 48 galloping feet and the cacophony of thuds and clangs and splashes as 12 cats try to fit themselves into 2 square feet of space [half occupied by stainless steel food and water bowls] at top speed, from all corners of the universe, all at the same time.

i can tell when mine are doing their imperative purr though, even if i can’t hear them, from the particular expressions on their faces.
.-= ´s last blog ..fizzickz lab =-.

13 Bryan { 07.14.09 at 8:54 pm }

Yeah, right. You can see how many meals Spider hasn’t missed in that picture as she melts onto the cookbook.

14 Bryan { 07.14.09 at 9:09 pm }

Well, it’s not like they would bother with anything other than the absolute minimum to get what they want.

[Oooff! Income and Excise just hit the back of the chair as a game of tag has started.]

Sox provides dinner “music” in his tenor that can be heard over a gas leaf blower, so anything else would be extraneous.

Actually, the only one I really pay attention to is Dot’s lower voice because it usually means she is about to put a major hurt on somecat. She also growls, which is a very bad sign, normally reserved for her brother because the other cats scatter when they hear it.

The ferals act a great deal like your crew, coming from all over in the afternoon when I put out the wet food. There is kibble out all the time.

15 Badtux { 07.15.09 at 1:42 am }

I’d comment on this, but my masters are demanding their evening kibble.

– Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin
.-= ´s last blog ..Bastille Day =-.