I *WILL* haz cheezburger

We humans think we are mighty clever when we come up with amusing captions for pictures of cute kitties. It turns out they’ve got us wrapped around their little claws.

Researchers in Britain have discovered cats are able to tailor their purring sounds to manipulate humans. There are significant differences between their ‘standard’ purring, which humans often find comforting, and the sounds they make when they want feeding.

The “feed me” purr incorporates a sound with a similar frequency to a human baby crying. The result is that people unwittingly feel obliged to respond. It’s not clear whether this is because it stirs our natural parental instincts, or because it is such an urgent and unpleasant sound that we feel obliged to respond to silence it. However, the trickery even works on people who don’t own cats.

The trick is pulled off by the cat using the muscles surrounding its vocal chords to alter the pitch of the sounds it makes. This technique – which isn’t possible in most animals – is why cats are able to purr. In the process, the cat’s vocal chords get freed up to make high pitched noises which means they can make both sounds at once, allowing the vocal chords to embed a cry in an otherwise comforting purr. Were the cat to simply make the crying sound, humans would be more likely to simply shoo it away.

Dr Karen McComb of the University of Sussex asked cat trainers to record the sounds of 10 cats in different situations, then tested the sounds on 50 volunteers to see how they responded. She told the BBC that while a normal purr contains a quiet cry, the cats appeared to have learned to intentionally exaggerate the cry once they realized it would get a response.

Advertisements
Advertisement




6 Responses to I *WILL* haz cheezburger

  1. I've also noticed a lot more cats grouping together in the streets around my neighborhood. Late at night. When few humans are about….

    Yup. First they practice psychological warfare. Then they team up with the squirrels to knock out the power and overthrow our way of life. CATS ARE EVIL.

    • As much as you are joking, and as much as it makes me look like a deranged/paranoid schizophrenic, I'm pretty sure that eventually animals will take over the world again.

      I don't mean via conscious intelligence or humans' self-destruction, nor even in a few billion years. But merely that evolution is constant, and humans are getting weaker.

      All it'd take is for a sub-species of creatures intelligent in one way to create a colony that leeches off 'our' water/food and pushes human terriotary inwards, and so on until all that's really left is a tiny little civilisation again.

      And it might not even be animals. Might just be bacteria. Either way, I can see evolution of other lifeforms being the downfall of humans, just as our evolution led to the downfall of other lifeforms.

  2. I’ve also noticed a lot more cats grouping together in the streets around my neighborhood. Late at night. When few humans are about….
    Yup. First they practice psychological warfare. Then they team up with the squirrels to knock out the power and overthrow our way of life. CATS ARE EVIL.

    • As much as you are joking, and as much as it makes me look like a deranged/paranoid schizophrenic, I’m pretty sure that eventually animals will take over the world again.

      I don’t mean via conscious intelligence or humans’ self-destruction, nor even in a few billion years. But merely that evolution is constant, and humans are getting weaker.

      All it’d take is for a sub-species of creatures intelligent in one way to create a colony that leeches off ‘our’ water/food and pushes human terriotary inwards, and so on until all that’s really left is a tiny little civilisation again.

      And it might not even be animals. Might just be bacteria. Either way, I can see evolution of other lifeforms being the downfall of humans, just as our evolution led to the downfall of other lifeforms.

  3. My cat is a master at this. If I sleep late one day, she stands in front of my window and makes never ending variations of miao, miiiiao, miaaaao, miaooooo, miiiaaaooo's in different pitches.

    Simply impossible to "tune out"/ignor as the sound is always changing.

  4. My cat is a master at this. If I sleep late one day, she stands in front of my window and makes never ending variations of miao, miiiiao, miaaaao, miaooooo, miiiaaaooo’s in different pitches.

    Simply impossible to “tune out”/ignor as the sound is always changing.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.