Navigation Links
Cats Purrfect at Getting Needs Met, Study Shows
Date:7/13/2009

'Cry embedded in a purr' exploits human psyche, researchers say,,,,

MONDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- It's 6 a.m. Your cat has jumped up on the bed and, as he does every morning, lets out a mix of low purr and plaintive cry. The message is irresistible: Get up now and feed me.

A new British study -- involving participants with names like Fuzzy, Marbles and Socks -- suggests that smart housecats quickly learn that this particular cry-purr combination is the most effective in getting bleary-eyed humans to do their bidding.

"Remember, these cats have years to train up their owners," said study author Karen McComb, a specialist in animal vocal communication in the department of psychology at the University of Sussex. "They learn to dramatically exaggerate this cry embedded within the purr because it proves effective in getting their owner to respond."

The study suggests that Felis catus domesticus has a richer vocabulary than the standard "meow," and modulates its vocalizations to express contentment (purr), alarm (shrieking meow) or insistent persuasion (the cry-purr).

"They are trying to communicate," said one expert, Dr. Tony Buffington, professor of veterinary clinical services at Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital, Columbus. He called the study, "a wonderful idea to follow-up on -- it's going to open up a lot more understanding of cats in general."

The idea for the study, published in the July 14 issue of Current Biology, came from McComb's own cat, Pepo.

"He consistently woke me up in the morning with a very insistent purr; it was very difficult to ignore. And he continued until he was fed," she said. Although McComb's prior work had centered on animals as exotic as the elephant or lion, it got her to thinking -- why was this particular vocalization so compelling? "I wanted to get to the bottom of it."

She quickly found out that domestic cats only emit the cry-purr combo in the presence of a long-time human companion. "It's a behavior cats develop with particular owners," McComb said. So, she had a variety of people interact with their cats and record the morning "solicitation call," as well as other purrs. McComb's team then had strangers listen to, and rate, all those recorded vocalizations.

"It turned out that the purrs that were getting the highest score on urgency and unpleasantness were ones that had an embedded cry, given at a higher level," McComb said. "It rises above the energy in the normal purr." In fact, when McComb's team digitally removed the cry from the recorded purr, it lost its sense of urgency for the people who heard it.

This was the sound that Pepo used to his advantage to get McComb to fill his dish each morning, and it seems to have caught on throughout the domestic cat world. According to McComb, the cry-purr appears to work better at rousing humans than either a purr alone ("you're more likely to just drop off to sleep again") or the standard meow ("I think that is likely to get the cat ejected from the bedroom").

McComb also speculates that the use of a plaintive cry wrapped inside a purr taps into a deeply human response to another early-morning feeder -- babies. "Parallels have been drawn between the cry of domestic cats and that of human infants," her team notes in the study. Embedding a cry in the purr "could serve as a subtle means of exploitation, tapping into an inherent mammalian sensitivity to such cries," they wrote.

Whatever the reason, other experts agree that cats are adept communicators.

"We all know as veterinarians that cats are a unique species, with a keen ability to get what they want from people," said Dr. Leilani Alvarez, a veterinary acupuncturist in Bedford Hills, N.Y. "My feline patients guide me much more in choosing the points I needle than my canine patients do. They vocalize in unique ways that clearly communicate when a point doesn't agree with them -- it's not a hiss or a growl, it's hard to describe, but I hear it repeatedly and it's actually quite helpful."

For his part, Buffington wonders if McComb has only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cats' ability to get particular messages out.

"One wonders how widespread these behaviors are -- is it specific to food, or do cats use the [vocalizations] for a variety of other things? They may well have a whole variety of signals and behaviors they use to try and get our attention," he said.

And why do humans put up with such blatant manipulation? According to McComb, a cat's insistence on getting its needs met, now, might be one of the things that draws humans to them.

"Cats are really quite effective in getting humans to do what they want," she said, "and we certainly tolerate it because it goes along with all those independent elements of cats, where they just go along and do their own thing."

More information

To find out more about the nature and care of the domestic cat, head to Ohio State University.



SOURCES: Karen McComb, Ph.D., reader, behavioral ecology, department of psychology, University of Sussex, U.K.; C.A. Tony Buffington, DVM, Ph.D., professor, veterinary clinical sciences, Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital, Columbus; Leilani Alvarez, DVM, veterinary acupuncturist, Katonah Bedford Veterinary Center, Bedford Hills, N.Y.; July 14, 2009, Current Biology


'/>"/>
Copyright©2009 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Cats Genome Map Purrfected
2. Buyer Beware! Know What Youre Getting When You Buy Online Genetic Tests
3. LeadConfirm Professional, the First Oral Based Lead Test, Makes Getting the Lead Out Easier - Now Available at Amazon.com
4. Despite More Tests, Some Arent Getting Results
5. LeadConfirm Professional Now Available at Overstock.com--The First Oral Based Lead Test Makes Getting the Lead Out Easier
6. LeadConfirm Professional Now Available at Drugstore.com - The First Oral Based Lead Test, Makes Getting the Lead Out Easier
7. Adults with asthma not getting their flu shots
8. St. Louis Rams Getting New Fieldturf At Edward Jones Dome
9. More Ontario children are getting diagnosed with diabetes: ICES study
10. Many Overweight Kids Not Getting a Good Nights Sleep
11. Target Corporation Makes Getting and Staying Healthy Easier
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Cats Purrfect at Getting Needs Met, Study Shows
(Date:2/20/2017)... ... February 20, 2017 , ... Today, ... Biscom Document Router (BDR), the first IoT device from Biscom designed to deliver ... Biscom will debut BDR at HIMSS17 and will be conducting demonstrations ...
(Date:2/20/2017)... ... February 20, 2017 , ... Houston dentist ... emergency dental care at his office, Antoine Dental Center. Emergency dentistry encompasses many ... they are at risk for serious complications and often experience severe pain. Not ...
(Date:2/20/2017)... ... February 20, 2017 , ... ... Brands to purchase a new ultrasound-enhanced thrombolysis machine, a state-of-the-art device that breaks ... was facilitated by the Pepin Family Foundation. , “We greatly appreciate this gift ...
(Date:2/19/2017)... ... February 19, 2017 , ... ... in better care, and MEDfx and the Delaware Health Information Network (DHIN) have ... As the nation’s first state-wide health information exchange, DHIN stores and shares real-time ...
(Date:2/18/2017)... ... February 17, 2017 , ... Butler Mobility invited Ken ... Stairlift and other Butler products. Ken was impressed with the safety and reliability ... endorse the product on his show. This endorsement by Ken Matthews can be ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/20/2017)... ORLANDO, Fla. , Feb. 20, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... are helping physicians diagnose and treat patients with ... will provide wireless connectivity for ZywiePro, Zywie,s cardiac ... AT&T Control Center . AT&T ... accessible monitoring for those with the disease. The ...
(Date:2/20/2017)... , Feb. 20, 2017 Seal Shield LLC ... IT solution for mobile device management and disinfection, the ... Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla. ... Mobile devices have become commonplace in today,s healthcare ... new set of concerns, including the disinfection and tracking ...
(Date:2/20/2017)... Feb. 20, 2017 Research and Markets has ... Freezer Market Analysis and Trends - Product (RFID refrigerators and RFID ... 2025" report to their offering. ... The Global RFID Blood Refrigerator and Freezer ... from 2015 to 2025. This industry report analyzes ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: