15.7.09

PURRRRRR

I for one have always fallen for this trap!

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 to get 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.


Dr Karen McComb, the lead author of the study that
was published in the journal Current Biology,
said the research was inspired by her
own cat, Pepo (above).


"He would wake me up in the morning with this insistent
purr that was really rather annoying,"
Dr McComb said.


"After a little bit of investigation, I discovered that
there are other cat owners who are similarly
bombarded early in the morning."


While meowing might get a cat expelled from the bedroom,
Dr McComb said that this pestering purr often
convinced beleaguered pet lovers to get
up and fill their cat's bowl.


To find out why, her team had to train cat owners to make
recordings of their own cats' vocal tactics - recording
both their "soliciting purrs" and regular,
"non-soliciting" purrs.


"When we played the recordings to human volunteers,
even those people with no experience of cats found
the soliciting purrs more urgent and less
pleasant," said Dr McComb.


So how does Dr McComb feel about Pepo now she knows
he has been manipulating her all these years?

"He's been the inspiration for this whole study,
so I'll forgive him - credit where credit's due."


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