I receive the PDSA’s quarterly magazine as they are one of the charities I support, and had to grin when reading this article because it just goes to show, humans are “owned” by cats *grin*!
In a testament to feline adaptability and ingenuity, cats, it appears, have hit upon a surefire method for getting what they want: sound like a baby. Inspired in part by the early morning mewing of her own cat, Pepo, Dr Karen McComb led a research project at Sussex University into the pitch and tone of various purrs and identified one particular vocalisation that owners find almost impossible to ignore. Woven into the low, gravelly throatiness of a normal purr is a sharp cry, the frequency of which is attuned to that of a human infant. Its plaintive dissonance grates upon the ear so insistently that the beleaguered owner, even while comfortably ensconsed in bed at some unearthly dawn hour, is invariably compelled to trek to the kitchen and to fill the empty food bowl in order to quell the annoyance. Recordings of the ‘soliciting’ purr were played to groups of cat and non-cat owners. In both cases the Sussex researchers found that the human response was the same: the pestering purr, with its piercing shrill whine, was deemed urgent, unpleasant and demanding of action – the opening of a tin of tuna – if only to silence it. What makes the soliciting purr irritating is its embedded high frequency. Cats create the usual low frequency feline purr by a gentle tightening of the vocal cords, yet subtle alterations in their vocable mechanisms mean that they are also able to lock and bury within its burr a high-pitched cry. Presumably having learnt that by liberating and exaggerating this cry humans can be coerced into bending their wills to the wishes of their pets, cats now regularly employ the tactic whenever they feel a little peckish or in want of attention. Tapping in to our instinctive urge to be attentive to the needs of a baby, cats have become the masters and mistresses of their owners.
From: PDSA Magazine, Issue 51
Image origin: unknown, found circulating on Facebook