Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I KNEW it!

Some time back my wife and I adopted two cats, thereby raising the number of companion animals in our household to three. This adoption was, I think, a good idea as our cats are fun, adoring little creatures, but it led to a certain amount of chaos at first. This was particularly because our dog- whom I brought to our new family from my bachelorhood- has a compulsive need to herd our cats. And she's pretty good at it, no matter how impossible the task may seem.

Recently our vet told us that our cats were getting a little portly and suggested that we switch to a high fiber food and reduce the amount of food we are giving them. As a result, instead of free-feeding we now feed our cats once in the morning and once in the evening. This has led to a disruption in our schedule, both because we now have to remember to feed the cats twice a day, and because they've learned a new trick. Specifically, they now hang out outside our bedroom door early in the morning (anywhere between 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM) and start to make insistent noises at us. We responded by opening the door and squirting them with water but, alas, they've learned and now retreat around a corner when they hear us approach so as to avoid the squirting, and return to complain some more when the coast is clear. My wife has, from time to time, defended the cats observing that they are merely hungry. I, on the other hand, insist that our otherwise wonderful cats are actually evil little bastards. And, as it turns out, the research is on my side.

I refer to a recent study that finds that cats apparently learn to modulate their cries so as to be annoying as possible to humans. And no, I'm not kidding:

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.


"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.


"When an animal vocalises, the vocal folds (or cords) held across the stream of air snap shut at a particular frequency," explained Dr McComb. The perceived pitch of that sound depends on the size, length and tension of the vocal folds.

"But cats are able to produce a low frequency purr by activating the muscles of their vocal folds - stimulating them to vibrate," explained Dr McComb.

Since each of these sounds is produced by a different mechanism, cats are able to embed a high-pitched cry in an otherwise relaxing purr.

"How urgent and unpleasant the purr is seems to depend on how much energy the cat puts into producing that cry," said Dr McComb.

Previous studies have found similarities between a domestic cat's cry and the cry of a human baby - a sound that humans are highly sensitive to.

Dr McComb said that the cry occurs at a low level in cats' normal purring. "But we think that (they) learn to dramatically exaggerate it when it proves effective in generating a response from humans."

She added that the trait seemed to most often develop in cats that have a one-on-one relationship with their owners.

"Obviously we don't know what's going on inside their minds," said Dr McComb. "But they learn how to do this, and then they do it quite deliberately." [emphasis added]

And there you have it: scientific proof that cats are evil, manipulative little bastards.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting article, but in my defense (and the cats'), they are definitely NOT purring between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. They ARE mewing/screaming quite insistently. However, I do think the grey cat is quite good at that crying while purring thing, with that high-pitched little squeal thing he does.

-Drek's Sainted (and ever-so-slightly annoyed) Wife

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger DavidJ said...

My parents' cats did the same thing, until dad decided to extinguish the behavior by confining the little darlings to the "closet of contemplation" (nothing on the floor, sufficiently far from the bedroom) from onset of mewing until such time as a human deemed it an appropriate time to be awake.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 8:36:00 PM  
Blogger Profe Svarch said...

I tried to ration my cat's food, but it turned out to be almost impossible. He would wake me up by licking my face (and they have rough tongues, the bastards) non-stop until I fed him. If I pushed him out of the bed, he'd climb up again and restart. If I locked him out of the room, he'd start meowing like yours.
He has a similar tactic when I'm working at my computer and he's hungry. He'll simply step between my line of sight and the computer screen, and come back every time I throw him away until his food plate is filled.

I've already surrendered to the fact that I simply cannot fight it.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009 11:13:00 PM  

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