The Null Device

The "soliciting purr"

Researchers at the University of Sussex have discovered how domestic cats have developed a purr that psychologically manipulates humans, subtly triggering a sense of urgency without being as confronting as a meow. The "soliciting purr" contains an embedded high-frequency component similar to a cry:
Dr McComb and her team set up an experiment which tested human responses to the different purring types. She says: “When humans were played purrs recorded while cats were actively seeking food at equal volume to purrs recorded in non-solicitation contexts, even those with no experience of cats judged the ‘solicitation’ purrs to be more urgent and less pleasant.”
Not all cats, however, use this solicitation purring: “It seems to most often develop in cats that have a one-on-one with their owners rather than in large households where there is a lot going on and such purring might get overlooked. Meowing seems to be more common in these situations.”
Cats tend to use the "soliciting purr" at times such as early in the morning, to elicit compliance from humans who may otherwise prefer to do something else, such as remaining asleep. It appears to be individually learned rather than an evolved instinct. There are more details, including embedded video, here.

There are 2 comments on "The "soliciting purr"":

Posted by: Greg Wed Jul 15 13:25:01 2009

They don't seem to say whether the 'extra' tone evolved ex novo or is adapted from their own infant cry. Check out the reference list - don't think I've seen research on manipulation by pets before. (abbreviated for space) <br> Nicastro and Owren, Classification of domestic cat (Felis catus) vocalisations by naive and experienced human listeners <br> Pongracz et al, Acoustic parameters of dog barks carry emotional information for humans <br> Bateson and Turner, Editors, The Domestic Cat, the Biology of its Behaviour <br> Moelk, The development of friendly approach behaviour in the cat <br> Frazer-Sissom et al, How cats purr <br> Lester and Boukydis, Editors, Infant Crying: Theoretical and Research Perspectives <br> Fitch et al, Calls out of chaos: The adaptive significance of non linear phenomena in mammalian vocal production <br> Furlow, Human neonatal cry quality as an honest signal of fitness <br> Zeifman, An ethological analysis of human infant crying: answering Tinbergen's four questions

Posted by: Greg Thu Jul 16 05:30:39 2009

Gee, my HTML didn't work. Is it possible to format responses in your blog?

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