Washington, July 14 (ANI): While cats are often seen as difficult pets when it comes to making them do something, they certainly know the trick to get humans at their service, according to a study.
The crafty cats send something of a mixed signal- an urgent cry or meowing sound embedded within an otherwise pleasant purr- in order to motivate people to fill their food dishes
And such a call turns out to be annoyingly difficult to ignore for humans, who oblige these clever pets with food immediately.
"The embedding of a cry within a call that we normally associate with contentment is quite a subtle means of eliciting a response. Solicitation purring is probably more acceptable to humans than overt meowing, which is likely to get cats ejected from the bedroom," said Karen McComb, of the University of Sussex.
In her opinion, such form of cat communication sends a subliminal sort of message, which taps into an inherent sensitivity that humans and other mammals have towards nurturing their offspring.
McComb decided to delve deeper into cat communication because her own pet cat used to wake her up in the mornings with a very insistent purr-a manipulative trick reported by other pet owners as well.
She found that the cats were perfectly willing to use their coercive cries in private, but when strangers came around they tended to clam right up.
Thus, her team had to train cat owners to record their own cats' cries.
In a series of playback experiments with those calls, they found that humans judged the purrs recorded while cats were actively seeking food as more urgent and less pleasant than those made in other contexts, even if they had never had a cat themselves.
"We found that the crucial factor determining the urgency and pleasantness ratings that purrs received was an unusual high-frequency element-reminiscent of a cry or meow-embedded within the naturally low-pitched purr. Human participants in our experiments judged purrs with high levels of this element to be particularly urgent and unpleasant," said McComb.
The study has been published in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. (ANI)