Skip

You Can't Stop The Signal
June 13, 2012 4:39 AM   Subscribe

Cats: fluffy balls of love or evil manipulative bastards? Science says yes! The purring of a happy cat is one of nature's simple pleasures, but science has discovered a disturbing signal buried within the purr.
posted by Mezentian (91 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
The 'happy cat' purr explanation never truly covered it for me since cats purr when they are distressed or hurt. I love the term 'solicitation purr'! Also, I didn't know how cats purred exactly before this. Thanks Mezentian.

My sister, the non cat lover subscribes to this theory.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 4:50 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: a disturbing signal buried within the purr.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:00 AM on June 13, 2012 [21 favorites]


Don't you twitch your vocal folds at me, you naughty wee fur-ball.
posted by Abiezer at 5:02 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Manipulation? Everyone knows you're more likely to get what you want if you ask nicely. I think if cats asked for things by yelling WAAH WAAH WAAH, they'd be as likely to get kicked as fed.

You can call the I Can Haz purr manipulation if you want, but think of the alternative.
posted by tel3path at 5:03 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Get you purr's off me you damned dirty cat. You can tell I hate cats.
posted by RedShrek at 5:06 AM on June 13, 2012


False. No one is named "Jonica" except on soap operas.

Want to talk manipulative? My cat makes a trilling sound that is so stunningly cute it's unbearable. She's got me quite trained to give her a treat when she does it.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 5:09 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


They're resourceful, opportunistic survivors and I salute them for it. Wouldn't have one in the house, mind.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:10 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The "everything's cool, I'm just happy to be lying on on your desk" purr makes up for the 5:30 AM face-butt with diesel-generator purr. Usually.
posted by Artful Codger at 5:12 AM on June 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


Bah, that's not manipulative at all. I think we should be more concerned about their "Assemble the human thralls and implement Phase 2" purr.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 5:16 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think if cats asked for things by yelling WAAH WAAH WAAH, they'd be as likely to get kicked as fed.

Tell that to mister "I know we got a perfectly good catflap, but I want you to open the door for me, so I can do my anxious gooshy food now dance".

Mind, this is the same cat that doesn't mind being bounced on my lap as you'd do a baby, so he's not all bad.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:27 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Two kinds of purr? "I'm happy" "I'm blissed" "I've snorted a lid of catnip" "I'm daring you to rub my tummy" "Why aren't you petting me now?" "Stop petting me now so I can sleep" "Get out of bed and give me breakfast" "i know you understand what I am asking for despite your feigned ignorance but I'll humour you because you operate the food machine"

And don't let me get started on the dozens of meows that all mean something. Cats have a fairly structured tonal and emotionally expressive language if one only cares to listen, especially if one actually bothers to talk back to them.

And/or I'm just a crazy cat lady.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:27 AM on June 13, 2012 [43 favorites]


Everyone knows you're more likely to get what you want if you ask nicely. I think if cats asked for things by yelling WAAH WAAH WAAH, they'd be as likely to get kicked as fed.

This seems obvious, and then you have kids, and then you see at 3AM when they are screaming and hungry that nature had other ideas in mind.
posted by three blind mice at 5:27 AM on June 13, 2012


If you record and play the purring of a cat backwards it will sound like a Whiskas commercial. True story.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:30 AM on June 13, 2012


My cat makes a trilling sound that is so stunningly cute it's unbearable. She's got me quite trained to give her a treat when she does it.

Video! Video!
posted by MartinWisse at 5:31 AM on June 13, 2012


Pure coincidence that the "low-cost DIY ABC Natural History film unit" is made exclusively of women?
posted by crunchland at 5:31 AM on June 13, 2012


I believe there is at least one male in the "low-cost DIY ABC Natural History film unit", but I only watched the video once. And they had silly hats.

Disclaimer: crazy cat man.
posted by Mezentian at 5:34 AM on June 13, 2012


Everyone knows you're more likely to get what you want if you ask nicely. I think if cats asked for things by yelling WAAH WAAH WAAH, they'd be as likely to get kicked as fed.
This seems obvious, and then you have kids, and then you see at 3AM when they are screaming and hungry that nature had other ideas in mind.
I have seen many stray cats exhibit this behavior. A group of people is sitting around. Along comes meowy meow cat, wining forEVER. They get shooed away five or ten times, but eventually someone gives them a tiny piece of food somewhere semi-far away in the hopes that it will placate them. Cat Lesson Learned: meow for food; be persistent.
posted by Phredward at 5:37 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I still love the entire sequence when you come up. First there's the half-purr half-meow greeting with the cat running up, tail high in the air. Then, the cat gets to 4 feet away, sits down, and turns to clean itself -- "Oh, it's you" -- and ignores you until you're within 4 feet of the food dish, then it's OMG SO GLAD TO SEE YOU I'VE NEVER EATEN!!!!

Cats. Evil bastards.

still love 'em, though
posted by eriko at 5:43 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was really hoping this would be an earnestly outraged "scientist" playing a record of a cat's purr backwards to expose the satanic messages.
posted by elizardbits at 5:47 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


evil manipulative bastards? Science says yes!

Scientists, always proving what we already know.
posted by jeather at 5:48 AM on June 13, 2012


I was really hoping this would be an earnestly outraged "scientist" playing a record of a cat's purr backwards to expose the satanic messages.

"I buried -- well, you really don't want to know."
posted by maudlin at 5:52 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Want to talk manipulative? My cat makes a trilling sound that is so stunningly cute it's unbearable. She's got me quite trained to give her a treat when she does it.
I'm of the opinion that cats domesticated humans, rather than the other way around.
posted by jamincan at 5:58 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: evil manipulative bastards? Science says yes!

Anyway.

Sometimes, when Roswell really really really wants to play fetch but I'm not playing (because I've very patiently explained again that I can't throw a toy if he hasn't brought me one, and look! there's a toy over there! Bring me the toy so I can throw it!), he combines purring with this squeaky kind of....quack. It must be on a special wavelength because when I hear it I'm almost always compelled to get up and get the toy myself so I can throw it for him.
posted by rtha at 5:58 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


One of my parents' cats, Coco, has been trained to pretend to be a meerkat (it's really cute) when he wants food. He also swipes it with his paw.

We know he's ready to do the meerkat trick because he meows constantly and very loudly until you come in the kitchen where the cat treats live. This can disconcert visitors.
posted by jeather at 6:04 AM on June 13, 2012


I've often thought that some people hate particular voices (Tom and Ray, for a recent example) because they can "feel" something that is also expressed at that register that disturbs them (like us effing with Whale sounds), like there is some kind of "doom sound" that is transmitted they can feel, if not hear.

So, cats, elephants, and fuzzies. I wonder who else?

This also might explain cat-haters (or dislikers) - there's something about their voices/purring outside of the behaviors that drive them UP THE WALL. I know a guy who will tolerate other people's cats as long as they are quiet (not purring).
posted by tilde at 6:08 AM on June 13, 2012


One of my favorite things to do with my cat is pretend to misinterpret his "feed me" purr as regular non-manipulative affection. He'll be like "so, I bet you'd like to give me dinner 45 minutes early" and I'll be all "why yes, I would LOVE to carry you around and give you hugs and say moodgie-moodgie words to you" and he'll be like "uh wait what?"

I also enjoy our twice-daily game of "see how little motion it takes to get the cat to sprint hopefully to the kitchen." Who's manipulating who, little guy?
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:14 AM on June 13, 2012 [40 favorites]


I still love the entire sequence when you come up. First there's the half-purr half-meow greeting with the cat running up, tail high in the air. Then, the cat gets to 4 feet away, sits down, and turns to clean itself -- "Oh, it's you" -- and ignores you until you're within 4 feet of the food dish, then it's OMG SO GLAD TO SEE YOU I'VE NEVER EATEN!!!!

With ours, the sequence is more elaborate. She toddles down the stairs 2 minutes after I get in the door, which is about what it takes me to get in, dump my bags, get my shoes and coat off, and check the mail. Down she comes, tail in the air, and heads straight for the door. Stops, sniffs at it, turns and looks at me as if to say, "so, are you gonna let me out? This door smells of something." I head into the kitchen and she races me to beat me there first. Then she does the circle-y pointing dance. "bowl. See? It's empty. You need to fix this. See the bowl? See how empty it is? Fix please? Empty bowl wants to be full. See the bowl?"

All this is done in absolute silence. When I finally put the food bowl down, and only when, does she utter a little "meh!", as if to say, "Finally! Took ya long enough!"
posted by LN at 6:18 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Miss Soot Sprite definitely goes the "waah waah waah" route. Every evening, when I have dinner, I also give kitties wet food as a "treat" (it's good for them, and differs from their usual dry cat food fare, so everyone's happy). While I spoon it into their dishes, Susu starts wailing as if the world were going to end "no really omigosh it's awful nothing can possibly dampen the deep existential pain i'm feeling oh and omigod did i mention i'm hungry ooooooh i'm so huuuungryyy there's nevar anything to eat here meeeEEOOooowooOOwaARRrr oh, wet food, cool." She trills when she's playing and wants me to join in. Most adorable sound ever, indeed.

Kanoko, aka Furry Britches of Doom, latter part of which he earned last week when he sat on the Enter key just when my Ubuntu install had suggested formatting my backup drive after a wonky first install had borked on my main drive. "Partitioning in progress," I read, weeping as half my mp3 collection was wiped out. (I had a third, but only partial, backup on my mp3 player. Other files are backed up on a network. Yes, this is going to change for my mp3s post-Great Cat-Butt Erasure of 2012.) Err. Where was I. Kanoko, Purry-Puffy-Pants of Hard Disk Doom, prefers the "stand on my hind legs to prick my human's rear end" route.

I never get purrs when they want anything other than to be petted. I can also easily tell the difference between contented, relaxed, and playful purrs, and the more panicked, rapid-breathing "I'm scared" purr. When I had to put my sweet Grey to sleep, the vet let me hold him in my arms, and he was relaxed and purring up to the end. He'd always been relaxed at the vet, even after having an IV tube put in him; the vets remarked on how easy-going and trusting he was too. I'll never forget his last headbutt: the vet had just agreed that putting him to sleep was for the best. I started to sob and Grey purred loudly and butted his head on my mouth, then sighed contentedly when I patted him. The vet and I couldn't help but laugh.

I'll take that sort of manipulation any day.
posted by fraula at 6:23 AM on June 13, 2012 [26 favorites]


Every single one of you who told a story about your cat(s) without posting a picture is a bastard.
posted by tzikeh at 6:24 AM on June 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


Kitty Stardust: "Want to talk manipulative? My cat makes a trilling sound that is so stunningly cute it's unbearable. She's got me quite trained to give her a treat when she does it."

OMG - I wonder if it's like my cat... When petting her and she's rolling on the floor, she does this "cooing" sound while she purrs it's so adorable!
posted by symbioid at 6:33 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fine then. Cat in question is the marmalade.
posted by LN at 6:38 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's pretty obvious that purring is actually a set of vibrations made to activate the t. gondii with which the cats have infected their owners. The parasites in the brain then do whatever it is they do to make the owners perform the tasks the cat wants.

This is pretty basic. Everyone know this, especially cats. Mine is making me type this comment right now and is pleased with the results.
posted by hippybear at 6:41 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You made kitty mad.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:50 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


You want purring?
posted by Peach at 6:52 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


As an inveterate dog person, I read things like this with the sort of tingly anxiety that reading Solaris gave me in my prim adolescence, in that I begin to understand full well that cats will always be scary inhuman fur aliens with motives that range from the purely incomprehensible to the just plain wicked. Plus, I can only anthropomorphize them by imagining that they're all incarnations of Agnes Moorehead, which limits my range of playful mockery and funny animal voices.

Of course, this article might indicate that a part of my disconnection from cats likely comes from the fact that the sound of a baby crying doesn't give me the slightest twinge of desire to help the baby as much as it makes me wish to be elsewhere, where a baby is not crying.

Mind you, I wouldn't mind having a cat if they'd ever produce a cat-scaled Habitrail that would let me enjoy their antics from the safe vantage point of being securely on the other side of those big yellow tubes from all the slinky purring horror.
posted by sonascope at 7:02 AM on June 13, 2012


This one manages to purr while eating. Every time. Since he was a kitten. Anyone care to explain that?
posted by Leezie at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2012


Well, since it's a requirement, here's Bonus Cat in the middle of one of his breakfast campaigns.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:11 AM on June 13, 2012


One of the most endearing aspects of cat ownership is watching the myriad ingenious ways they try to get what they want. Dogs are very boring in this respect, they usually can just wait til no one's looking and then go after what they want directly. Cats are too small and their tastes are to refined for this, so in an indoor environment they must learn to manipulate those around them, not just their people, but even more hysterically, the children, and the other pets.

Also learning to speak your individual cat's language. My current cat has a one word vocabulary: "meow!", translation -- "I'm a cat!"
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:17 AM on June 13, 2012


The claim that the 480Hz peak in the solicitation purr matches the frequency of a baby's crying seems off to me. Babies cry at a higher frequency than that - with a peak at 3500Hz - the frequency that humans are most sensitive to. Both my cat and my dog are well aware of this basic science and will use, as a weapon of choice, a miaow or a whine when they want to rapidly get to me.

More on Dr Karen McComb's research. And here is how to contact her and read her original papers
posted by rongorongo at 7:28 AM on June 13, 2012


Our little meatball purrs all the time, but loudest come bedtime when he's gotten to the pillows before the humans do.
posted by troika at 7:29 AM on June 13, 2012




One of my favorite things to do with my cat is pretend to misinterpret his "feed me" purr as regular non-manipulative affection. He'll be like "so, I bet you'd like to give me dinner 45 minutes early" and I'll be all "why yes, I would LOVE to carry you around and give you hugs and say moodgie-moodgie words to you" and he'll be like "uh wait what?"

This works great up until you discover that you have not actually picked up a lovely fluffly kitten, but instead accidentally inserted your arm into a Whiskery Beartrap of Pain, complete with Disembowel This Deer I Just Caught special action move.

You usually get a tail whip or two before the Whiskery Trap of Pain kicks in (literally) though. And if she's feeling generous, she'll give you a warning bite before the claws come out.

And no, water sprays don't cut it. Her fur's so thick, she doesn't even feel them.

She's also learned the link between Fridge Light Comes on and Daddy Gets the Milk Out in the morning. So she'll hop up on the counter and miaow hopefully. But she's not fussed if it's in her own bowl, she'll happily follow me around the room, hopping on furniture until she can get into my cereal bowl. So I generally have the choice between
1) standing in the living room eating my breakfast standing up with a cat trying to use my legs as a climbing frame while miaowing piteously
2) Sitting down and having a cat lapping at my bowl before I've actually finished the sitting motion because she was able to bounce on up via the chair before I got that far - also applies to coffee with milk in it.
3) giving her her own damn milk.

Further to previous answers about human training, I generally now bend to option 3.
posted by ArkhanJG at 7:34 AM on June 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


tel3path: "I think if cats asked for things by yelling WAAH WAAH WAAH, they'd be as likely to get kicked as fed."

This little fella who sweet-talked me out of a bacon, egg & cheese biscuit at a gas station in Escalante, Utah, begs to differ. And by sweet-talking, I mean he charged up to me at the pump meowing his fuzzy little head off. The purring came after the meal.

I would absolutely have taken him home with me except for the fact that I was 1850 miles from home and traveling on a motorcycle. And oh yeah, my husband is deathly allergic and my dog would disown me.
posted by workerant at 7:37 AM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


ZOMG! Workerant, what was my Number One Cat doing at a service station in Escalante, Utah?

That cannot have been a feral. They are skittish and quick to anger.

(Go back and adopt it for me?)
posted by Mezentian at 7:45 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's the sounds they make that we can't hear that we should be worried about.

(As the owner of two cats, I can guarantee that such sounds must exist. You can call me paranoid, but shouldn't they aren't wasting their time talking about me.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:50 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to get along with cats, but since I married, I have discovered that my husband is the Ultimate Cat Owner and now they don't like me anymore. He will follow them around and scratch them, if asked. He will pay them constant attention. He apparently has some kind of knuckle-rub on the chin that sends every cat into ecstasy. Until I put my foot down about obese cats, he would leave food out and let them eat from his plate.

I had previously owned several cats in my life, and they had learned that I respond to rubbing on my leg and purring or climbing in my lap. It was great. But now my pushover husband has them expecting constant mobile attention, so they stand in the corner of the living room and meow at me to come pet/feed them, which drives me up a wall.

I love him, but he ruins cats. After this cat goes to cat heaven, we're done. He doesn't have the same effect on dogs, so that will be our next animal. He can get another cat when I'm dead.
posted by emjaybee at 7:56 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


that's great, but, uh.. what about when cats bark?
posted by ninjew at 8:00 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


My vet told me that cats purr to stimulate their muscles, which would otherwise atrophy on account of their being scandalously lazy, though it sounds like that's just one of several proposed mechanisms.

Anyway, I haven't noticed a solicitation purr coming from my kitty. She's very insistent and goes very quickly from zero to full-face meowing at my feet. She voices general dissatisfaction with a close-mouthed whine, which I've never seen from any other cat.
posted by invitapriore at 8:02 AM on June 13, 2012


Cats use their owner. Shocker!

Seriously though, a science fiction thriller about people finding out the real reason behind the purring of kitties and ensuring humanity's doom would be awesome.


I'd call it PROMEOWTHEUS.
posted by Renoroc at 8:09 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember Desmond Morris proposing that purring is a sort of infantile, regressive behavior--in basic terms a "oh I'm jelly, help me/baby me/give me what I need" which explains why cats do it when they're happy as well as scared/hurt. Similar to this, and the book's quite old/dated.

Our boy Horace does that purr-coo thing someone described upthread; we call it purgling. So sweet.
posted by ifjuly at 8:22 AM on June 13, 2012


In addition to having two types of purr (at least,) my cat has two types of snore...

One is unbearably cute, and high pitched... It melts anyone. I think he does this to manipulate me into letting him stay on the bed, and he's pulled that trick several times.

The second is a pure human snore. It freaked me out the very first time he did it, because I thought there was someone else in the house... Obviously, this one means "I've passed the hell out."
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:26 AM on June 13, 2012


Oh yeah, the cooing. Depending on its timbre we describe it alternately as trilling or chirping.
posted by invitapriore at 8:27 AM on June 13, 2012


The World's Most Entitled Cat has a chirping purr that is designed to lull you into a sense of security before he starts bucking the hell out of you.
posted by arcticseal at 8:34 AM on June 13, 2012


I used to have a tabby who loved to go outside as much as our cautious Canadian souls would permit. We let her wander around the car one night while we were packing for a camping trip, and, of course, she took off as soon as she could.

When she finally trotted up to us a couple of hours before dawn, when we were hoarse and stressed over her failure to return when called, her tail was vertical and gently waving like a flag, she was damp with dew, and she was trilling and chirping all the details of her big night out. She earned instant forgiveness with those sounds.
posted by maudlin at 8:41 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ahh, another one of these "scientific discoveries" which is really just something that everyone who is paying attention has already noticed. I've lived with cats for years, it's clear that they have very complex and meaningful vocalizations. And like seanmpuckett I have conversations with my cat ... they are highly intelligent and vocal creatures!
posted by crazy_yeti at 8:57 AM on June 13, 2012


Why oh why can't I have a job like purr researcher?
posted by Tarumba at 9:06 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a family line of ferals in our locale that haven't figured out that hissing scares off humans... they hiss when they're excited (as when I'm approaching with food), and get really confused when I back off to avoid stressing them. The matriarch (who has since been trapped and spayed) is known as Hissing UBK. (UBK= Ubiquitous Black Kitteh, the name for the rotating cycle of black cats we can't tell apart. We can tell her apart, though. Because she's the one doing the happy dance while hissing.) I've never heard Hissing UBK or her daughter purring, although the other ferals do.

RE: the biscuit beggar. Feral kittens below a certain age will sometimes walk right up to you and ask for help, as you are a Big Warm Thing that smells like food. It's a pretty small window of opportunity, but I've coaxed two young litters of kittens of known feral moms right into my hand by using a high, warm voice.

If anyone is looking for a kitten for their own purring studies, I have a rescued feral in isolation in my computer room right now. Normally, if I don't have a local placement, I leave them with mom and do TNR. Little James showed up in my backyard last week without his unknown mom, congested and weak, and crying his head off. Pathetic little "myew myew myewing" just outside the window while I tried to teach a room full of early teen boys some composition skills. "Oooooh, he's so skinny..." "It's so hot... do you think he'll live through the day?" "If we all went out into the bushes, we could probably catch him." "I think we should call him James. After James Hetfield. Because he sounds like James Hetfield." "Are you going to just let James die? 'Cause he sounds like he's dying." Well played, kitteh. Well played. Vet says he'll make a full recovery. James has had a week in which to recover and hone his manipulation skills. They promise to be quite intense. He's about 7 weeks old. Anyone? Anyone? I promise not to teach him "Creeping Death".
posted by theplotchickens at 9:08 AM on June 13, 2012


Every single one of you who told a story about your cat(s) without posting a picture is a bastard.

Oh, alright then.

In the front is Hector the wondercat (hahaha, wondercat), aka the threelegged wonder [1], aka Hector Da Chicken Inspector, aka J. Arthur Hecklington. At the back is Sophie, or Soofh, or mrs Poulous (when she's at her most smug and self satisfied) aka S. Maria Sooflington.

They're both adorable and annoying in equal measures but than they're cats so they would be.

[1] Hector, like Sophie was a rescue cat from the local asylum and he was found in an Amsterdam sewer pipe, with his backleg having been bitten and half eaten by rats, which needed to be amputated. He doesn't really miss it, is just a little frustrated when his little sis can climb trees when he can't. His shoulders are freaking huge and muscled and as long as he can haul himself up on something he can climb remarkably well. The downside is that he tends to haul himself into your lap as well, claws firmly embedded in your thighs.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:29 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


emjaybee - that's my husband. And the purring cat video I posted? That cat walked up to us in the back yard last fall and worked her way into our household by sheer force of purr (and because she also falls down on you while doing it). Turned out our local vet was feeding her too. Evidence that a good purr can carry you far.
posted by Peach at 9:41 AM on June 13, 2012


Cats use their owner. Shocker!

What's the old joke? Dogs have owners, cats have staffs.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:01 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


As far as whether cats are manipulative -- I always liked a quote I found in an article on how to train cats. "When cats and humans live together, SOMEONE is going to get trained. Left to chance, it isn't going to be the cat." I still think it is an open question of whether we domesticated cats or whether cats domesticated us. (There apparently is a school of thought that dogs domesticated themselves to get access to an easier supply of food.)
posted by pbrim at 10:08 AM on June 13, 2012


When my cat wants fed and sees me standing up, she'll get right in front of me and try to lead me to the kitchen. If I take a detour she runs back, gets right in front of me and again walks towards the kitchen trying to lead me. I tell her YOU ARE NOT MAGNETIC but I don't think she believes me.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


When my little tortie Hecate was a kitten, there was a spot in the house where the acoustics where JUST RIGHT to let her startlingly loud purr echo through the whole two-story, four-bedroom house. She's got a good chirp too, and my other cat Anya (she was only a tiny kitten when she lost the eye, and she's way goofier than she looks in that shot) does a charming trill.
posted by AtalantaPendragonne at 10:44 AM on June 13, 2012


And don't let me get started on the dozens of meows that all mean something. Cats have a fairly structured tonal and emotionally expressive language if one only cares to listen, especially if one actually bothers to talk back to them.

My favorite is the short, sudden AOOooo that exclusively means "ugh, I feel bad... think I'm gonna barf up a hairball!", thus allowing quick and attentive human(s) to pre-deploy a paper towel.
posted by vorfeed at 10:57 AM on June 13, 2012


That's more a bork bork bork beuark [sfx:frantic running around trying to shoo cat out of door] beuark barf.

On the carpet.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:04 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


When my cat wants fed and sees me standing up, she'll get right in front of me and try to lead me to the kitchen. If I take a detour she runs back, gets right in front of me and again walks towards the kitchen trying to lead me. I tell her YOU ARE NOT MAGNETIC but I don't think she believes me.

Cat the Cat did this and her annoyed "Wait, you're not following me get back here" body posture was the most adorable thing in the world.

If you repeatedly ignored her demands to to follow her she would just get right up in your face and stare at you. It's alarmingly effective.

Also: Cat's know what's up.
posted by The Whelk at 11:10 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's more a bork bork bork beuark [sfx:frantic running around trying to shoo cat out of door] beuark barf.

Mine make the AOOooo noise right before the bork-bork-beuark-ing begins, which is why it's such a valuable early-warning barfsignal.
posted by vorfeed at 11:16 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I had a cat I adopted when I was living in India, which most people I knew there thought was a crazy idea. Cats were dirty feral creatures and not generally kept as pets. One day an Indian friend was visiting when my cat climbed up on the couch next to him. He jumped to his feet and had to be coaxed into sitting back down next to the animal. He watched incredulously while I petted her, but seemed reassured that she was not about to attack.

And just when the poor guy was starting to relax again, the cat began to purr. He was back on his feet in an instant, yelling, "What the hell is it doing!?"

"It's okay, it's a good sound. It just means she's happy!"

"But then why does it sound like a lion?"
posted by bookish at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


As the owner of two cats

Owner? Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:26 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dogs taught us society. Cats taught us civilisation.
posted by lucien_reeve at 11:27 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


My cat Fry [more on FB] barely purrs at all, but he's completely devoted to me -- his first year he had an apartment with me to himself and minimal contact with anyone else, but now he lives in the house with me and my mom and "her" dog. When I walk the dog late at night, sometimes he follows along, some yards behind.

Anyway, despite some early issues with nipping and hormone-induced aggression that got me on antibiotics, he's settled down post-spay and really is a great cat. The guy simply does not play the wake-up-time-to-eat game. If I'm legitimately asleep, he leaves me alone. If I get up to perform any morning ablutions, though, I can become fair game, which is ... fair. Nor does he usually get in the way of things I'm reading or doing.

Mostly he talks with a soft little trill, like when I let him in from outside -- it's almost a "thanks, dad!" I also had to actually teach him to meow at the door rather than tear at the wood with his claws or worse, the screen or wintertime plastic sheeting.

He's not a cuddly cat, and any affection is pretty much something he's putting up with for 30-90 seconds, often in the service of attention or food, but every once in a while he does play kitten and I can hold him on my chest at the computer while he tucks his head under my chin. I lurve how soft this feels, and this is basically the only time I can hear his faint purr.
posted by dhartung at 11:54 AM on June 13, 2012


Got your dog securely lashed to the roof of the car for your next family vacation? Now all you need is the new Tabby Tote feline transportation system.
posted by Huplescat at 12:03 PM on June 13, 2012


Hope has been hand-raised since she was a day old, and it is my theory that this is why she has never quite learned the proper purr. She purrs, don't get me wrong, but you know how a cat's purr is supposed to be independent of the breath? In her case, there's a definite difference in the purring on the in-breath and the out-breath, so it sounds like purring crossed with very delicate snoring.

On an unrelated note, Fraula, you have the same combination of cats we have! The only difference is that our fuzzy britches of doom cat is female and strawberry blonde.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:07 PM on June 13, 2012


Haven't paid much attention to the purrs, but my GF's cat has these distinct meows:

"Wa Woo!" Which I think translates to "lunch meat"

"Woo Woo" Appears to be general conversation

"Wow!" Exclamation

"Brrr" I joke with him about trying to be a pigeon

"Mchao" I swear this is Yiddish, "ch" pronounced like channukah

and

"Heh Woah" Which sounds eerily like "hello" and is usually heard when we return to the apartment, especially after being gone for more than an hour.


posted by mmrtnt at 12:17 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Conrad has been excessively needy lately. He purrs all the time. It's very comforting to sleep with. He also meows constantly, but I have never figured out what he wants. It isn't food, water, treats, litter, a door to be opened or closed, attention, or for me to follow him. But he's very insistent.

George has taken to being an escape artist, and when I walk around the neighbourhood I get to hear people telling him how ugly he is while they pat him. (He is pretty ugly.) He usually comes inside in the middle of the night, throws up a hairball really loudly in my bedroom, then leaves. Thanks, cat.
posted by jeather at 12:21 PM on June 13, 2012


Picture of Elvis for tzikeh

And no, he's not named "Elvis" because we live in Las Vegas. That's a whole other story.


posted by mmrtnt at 12:33 PM on June 13, 2012


Pip, Bing, and Google.
posted by crunchland at 1:54 PM on June 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


My cat has had some damage or something to his vocal chords because he sounds unlike any other cat I've heard. He can't really meow - it's either an intensely loud purr (and there are sure more than two kinds of it) or a scraowl. Which is the only way I can kind of describe that half-indignant/half-warning sound he makes either when he's just exited the litter box or just as I turn the lights off to go to sleep. But a regular meow? Never. I don't think he can do it. His normal purrs are so loud that if he's sitting on me when I'm on the phone people can clearly hear it and sometimes I can't hear them. When he's trying to be his most winning self, he chirps.
posted by marylynn at 4:09 PM on June 13, 2012


Pics? Fine...

1) Cleo goes all Maru on a Panera bag

2) Cleo goes all *sniff* 'this smells tasty' on a Panera bag(el)

3) (Cleo just walked in meowing at me right now -- she knows...)

4) I spoil Cleo with pizza like woah... She is a very naught kitty because of me.

5) But she gets away with it, because she's cute:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B
posted by symbioid at 4:34 PM on June 13, 2012


Pip, Bing, and Google.

Sir, I'm reporting you to WADA for cute doping.
posted by eriko at 4:48 PM on June 13, 2012


Lady

Roswell

Yorvit

(Yorvit lurking)
posted by rtha at 5:05 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rarely will I watch an embedded video when the transcript is right beneath it. But cat story? PLAY THAT TAPE! (It was totally worth it for the chick that was trying to get her cat to purr but he bit her instead. Team cat forever!)
posted by troublewithwolves at 5:50 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a cat lover and sound engineer this was relevant to my interests.
posted by dagosto at 11:23 PM on June 13, 2012


My Midnight purrs as long as I pet him. He also has a two-syllable "meow" that sounds like "hello" when I come home from work.

He almost died a few months ago. He didn't adjust well to moving from Florida to San Francisco and stopped eating. As a result, he developed a serious liver problem and was sick for more than a month. Thankfully he's getting back to normal now. Whenever I took him to the vet, he would purr so loudly the vet couldn't hear his heart, so I had to hide while he was being examined.

Cody had no trouble adjusting to the move. It's amusing when the two of them start competing for my affection & both try to climb on my lap.
posted by mike3k at 12:17 AM on June 14, 2012


It takes me only a moment to sit astounded at the fact that cats have so manipulated us that even those of us who don't own cats are sitting here and clicking on cat pictures (and giggling, and oohing and aahing.)

Is there any surcease from this torture?
posted by dott8080 at 12:06 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cat brain:

You may adore me now.

Feed me.

Raise my children.

Lie still, I'm sleeping.

Scratch my back. More...right...um...yep, right there.

Humans are often easy to train.

posted by mule98J at 12:45 PM on June 14, 2012


I forgot: Everything tastes better with cat hair in it.
posted by mule98J at 12:46 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


You forgot one: Why WOULDN'T I sleep horizontally smack dab in the middle of the bed, stretching myself as long as I can get while you're trying to sleep? This makes a lot of sense to me.

And: You're trying to put down fresh bedsheets? Well I'm going to keep moving an inch or two away from the part getting pulled off, while staying on the bed of course because I am lazy, and that should take care of this annoyance for me. Yes.
posted by ifjuly at 3:04 PM on June 14, 2012


And I don't always want to cuddle but...
posted by ifjuly at 3:05 PM on June 14, 2012


Cat Stole My Pants
posted by homunculus at 11:42 AM on June 15, 2012


How to walk your human
posted by homunculus at 10:07 AM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


« Older M.C. Escher vs Star Wars Lego   |   BitCoin with Multi-signature Transactions Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post