Paranoid cat owners have always claimed that their cats manipulate them into doing whatever the cats want. According to a report in Current Biology, it's true — and scientists have identified one of their insidious feline tactics.
According to research by University of Sussex scientist Karen McComb, the combined purring-crying of a hungry cat triggers nurturing instincts in human beings. Hungry cat cries have a certain high-frequency component paired with a lower frequency purr, making the cry seem urgent to human ears.
The team used recordings of cat cries to see how they affected human subjects. Even people that had never owned a cat said the high frequency cries sounded more urgent, making them want to respond to the cries quicker.
Interestingly, the cats seem more likely to use this purr-cry combination primarily with a single owner, meaning that they learn to use it only on their primary source of food. Cats that interact with one person more than others seem to learn to exaggerate this cry to better manipulate the humans around them. I guess that means cats are better at training us than we are at training them. Next, maybe we should look into those little white mice...