Cats seeking food use a cry that humans find maximally urgent and annoying, LiveScience reports. Researchers played a range of cat calls for humans and found that one—a high-pitched cry embedded in a purr—to be the most difficult to ignore, whether the subject owned a cat or not. Scientists think hungry cats may use the purr-cry to sound more like human offspring.
The purr-cry is also less harmonic than a conventional meow, and may therefore be harder to get used to, the researchers said. “The embedding of a cry within a call that we normally associate with contentment is quite a subtle means of eliciting a response,” the study’s lead author says.