Cats Push The Human Need To Nurture Button

Or…. Are Cats Manipulative (part 2)?

Are cats manipulative?

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Yes some cats know how to tweak the natural human desire to nurture. Cats can be manipulative! Manipulative is probably an exaggeration but I am not sure. “Manipulative” has quite a wide ranging meaning. It can mean devious but it also means cunning and wily.

Wild cats hunting are probably cunning. They outdo their prey; attack in groups sometimes (lions and lynx) and maximize the chance of success. So, wild cats could be described as manipulative when it achieves their goal. They manipulate prey into going in a certain direction and then trap it.

We know that the domestic cat is a whisker away from the wild cat ancestor and we know that the domestic cat is a good learner from observation. They copy other cats and, because they live with us, they can copy us too. The cat opening the fridge door or any door is an example. In a video (no longer available sadly) a cat copies boxers on TV throwing punches.

In, typically, single-person households, cats will employ a special purr that has tones that hint at a baby’s cry. This special purr is more “noisy and whiny” than the typical purr and more urgent and less pleasant. It can be irritating and it makes the person pay attention and it triggers the human need to nurture (ref: a study reported in the journal Current Biology 2009). Purrs are normally highly pleasant to a person so a purr that is “demanding” is very strange.

It appears to be a learned sound – a modified purr, modernized and suited to domestic life. As it occurs in single-person households it indicates (to me) that the cat has more vocal interaction with the person and has learned what works. This may have been trial and error but it also calls in question whether the domestic cat is altering its behavior through evolution to maximize his/her life in the human environment.

It could be argued that the cat is employing this “solicitation purr” for one objective: to manipulate the woman (or man, but usually a woman, I am sure) into reacting and to pay attention to the cat’s call, which will often be for food or perhaps to be let outside. The cat is pushing the person’s desire-to-nurture button.

I think, therefore, it is perhaps fair to say that cats can, on occasion be manipulative but – and this is a big but – cat lovers allow themselves to be manipulated a lot of the time. The person is ready and willing to respond.

Is all this good or bad? I think is good really because it shows us that cats are smart and good learners. They are getting more from us that just food and shelter.

Original photo

28 thoughts on “Cats Push The Human Need To Nurture Button”

  1. Ozzie is highly intelligent he regularly leads me to the fridge for his ham he also looks in the basket where Mr Dot lives and looks at me to get him out so we can play. I don’t see him as manipulative just resourceful and persuasive πŸ™‚

  2. Am so hoping everything works out as dont want to seperate them. Was going to get a kitty but prob not a good idea at this stage.

  3. I never take a cat’s love for granted. We have to earn that trust and love- but once they give us their hearts- unless something tragic happens, that love just grows and grows… cementing our bonds.

    I don’t think that cats “play us”- They just tell us what they want- and don’t forget- ya catch more flies with honey than vinegar- which may be an idea they found in their survival toolbox.

      • thats what happens with my cats esp rebel. I think can be both ways. Im going though a rough time atm. Realtionship just broken up so hoping can still stay here with the cats. Will let you know how things go.

        • Kylee do you mean the cats are shared and you might have to be the one to move out and leave some of them? That’s awful!

          • well will just have to wait and see. Will Find out on Monday whats happening. Hopefully hoping all will be fine. yea i dont want to split them up. Hopefully we be able to work out and stay here. as houses are hard to come by not much rental properties available with such hard times

  4. Maybe some cats are clever at knowing how to work their humans to get what they want, but that only makes them exactly the same as humans, some people are wily, some people are takers, some are selfish but the thing is people choose to be that way, cats are as cats are, who can blame them for taking full advantage of all the comforts of home, after all it’s only by the grace of God that a cat lands up in a kind and loving home, many a cat is but a whisker away from homelessness and cruelty, so they do right to enjoy what they can when they can.

  5. Cats are not manipulative, far from it, they are just highly intelligent and know that we love them so much that their every wish is our command.


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