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Why do cats cackel?

  1. Nov 10, 2005 #1
    I know I am proably misspelling it, but why do cats kackel( version 2.0)? I mean kackling usually makes noticable noise and scares off the prey, right. How would this have some sort of advantage? And by the way does anyone have any idea what wild species the common household cat is most closely related to. The dog is most closely related to the wolf, right?
    Thanks,
    -Scott
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2005 #2

    Evo

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    I know the noise you're referring to. My cat makes it when she's getting ready to attack flying bugs. I'd have to look up the reason, if someone else doesn't answer first, I will return later.
     
  4. Nov 10, 2005 #3

    DocToxyn

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    Are you referring to the sort-of chattering noise they make? Not very loud, repeated short stuttering accompanied by the jaw moving up and down?

    I have noticed this behavior/vocalization in several cats, typically when they are stalking or watching birds or other small animals. I even had one that would come rushing at me doing that after I sneezed:uhh: . I did a quick web search and found explanations the range from stress relief to "calling the bird to them" to enabling scent to reach receptors in the throat to a reaction to frustration (they usually have glass between then and the bird)....I'm not 100% convinced about any of these. I'm anxious to see what other people come up with.
     
  5. Nov 10, 2005 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    We have had two cats that did this. In both cases it seemed to me that they were trying to mimic the birds. I used to hold the one cat like a machine gun, point him at some birds, and shoot. :biggrin: But he certainly would have attacked the birds. The other cat would not attack birds. She would sit right in the middle of flock chattering away while completely ignored by the birds.
     
  6. Nov 10, 2005 #5

    Danger

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    Geez... I've owned a lot of cats in my time, but I've never heard of this before. Maybe they're trying to sound like grasshoppers or something to bait the birds? :confused:
     
  7. Nov 10, 2005 #6
    I heard they get overly excited, and if they don't do this..they explode!

    lol honestly, I have had a cat do this over a leaf blowing through the yard, and a spider in the window.

    From Petcaretips

    Chatter
    When cats stalk a prey or pretend they are stalking a prey, such
    as watching a bird from a window perch, oftentimes you will hear
    your kitty "chatter". This is their way of trying to get it's
    prey to trust him or her and is used in an offensive manner. Cats
    will chatter when they are not in pursuit of a prey. Cats have
    been known to chatter back at their human when they are caught
    off guard or disagree with the human's tone of voice toward them.
    If your cat gets in trouble, sometimes, he will chatter back at
    you, as if in defense of themselves, saying, "Whatever it is, I
    didn't do it!" Chattering, therefore, can be used in offensive or
    defensive situations.
     
  8. Nov 10, 2005 #7

    Bystander

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    Let's see --- sitting, huddled, crouched, gathered, sphinx, slinking, stalking, sleeping (when chasing rabbits or whatever, accompanied by paw twitching)and in the "dying cockroach," but not in the Roman reclining/lounging positions --- every cat I've ever been owned by, directed at everything from leaves to other cats.

    If you watch it closely, you'll notice ears and whiskers both up and forward, very small left-right and up-down angular displacements (scanning?) of the head --- pure speculation, and I've never seen, heard, read, anything to support the idea, but is there a sonar search of intensely interesting moving things that goes on?

    Anybody got one of the green-eyed whites (congenitally deaf) from the Harvard(?) cattery? If the behavior shows up there, it pretty much torpedos my hypothesis, unless, of course it's instinct, and there is actually enough acoustic sensitivity in the whiskers.

    Don't recall seeing it for large animals (not prey, but threats), or inanimate objects (still day for leaves) --- and the cat lounging on the back in the grass in the shade watching a hummingbird never tensed up, changed posture, or did anything beyond a languid gesture with one paw toward the household staff more or less indicating that we should bring that closer for a better look.
     
  9. Nov 12, 2005 #8
    Well, I had a feeling that there would be different theories on it. But it just seems like that it would make the cat less likely to catch the bird. I have no idea what advantage it would possess. I mean wouldn't any noise just scare the bird away?
    Thanks for your time,
    -Scott
     
  10. Nov 12, 2005 #9

    Ouabache

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    There are a couple of things going on. A cat (and other animals) use the outside portion of their ear, as a horn, to collect sound. By pointing them in the direction of an interesting sound, it is simultaneously attenuating (filtering) audible information coming from other directions. We also use our ears as a horn to focus incoming sounds but we aren't as efficient. We don't have the flexibility of ear muscles like a cat or dog.

    The second thing occuring is a combination of sensing direction and distance. All binaural creatures evolved this ability to sense direction. Each ear senses a pressure wave at a slightly different time. The brain can distinguish this time delay and interprets this as a direction. The next part is very much like SONAR as you guessed. The brain determines distance by echo-location (more highly developed in sea mammals and bats). We don't take as much advantage of this ability unless we happen to be blind. In that case, our brain utilizes hearing to a greater degree. I know blind people who can tell me with surprising accuracy how far away a wall is when walking down a narrow alley. Sound is generated by foot-falls and the echo (time delay) is interpreted into distance. So when you see a cat moving its ears around, it is approximating the location of the audible source.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2005
  11. Nov 12, 2005 #10

    Bystander

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    Egad! Taking the sonar speculation seriously? Okay, the guys can distinguish the difference between a can of tuna being set on the counter and a can of beans, from the far end of the house, on a different floor --- i.e., the hearing is acute, but a sonar scan of a squirrel's tail (sticking above a fence --- cheeky little snot) at fifty feet? "Illuminating" with just the "cackling/chattering?"

    4 to zip, Calgary over CO end of 1st --- Aebischer may have set a record for fastest goalie "blow-up" getting pulled with 5 left in first.

    Back to cats: so, the sonar may be a more general property among mammals than just "Flipper" and Bruce Wayne? As in a survival trait hanging on from our small, skulking, nocturnal days?
     
  12. Nov 12, 2005 #11

    Evo

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    I went to a cat website and they say that the chatter is caused by frustration of the prey being out of reach, moving too fast, etc... That makes sense because my cat chatters at flying bugs, but she doesn't chatter at crickets on the ground, which she can catch. She sneaks up on them very quietly. I've also witnessed cats sneaking up on birds on the ground at close range, they don't chatter. I see them chatter when the bird is too far away.
     
  13. Nov 12, 2005 #12

    Ouabache

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    In the sightless person example, they have learned to equate sound time-delay with distance. Sighted people should be able to do the same, but most are not paying the same degree of attention to those cues. In marine mammals and bats, it is called echo-location. In other animals, I've heard it called sound localization (for example: owls). Both are achieving the same goal, approximating distance. This would be a good survival trait for both hunters and foragers.
     
  14. Nov 12, 2005 #13

    Bystander

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    This is starting to intrigue me --- "cures" for both agoraphobia and claustrophobia via acoustic feedback.

    This is the story I've always bought. Comes up in this thread, and the accumulated observations of a dozen cats in various situations included a few instances that clearly weren't frustration (the rag doll flat on his back in the grass in the shade chattering at hummingbird, butterfly, whatever --- and gesturing for the servants to peel another grape) --- hence, the sonar speculation.

    If you watch your cat closely on the "near bird stalk," I'll bet you'll still see the lower jaw vibrate, mouth slightly ajar --- just no audible chatter.
     
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