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猫为什么呜呜叫?原因没你想的那么简单

更新时间:2018-8-28 20:48:18 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The complicated truth about a cat's purr
猫为什么呜呜叫?原因没你想的那么简单

We think we know what a cat’s purr means.

我们以为自己知道猫咪呜呜叫是什么意思。

It is arguably the most recognisable sign of animal contentment: a pleasurable rasp that erupts whenever a cat is tickled or petted, the soundtrack to countless sessions sprawled on an owner’s lap.

通常认为动物开心时会这样:抚摸或胳肢猫时,猫咪会开心地呜呜叫,躺在主人的大腿上,猫咪会不断发出这样的声音。

But that’s not quite the full story. There is a lot more going on with the cat’s purr than you might reasonably expect.

如果认为只是这样而已,你就错了。猫咪呜呜叫的背后故事,多到超乎你的想象。

Even the ‘how’ was long a subject of debate. Some thought it was linked to blood flowing to the inferior vena cava, a vein that carries deoxygenated blood to the right side of the heart. But with more research it seemed likelier that the noise came from the muscles within the cat’s larynx. As they move, they dilate and constrict the glottis – the part of the larynx that surrounds the vocal chords – and the air vibrates every time the cat breathes in or out. The result? A purr.

单是猫咪是如何发出呜呜声这一点,人们都争论了许久。有人认为和血液流到下腔静脉有关,下腔静脉将没有氧气的血液送入右心房时会发出声音。但是更多的研究发现呜呜声更可能来自猫咪喉部的肌肉。当猫儿的肌肉运动时,肌肉就会扩张或压缩声门(喉部声带周围的部分),因此猫咪每次呼吸时都会震动空气。结果呢?发出呜呜声。

Even though science is now fairly sure this is the process, there’s no definitive answer as to what triggers the response. The biggest clue is a neural oscillator deep within the cat’s brain, one that otherwise has no clear purpose.

虽然现在科学可以肯定过程就是如此,但是什么引起猫咪呜呜叫,还没有明确的答案。可能与猫咪大脑内一个尚无明确功能的神经振动子有关。

But if that neural oscillator is triggered, is it just when a cat is happy?

但是触发神经振动子时,猫咪是开心的吗?

Sometimes. But only sometimes.

有时是开心的。仅仅是有时候。

Marjan Debevere is a cat shelter photographer in London who is currently studying for a degree in feline psychology. She is also the owner of four cats – Clive, Hula, Luigi and Archie – who are something of an Instagram sensation (33,000-odd followers and counting, Instagram fans).

代贝维尔是伦敦的一名猫咪收容所摄影师,正在读猫心理学。她自己也养了四只猫——克莱夫、胡拉、阿尔奇和路易,她是IG上的网红(IG上有33000多粉丝,还在不断增加)。

Part of the mystery around the purr is that we often only notice cats purring “when we tickle them in places that they like to be tickled”, says Debevere. Yet they also purr when we’re not around, and the extent of that purring varies between individuals. “All cats are different, some never purr and some will purr constantly,” she says. She draws the comparison between her cat Luigi – a stray who followed someone in to their office and was subsequently taken to a shelter – and Archie, who “moved in from next door” and became part of the family. Luigi purrs little, and Archie a lot.

代贝维尔说,问题是我们通常只注意到"胳肢它们喜欢被胳肢的部位时",猫咪会呜呜叫。但是,我们不在身边时猫咪也会呜呜叫,不同的猫叫声是不同的。她说,"没有两只猫是一样的,有的从不呜呜叫,有的叫个不停。"她比较了她的两只猫,路易和阿尔奇。路易是一只流浪猫,跟着某人来到她们办公室,后来被送到了收容所。阿尔奇"从隔壁搬过来"成了家庭的一员。路易很少呜呜叫,阿尔奇却经常叫。

“I’ve photographed more than 3,000 cats so far [at shelters] and no two are the same,” Debevere says. “I’ve witnessed a lot of cats purring when they’re dying, and when they’re being put to sleep. The vet will say something like ‘They were purring right up until the end’, and people assume they’re happy when they’re purring. That’s just not always the case.”

代贝维尔说:"我给3,000多只猫拍过照片(在收容所),没有两只猫是一样的。我见过许多猫濒死的时候呜呜叫,被安乐死的时候也呜呜叫。兽医说'它们直到生命的最后一刻还在呜呜叫',人们以为它们呜呜叫的时候是开心的,其实不总是这样。"

The study of cats’ behaviour and communication has lagged behind that of dogs, which are usually more willing participants, especially if there is a reward of food involved. But in recent years more light has been shed on the purr.

对猫的行为和语言的研究比狗的研究落后。因为狗通常很积极配合,尤其是有食物作奖励的时候。但是近些年来,对猫呜呜叫的研究也有了一些进展。

"We’re just beginning to understand it and there are more unanswered questions than answered," says Gary Weitzman, a veterinarian and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society. "While the purr does generally represent contentment for cats, it can also express nervousness, fear and stress. Fortunately, more often it’s an indicator of the former.

韦茨曼是(Gary Weitzman)一名兽医,也是圣地亚哥人道协会(San Diego Humane Society)的首席执行官,他说:"我们只是刚开始起步,需要回答的问题比已经回答的问题要多。呜呜叫大多代表猫咪是开心的,但也能传达紧张,害怕和压力。还好,大多数情况下是表示开心。"

"It’s been speculated for decades that purring was a form of communication. In the early 2000s we hypothesised that purring has other purposes besides this. Work by Elizabeth von Muggenthaler, Karen Overall, and others has led to a better understanding of the purpose of the purr. It’s likely that purring has communication, appeasement, and healing properties," Weitzman says.

韦茨曼说:"数十年来人们猜测呜呜叫是一种交流方式。二十一世纪初人们假设猫咪呜呜叫还有其他用处。穆更塔勒(Elizabeth von Muggenthaler)、奥弗罗尔(Karen Overall)和其他人的研究让人们更好地理解了猫叫的用处。呜呜叫有交流、安抚和疗愈的功能。"

Cats begin purring when they are a few days old, which helps their mothers locate them for feeding time. This may persist with some adult cats who purr as they feed – or who purr beforehand as they try and convince a human it’s dinner time. Some will purr loudly when they are cautiously investigating new environments (my own cat purrs loudest when it’s exploring the back of the wardrobe). Cats may also purr after they’ve been startled, or after stressful episodes like being chased by a dog.

小猫几天大的时候就开始呜呜叫,这可以帮助猫妈妈喂奶时找到它们。这可能也是为什么成年猫咪喂奶时或想要人类喂食时也会呜呜叫。有些猫在勘察新环境时会呜呜叫得很大声(我自己的猫在衣柜后探险时叫得最厉害)。猫咪受到惊吓,或者经受很大压力之后,比如被狗追也可能会呜呜大叫。

The more science has delved into the purr, the more it seems to have uncovered. "Researchers have recorded 'ordinary purrs' and purrs that were soliciting food from their owners," says Celia Haddon, an author and cat behavioural expert. "Even non-cat owners could tell the difference. Inside the ordinary low purr was a higher frequency cry, somewhat like a meow.

科学研究得越多仿佛未知的东西也越多。哈登(Celia Haddon)是作家也是猫咪行为专家,她说:"研究者记录了猫咪'平常的呜呜叫'和向主人讨食时的呜呜叫。即使不是猫的主人也能听得出分别,平常低沉的呜呜叫中有更高频的叫声,有点像喵喵叫。"

"This particular sound is rather like the isolation cry of kittens or the human baby distress cry. We humans are naturally sensitive to the baby cry, so we respond also to the cry within the purr."

她说,"这种叫声听起来像小猫叫或者婴儿的哭声。人类天生对婴儿哭声很敏感,因此也能对呜呜叫的猫哭声做出反应。"

Sam Watson, the scientific officer at the UK’s animal charity the RSPCA, says there is still little understanding of how cats purr amongst each other in the wild, though it’s apparent that they will purr as they groom each other. “There could be one for ‘I want that’, another for ‘Let’s share resources’. There are lots of things like that we know so little about.

沃森(Sam Watson)是英国动物福利组织防止虐待动物协会(RSPCA)的研究员,他说对野外猫咪之间如何呜呜叫人们还知之甚少,虽然知道猫在互相梳理猫毛的时候会呜呜叫。"可能有的意思是'我想要那个',有的是'我们分享吧',但更多的我们却知之尚少。

“Feline communication is absolutely overlooked, and it deserves a lot more attention and study than it’s given today.”

"人们绝对忽视了猫之间的沟通交流,现有的关注和研究远远不够。"

One hypothesis is that the purr is a powerful healing action. It’s thought that the vibrations from the activity are physically rejuvenating – a way for the cat to ‘heal’ itself after stress. The frequency of those vibrations – which range from 20Hz up to 150Hz – is thought to promote bone growth, as bones harden in response to the pressure. Other frequencies may do something similar to tissue.

一种假设认为猫叫是一种有效的疗愈行为。呜呜叫产生的震动能恢复身体,是一种猫经受压力后自我"治疗"的方式。震动的频率,从20到150赫兹,据信能够促进骨骼生长,骨骼因受到压力而增强骨质密度。其他的频率可能会促进组织生长。

“Purrs at a frequency of 25-100Hz correspond with established healing frequencies in therapeutic medicine for humans," Weitzman says. "Bone responds to 25-50Hz and skin and soft tissues to around 100Hz according to researchers."

韦茨曼说:"25到100赫兹的猫叫和人类康复机器的治疗频率是一样的。研究者称20到25赫兹能促进骨骼生长,100赫兹左右能促进皮肤和软组织生长。"

This is why we see cats purring in apparent contentment while dozing. In reality, it's a form of self-repair. Cats may have adapted their normal behaviour – which now involves spending a lot of the day resting – as a way of avoiding injury through over-exertion. The purr has developed as a low-energy way to keep bones and tissues in good condition while they rest.

这就是为什么猫咪在小睡的时会开心地呜呜叫,事实上,这是一种自我修复的方式。猫咪养成这样的习惯,比如长时间静卧,可能是要避免过度劳累受伤。猫咪用静卧休息这种耗能少的方式来保持骨骼和组织健康。

And the purr may not just be of benefit to the cats themselves. Petting a cat has long been seen as a form of stress relief – cat ownership could cut the risk of stroke or heart disease by as much one-third. Those same frequencies cats purr at might also be doing good to us as well.

猫的呜呜叫声不只对猫咪有好处。抚摸猫咪长久以来被看作一种减压方式,养猫者患中风或心脏病的风险能降低三分之一。猫咪呜呜叫的频率可能对人类也有好处。

"I think the purr has a big benefit for humans," says Weitzman. "The physiological benefits aside, we’ve always responded to purring’s psychological effects. It calms us and pleases us, like watching waves against a beach. We respond to a cat’s purr as a calming stimulus and may have even genetically selected cats with more propensity to purr.”

韦茨曼说:"我认为猫咪呜呜叫对人类很有好处。生理上的益处除外,对人类的心理健康也大有帮助。猫的可爱叫声能够让我们心境平静愉快,就像看海浪拍打海岸,能使我们获得宁静一样。既然猫叫声对我们犹如镇静剂,因此我们甚至可能从基因上挑选更常呜呜叫的猫咪来作伴。"

Haddon agrees. “If it is winding round your feet, looking up at you, glancing towards the food cupboard or the fridge, you cannot miss the signs together with the loud purring that say it wants its food – now!

哈登同意韦茨曼的说法。"如果猫儿绕着你脚边转,看着你,瞧着上方的食物柜或冰箱,并大声的呜呜叫着,你怎么能错过猫儿的信号——我想要吃饭!现在就要!

“In the morning loud purring can be used, together with human face patting or rubbing, to wake up a human and thus get breakfast. Most of us feed the cat before ourselves, which shows how effective their communication is.”

"清晨,大声的呜呜猫叫登场了,拍拍或蹭蹭主人的脸,把主人叫醒好有早餐吃。大多数人喂完猫才自己吃早餐,可见猫咪的语言多么有用。"

Ultimately, the quest to define the meaning of a purr may benefit from getting to know cats’ body language better – from the periscope tail of a friendly cat in sociable mood to the wide eyes and bent-back whiskers of a cat in fight mode. With this deeper knowledge, the bond between cat and owner can only grow.

最后,如果想搞清楚猫儿叫声的含义可能需要多了解猫咪的肢体语言——从友善时的潜望镜尾巴,到好斗时瞪大的眼睛和向后弯的胡须。有了这些知识,猫咪和主人间的关系只会越来越好。

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