The kitty — and the man — behind the Internet’s new cat
Behind the scenes at a new site for people who just want to hear a cat purr.
You might find Babouche napping on the bed.
She is the voice of a popular new web site called Purrli, which features simply the sound of a cat purring.
Though the site has brought in almost than 500,000 visitors since it launched last month, this white-pawed feline is a reluctant star.
Like many a cat, Babouche (pronounced ‘ba-BOOSH’) prefers to work, shall we say, ‘independently.’
“She is not very cooperative,” said Babouche’s owner, sound engineer Stephane Pigeon, who created Purrli. “She tends to stop purring or meowing as soon as she sees me approaching with my microphones.”
How did he get the uncooperative Babouche to purr enough for a website now entertaining people around the world?
Patience, Pigeon told Archer News.
And a few tricks!
Babouche sleeps through her stardom as the voice of the Internet’s new cat. Image credit: Stephane Pigeon
Not so simple
Getting one good recording of a less-than-willing kitty can be challenging. But Pigeon needed more.
His site does not just play an audio file, it actually generates its own ever-changing purr.
And you can choose if you want it ‘relaxed’ or ‘overjoyed,’ or ’steady’ vs. ‘lively,’ among others options.
“If it was just a recording, you would not be able to set the purr-rate to taste,” Pigeon explained. “And playing back that recording would result in playing exactly the same purr sequence, always. I wanted to avoid that. And have a purr sequence that would always change, like a real cat.”
But that meant more sessions with the somewhat-averse Babouche.
A Twitter user posts her Purrli settings online. Image via Twitter
To be fair, microphones can be scary for anyone, including humans.
Pigeon looked for options other than his larger, professional-grade microphones, which could be intimidating.
He thought recording from a distance might work, so he brought in a parabolic microphone that he could use at a distance.
“But that was even bigger,” Pigeon said. “And though it can be kept far away, it totally scared the cat.”
Pigeon said he tried to use a parabolic microphone like this one, but it scared the cat. Image credit: Telinga
So he tried the tiny microphones that he created for another sound website that he runs that tuck into his ears.
“Then I could approach her very close, and even put my head next to hers, without her noticing that I was recording her,” he said.
Babouche began to cooperate. But the rest of the world did not.
Pigeon lives near an international airport, and found planes, road traffic and even the sound of his own family going about their business interfering with the delicate operation.
“When your cat is ready to produce the nicest meows — usually when she asks for food — but then comes a plane,” lamented Pigeon. “That can be quite frustrating.”
Stephane Pigeon shows his custom in-ear microphones he used to record his cat’s purr. Image credit: Stephane Pigeon
Programming a purr
When he finally gathered enough purrs and meows, Pigeon started the job of melding and molding your experience.
“Sound is generated by your browser algorithmically,” he said. “I really had to work on a ‘model’ and generative algorithms.”
He decided to program a certain amount of randomness into Purrli. Random, like a living creature.
“It’s based on random number generators, and no one — not even me — will know exactly the outcome of these random number generators, and thus, how Purrli behaves in the short term,” Pigeon said.
“That is why I can enjoy Purrli, too,” he added. “It is unpredictable. If I knew how Purrli would behave in advance, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it myself.”
Purrli is getting listeners from around the world. Image via Twitter
Both humans — and cats — are tuning in to the sound of the Internet’s new cat.
“THIS SITE WINS THE INTERNET!” said @KitchenKitty on Twitter.
“Purrli is on full volume, my 2 cats are going crazy listening,” tweeted @whiteangora.
An Instagram image from video of a cat reacting to Purrli. Image via jet_squirrels on Instagram
Some give better reviews than others.
“I even shoved it under my cats’ noses, and they were not interested,” said one cat owner on Instagram.
“It’s actually kind of nice but not the cat meowing that really messed up the whole relaxing vibe,” said Jessica, who says she feels ‘neutral’ about cats.
Pigeon encourages people to use the meow slider to adjust the number of meows, from ‘never’ up to several times a minute.
Non-cat lovers might skip this site entirely.
But he said, thousands of people are visiting every day, perhaps seeking the soothing sound of a cat who’s happy and willing to show it.
“People love cats on the Internet,” he said. “Seems to be so true!”
In case you’re wondering, a “babouche” is a heelless slipper. The cat Babouche has white paws, like slippers.
Main image: Babouche sits in her “purring” spot. Image credit: Stephane Pigeon