AnimalBehaviorist.us

Classical
Music and
Cats
Classical Music and cats -still a good idea (c) 2015-2018 Frania
Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved

Classical music with its soothing melodic tones and harmonies is now more readily

accepted in pet care as being a positive for the animals that get to listen but is it
really? The answer may be “yes”, “no” and “it depends on what kind.” In addition
to being able to observe a positive impact, it makes sense that the right sort of
classical music needs to be played from the animal perspective to be effective.
Soothing music may have a universal component for all species. Factors such as
lower pitch and regular tempo are typically associated with more pleasant music
while high pitched and irregular tempo are usually perceived as disturbing.

A new study on the sort of music cats prefer by researchers, Charles T. Snowdon,

David Teie and Megan Savage addresses cat specific music by testing how well cats
respond to music created to cater to what the researchers believed the cats would like
to be listening to. Drs.’ Snowdon, Teie and Savage composed pieces of music that were
in cat frequency ranges and compared the cats’ responses to music in human
frequency range. Of course, for any of this to matter the animal in question needs to
be able to hear it. And it is with the hearing of things that most animals aside from
humans are listening at frequencies we are not aware of. Humans hear in an
approximate range of 64-23,000 hertz (which is a measurement of the cycles per
second of a particular sound wave) compared to dogs who hear in an approximate
range of 67-45,000 hertz and cats, who beat out both species, hearing in an
approximate range of 45-64,0000. When looking at the sensory capacities of other
animals it is vitally important to know that the measurements we are working with
are all educated guesswork on our parts with significantly huge gaps missing in our
knowledge. We need to remember that when we have tried to determine the range
of an animal’s hearing we cannot ask the animal what it hears and receive a response.
We never definitively know. We first train hungry animals to respond to a sound by
rewarding them with food and measure which sounds they respond to. In fact, we
cannot know what they are actually hearing only what levels they respond to in our
tests. It’s an important distinction and a valuable one to remember in the work we do
with animals.

The researchers also added in what they thought would evoke a friendly response in
the cats using purring or the sucking sounds cats make when nursing to regulate
tempo. The human music used for comparison, pieces generally perceived as pleasing
to people (Faure’s Elegie and Bach’s Air on a G String), had tempos similar to the human
resting pulse rate, which is intimated, may contribute to its relaxing qualities. It is
confusing why the researchers choose purring and sucking as tempos to set their “cat
music” to rather than cat resting pulse rate especially as the cat music is compared to
human music set to a tempo of the human resting pulse rate. The cat’s resting pulse
rate is 120-140 beats per minute as compared to a human’s which is 60-100 beats per
minute.

The researchers found the study cats responded significantly more actively and

positively to the cat music with younger cats in the study showing an even greater
response. Positive responses were listed as turning the head toward the speaker
where the music was coming from, rubbing against it, sniffing and purring.

It is also vitally important in the work we do looking at animals that we look at

behavior in contexts that are salient for the animals in question. The cat music study
here begins with positing a relevant range of what a cat can hear as a starting point
for what music might be more or less meaningful and perhaps loses focus by mixing
in tempos of sounds made during comfort behaviors, like nursing and purring. When
the cats in question respond positively to the music (again, worth noting that more
of the younger cats in question respond) it is difficult if not impossible to parse out
what the cats are in fact responding to; the tempo of the purring or nursing sounds
or the frequency or otherwise. In a separate study on dogs, Patricia Simonet,
recorded the sounds dogs make when “laughing” at play, a particular in and out
pant. Dr. Simonet then played the dog laugh recording as background noise in
various shelter environments and found similar impacts, with results showing the
shelter dogs demonstrating positive behavior responses to the sounds.

Whether it is studying animals, working with them or living with them it is of great

importance for us to always remember that other species perceive the world we share
together in sometimes markedly different ways even as we may be sharing the same
physical spaces. Paying close attention to how our animals react to their environments
in the ways we have come to learn are positive or negative for them continue to be the
most telling for us as to how they “feel” about them.

In my own work I recommend the use of classical music, specifically classical music

found on the radio. Radio stations mostly play music for background effect, so arias
and discordant pieces are often ruled out. Radio stations also have dulcet toned
announcers softly speaking about the music, an added bonus for pets. Classical music
continues to have value for cats and other animals and this is most demonstrated by
the behaviors they present to the appropriate music. On a recent visit to a dog daycare
I found the manager listening to a classical radio station and asked if he was playing
the music to soothe the dogs. “No, “he told me “I like it but I do notice that the dogs are
much calmer when the radio is on.” The behavior tells, we just need to be clear what it
is telling.

References
Snowdon, C.T., Teie, D., Savage, M. (2015).  Cats prefer species-appropriate music.  
Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 166, 106-111.

Simonet, P., Versteeg, D., Storie, D. (2005)  Dog-laughter: Recorded playback reduces

stress related behavior in shelter dogs. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference
on Environmental Enrichment July 31 – August 5, 2005.
studies show cats prefer and respond to classical music
"working with them or living
with them it is of great
importance for us to always
remember that other species

perceive the world we
share together in sometimes
markedly different ways even
as we may be sharing the same
physical spaces. Paying close
attention to how our animals

react to their environments
in the ways we have come to

learn are positive or negative
for them continue to be the most
telling for us as to how they

“feel” about them."
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Entire website copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
paying close attention to how cats react to their environment tells us how they feel about it
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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