Music for Cats

Or should we say "meow-sic" Science explains the best hits for kitty.

My cat, Sloopy, used to love Maroon 5 – something about Adam Levine’s voice (perhaps the high pitch?) set him at ease. Random, I know. But now, cats have their own music. Let’s think of it as meow-sic, shall we?

Created by Dr. Charles Snowdon, a professor of psychology and zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his colleague, psychologist Megan Savage, Snowdon worked with David Teie, a cellist and composer, to construct feline tunes made up of meows, purrs, and other forms of cat chatter.

“We were motivated to make music for cats for two reasons,” he told The Huffington Post in an email. “First, many pet owners told us that they play radio music for their pets while they are at work and we wondered if this had any value. Second, we have developed a theory that suggests that species other than humans can enjoy music but that the music has to be in the frequency range that the species uses to communicate and with tempos that they would normally use.”

The study on cats and music, recently accepted for publication in the journal “Applied Animal Behaviour Science,” was conducted in the homes of 47 domestic cats while their respective owners looked on. During the experiment, the kitties in question were exposed to two cat compositions – “Rusty’s Ballad” and “Cozmo’s Air.” This was followed by two human compositions — Gabriel Fauré’s “Elegie” and Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air on a G String” (both of which are known to have calming effects on humans). The result?

The cats, mostly of mixed breed heritage, virtually ignored the human compositions, but were driven to rubbing their heads against the speaker while listening to the cat compositions. As any cat lover knows, head-rubbing is a sign of ownership in feline body language; so head-rubbing the speaker during the cat compositions? A sign of the cats trying to possess the music. This head-rubbing did not take place during the human compositions.

Listen to samples of the songs here:
Spook’s Ditty
Rusty’s Ballad

Find out more about music for cats here. This isn’t the first time Snowdon has attempted something like this.

Back in 2009, Snowdon and Teie teamed up to create music for cotton-top tamarins, focusing on crafting tunes based on the tamarins vocal communications. With that study, the tamarins showed no interest in human music (with the exception of Metallica), but calmed when listening to tamarin compositions. This time around, Snowdon is convinced that cat music may be an effective way to calm shelter cats and felines suffering from separation anxiety or loneliness.

“Animals in shelters (and possibly even pets left alone all day long) may be lonely or bored, and environmental enrichment may be an important way to help them cope and to minimize behavioral problems that might occur,” Snowdon said in an e-mail to WQXR.

And when it comes to behavior, anything that promotes the good is totally okay with us.

What do you think of cat music? Will you be downloading it for your felines?

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