A little bit country a little bit rock n’ roll as the saying goes…with humans it’s quit easy to determine what music we like, but how about our cats? While we may project our personal tastes onto our feline companions the truth is that the musical preference of cats, and other species, has very little to do with what we like.
David Teie, musician and creator of Music For Cats, set out to discover exactly what responses cats and other species had to music. Working with Psychologist Charles Snowdon at the University of Wisconsin they initially studied how cotton-topped tamarin monkeys reacted to David’s “species-specific” music. This would become the first controlled study to show a significant response to music from non-humans. They then decided to test how cats would react to specific music and Teie, who coauthored the study, said he believes cats enjoy music, or at least display preferences.
We know that felines can have selective hearing, i.e. not coming when called and then appearing out of nowhere when you open any can of food because they think they are being fed, but would they respond to the sound of music personalized just for them?
Researchers determined the best way to get cats to listen to music was to develop “a theoretical framework that hypothesizes that in order for music to be effective with other species, it must be in the frequency range and with similar tempos to those used in natural communication by each species.”
Based on this theory vocalizations of cats were matched to music of the same frequency range, about an octave or higher than human voices. The team replicated the tempo of things that cats would find interesting – one song featured a purring tempo, and another featured a suckling tempo. Researchers also said since “cats use lots of sliding frequencies in their calls, the cat music had many more sliding notes than the human music.“
Cat songs were played back to 47 domestic cats, and two human classical songs – Johann Sebastian Bach’s Air on a G String and Gabriel Fauré’s Elegie were played. Observations showed that the cats didn’t respond at all to the human music. But when the cat music started up, they became excited and started approaching the speakers, often rubbing their scent glands on them, which means they were trying to claim the object. The study also found that younger and older cats respond more to feline-specific music than middle-aged cats.
Real life applications of music for cats is practical as it could be used to calm cats in shelters, veterinary offices, while boarding and in the home where it could help prevent separation anxiety. David Teie has developed three songs in different styles to convey different moods: Kitty Ditties, Cat Ballads and Feline Airs. They are Spooks Ditty, Cozmo Air, and Rusty’s Ballad which you can try out on your own cats at home.
Recently he talked about his music and played it for the cats of New York’s first Cat Cafe Meow Parlour. Check out how big city cats react, or don’t react, in this video.
Curious about cat music? Give it a try and be sure to leave a comment below letting me know if your cat enjoys it.