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If music be the food of meow, play on

Snowdon CT, Teie D, Savage M.  Cats prefer species-appropriate music.  Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2015;166(0):106-11.

The effects of certain types of music composed for humans on animals and plants have been documented, but sometimes with conflicting outcomes, in various studies over the last several decades.  Some cats have been observed to appear to enjoy music composed for humans, and videos of cats who play piano by striking the keys with their paws have gone viral on the Internet.  Having completed a previous controlled study of species-specific music on cotton-topped tamarin monkeys, these researchers hypothesized that music composed with a pitch and tempo used for natural communication by cats would be more appealing to cats than music composed for humans.  Feline vocalizations are an octave higher than those of humans, and music in this frequency range with the tempo of purring or that associated with the suckling sound made when kittens nurse was composed especially for the subjects of this study.

The study was conducted in the homes of 47 cats, 27 males and 20 females.  Four pieces of music, interspersed with periods of silence, were played for the cats:  two composed for humans, the  “Air on the G String” (BWV 1068;https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMkmQlfOJDk) by Johann Sebastian Bach, and Gabriel Fauré’s “Elegie” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhTqkl_RjTs), and two created by composer David Teie for cats (www.musicforcats.com).  Observations were made of the cat’s behavior while listening to the selections.  Responses evaluated as positive included purring, walking toward the speaker, and rubbing the speaker, while responses considered negative included hissing, arching the back, and piloerection.  The cat-specific music evoked significantly more and faster (median 110 seconds for the cat-specific music versus 171 seconds for the human music) positive responses from the cats than the two selections of human music. Younger and older cats were more responsive to the cat-specific music than middle-aged cats. Species-specific music, composed with features that are perceptible and resonant with the biological rhythms and auditory/vocal characteristics of the target species, is likely to be the most appropriate and effective way to provide auditory enrichment for animals. [PJS]

See also:

Ellis, S. Environmental enrichment: practical strategies for improving feline welfareJ. Feline Med. Surg.2009;11:901–912.

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