Our beloved feline companions are incredibly attuned to their surroundings, which is why their hiding spots are considered off-limits. Some cats may also experience anxiety, which can be caused by illness, adjusting to a new home after being rescued, or being separated from their favorite humans.
As cat enthusiasts, we are willing to do anything to comfort our furry friends, whether it's engaging in extra bonding activities, allowing them to sleep on our heads if they desire, or even leaving music playing when we're away. But do cats actually enjoy music? Well, it seems to depend.
According to Samantha Bell, a cat behavior expert at Best Friends Animal Society, while it is impossible to determine if cats truly "like" music, studies have shown that certain types can affect their stress levels. Classical music, for instance, has been found to lower stress in cats, while heavy metal music can raise it. Therefore, it can be said that classical music makes cats feel happier.
Some musicologists have taken this concept a step further. Composer David Teie, for example, has created Music for Cats, a collection of "cat-specific selections" featuring a classical music foundation with additional sounds that are familiar and pleasing to felines, such as purring and suckling. Other tracks include bird chirps, buzzing noises, and euphoric tones that may help invigorate even the most relaxed cat.
To the human ear, this might not sound particularly refined, but cats apparently notice the difference. Teie, a cellist with the National Symphony Orchestra, collaborated with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to understand the differences between cats' hearing and our own, and how that knowledge could be used to develop music specifically for cats.
In 2015, an independent study conducted at the university revealed that cats exhibited a significant preference for and interest in species-appropriate music. Another study carried out by the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2019 concluded that cat-specific music could potentially reduce stress levels and improve the quality of care in veterinary clinical settings.
Bell, who works with shy cats in a shelter environment, uses selections from Music for Cats as a tool to indicate that upcoming interactions will not be frightening. This is particularly beneficial for cats in shelters who may only experience human contact during cage cleaning or administering medication, leading to a lack of trust and fear. By playing "Music for Cats," Bell helps build their confidence and trust in humans. The cats associate the special music with positive experiences, thus enabling them to trust more easily.
To determine whether your cat enjoys music and how they respond to it, try playing classical tracks as a cue for specific activities. For example, choose a lively classical piece during playtime or when your cat is observing birds outside. Later in the evening, switch to slow and soothing classical melodies to help them wind down.
However, to truly cater to your cat's preferences and inquisitive nature, it may be worth exploring species-specific selections as well. In addition to Music for Cats, Teie collaborated with the streaming music service Spotify to create a pet playlist for cats called Mellow Meowsic. Another organization called Relax My Cat also designs various playlists of music tailored to cats, some of which are specifically designed to reduce anxiety or create a calming environment during thunderstorms.
Who knows? Cat music might become another vital form of communication to share with your affectionate and sensitive feline companion.