Researchers have been looking into whether cats like music and it turns out they do – as long as it’s written specially for them.
Psychology professor Charles Snowdon from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleague Megan Savage wanted to see if they could create music that cats would enjoy. Playing music for animals has become increasingly popular in rescue centres and zoos, but there have been few studies into whether they actually like it.
The researchers worked with University of Maryland composer David Teie to create two tracks that they thought might appeal to cats. Both were more high-pitched than the music people tend to enjoy (even Justin Bieber fans). Each piece of music also had a tempo designed to get the cats, um, feline good (sorry). One was based on the rhythm of a cat’s purr, the other on the sounds made by nursing kittens. (you can listen to them both here.)
Snowdon and Savage took a laptop and speakers to cat owners’ homes, playing the music for 47 different moggies. They also played them two classical tracks. While the music was playing, they noted any reactions, marking purring and walking closer to/nuzzling the speaker as positive and hissing and back arching as negative.
They found that cats were considerably more drawn to the music composed for them than the music designed for humans to enjoy. Where there was a positive response to both, it took around a minute longer, on average, for the classical music.
Back in 2009, Snowdon and Teie showed that cotton-top tamarin monkeys respond emotionally to music specially composed for them. They say that the key is to create something that resonates with an animal’s sensory system, getting the right mix of pitch, tempo and timbre. This means that your Spotify playlists are probably never going to interest your pet.
But if you have a cat, there are at least two pieces of music out there for them to enjoy, so probably time to think about getting them an iPod.