A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

The Right Music for Cats

cats-music-030515In a lighter vein than usual on this blog (!): What kind of music do cats prefer: Jazz? Classical? Bluegrass? New Age?

The answer: None of these. Cats, of course, prefer cat music.

But what exactly is cat music?

Check out this short clip from Spook’s Ditty, a rollicking tune for fun-loving felines, by composer David Teie.

Teie explains that Spook’s Ditty is “a lively song that includes musical representations of environmental sounds that are designed to arouse a cat’s interest and curiosity.”

Then again, if Fluffy is looking for something a little more restful after dinner, she might prefer this from Rusty’s Ballad:

Teie says of this composition that it’s “based on the purr cycle and suckling.”

“Just as human music often includes human heartbeat and respiration timing (common time), the sound of suckling is associated with reward and comfort for the developing kitty brain.”

In a study published in the journal Applied Animal Behavioral Science, animal psychologists Charles Snowdon and Megan Savage found that domestic cats did not respond when played human music, but when they listened to music that had been specially produced for them, they sat right up, walked over to the speakers and began rubbing their necks on them.

“We looked at the natural vocalizations of cats and matched our music to the same frequency range, which is about an octave or more higher than human voices.

“We incorporated tempos that we thought cats would find interesting – the tempo of purring in one piece and the tempo of suckling in another – and since cats use lots of sliding frequencies in their calls, the cat music had many more sliding notes than the human music.”

By comparison, when the researchers played Bach’s Air on a G String and Fauré’s Elegie, the cats basically ignored it. Their idea of a hit is something more like Cozmo’s Air:

This one, Teie says is “based on the 29 beats per respiratory cycle of the purr.”

“Just as the human moan expresses pleasure and pain and is the basis of much human music melody, the purr expresses pleasure and pain for our feline friends.”

In some earlier work with Teie to produce music that would appeal to Tamarin monkeys, Snowdon explained:

Humans like music that falls within our acoustic and vocal range, uses tones we understand, and progresses at a tempo similar to that of our heartbeats. A tune pitched too high or low sounds grating or ungraspable, and music too fast or slow is unrecognizable as such.

To animals, human music falls into that grating, unrecognizable category. With vocal ranges and heart rates very different from ours, they simply aren’t wired to enjoy songs that are tailored for our ears. Studies show that animals generally respond to human music with a total lack of interest.

Snowdon hopes the team’s cat music will be helpful to cats who suffer from separation anxiety or are feeling stressed at shelters.

You can download the full versions of the three compositions here for just over a dollar each.