By Jean Anselmi
I’m between homes, and to my great sadness, this has meant leaving my cats in a boarding facility for an extended period. When visiting, I noticed music playing in the background and was told that the sound relaxed the cats.
What does ‘relaxed’ mean for a species that seems to be world leaders in relaxation? The team believed the cats were more likely to sleep and less likely to pace around pestering each other. My cats certainly seem very content when I’ve visited – I’m not sure they are missing me at all. I’m certain one of them is taking advantage of the soporific state of his fellows to steal food.
I searched for information about pets and music, and it turns out to be a very popular topic. There are a plethora of studies concluding that classical music is calming for pets. Taking it a step further, one composer, David Teie, a cellist in the American National Symphony Orchestra, has recorded albums of music just for cats, using frequencies and tempos that are reflected in their real world.
Teie believes that music taps into our emotional core by reflecting sounds we heard when our brains were developing. For humans, he believes music with the same pace as a mother’s heart rate and a range reflecting a mother’s voice is the most relaxing. Teie’s first compositions were for tamarin monkeys and resulted in a study published in Biology Letters, an online, peer-reviewed journal. According to Teie, “it marked the first controlled study that showed a consistent and appropriate response to music from any species other than human.”
Recognising that there was a lot of work and not much income in writing music for monkeys, Teie became interested in exploring music for cats. Teie realised that if he could create music that could be enjoyed by humans and cats, he could provide a useful product and tap into an unexplored market.
The cat music he created mimics cat vocalisations which are two octaves higher than ours and feature the sounds of purring and suckling.
A study published in Applied Animal Behavioural Science, showed 77% of cats responded positively to Teie’s track Cozmo’s Air, compared to a 38% positive response to classical music such as Bach’s Air on the G String. A positive response was measured by purring, orientating their head to listen to the music, as well as interest in the speakers such as rubbing, sniffing, or moving towards them.
In another study, 20 cats were played 20 minutes of music composed for cats (David Teie’s Scooter Bere’s Aria), classical music (Fauré’s Elégie) or nothing at all. The results, published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, showed cat stress scores and handling scale scores were ‘significantly decreased’ for those who listened to ‘cat music’ and concluded that ‘cat-specific music may benefit cats by decreasing the stress levels and increasing the quality of care in veterinary clinical settings.’
Turns out the cat boarding team were probably right. You can find David Teie’s cat music on Spotify so why not see how your cat responds?