Do Cats Care for Music?


Ever catch yourself turning up a favorite tune and trying to groove to it with your cat?  We won’t judge!

You love the song, so surely kitty must love it too – right? Sadly you quickly come to realize that your cat shows no interest, or even shows some disdain, for your sweet listening, toe tappin’ tune. So what gives?

Well it turns out that the music we listen to falls within our acoustic and vocal range and it uses tones that we (as people) understand. The songs we enjoy tend to have a tempo similar to that of our heartbeats. If a tune has a pitch that is too high or low, it will sound grating and unpleasant, and if the tempo is too fast or slow, it becomes unrecognizable.

To our cats, human music falls into that  unrecognizable category. Cats have vocal ranges and heart rates that are very different from ours.  Their brains aren’t wired to appreciate songs tailored for our ears.

In other words, our cats understand music in a very different way than we do.  So whether you prefer Mozart or would rather rock out to an old Led Zeppelin record, these tunes simply don’t resonate with how our cats interpret sound.

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Cats can learn to recognize a sequence of notes, but if you transpose the notes to a different key, they can no longer recognize the relationships between the notes anymore and everything will sound garbled and noisy to them.

But the good news is that cats do in fact enjoy music!  They just don’t enjoy people music.  A recent study in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science suggests that in order for our feline friends to enjoy music, it has to be species-specific music.  In order for cats to listen to and enjoy music, it needs to fit within the frequency range and have similar tempo to how cats naturally communicate.

So, knowing this, could music be designed especially for cats?

Well a team of psychologists at the University of Wisconsin set out to create custom music designed to appeal to cats by mixing beats that fall into the same frequency range that cats use to communicate with one another.  The songs they created also have a tempo similar to the beat that cats purr to.

The results:  Researchers played their songs for 47 different cats and found that many of them would rub against the music speakers rather than stand by idly like they did when people music was played for them.

Curious to hear?  Well listen to this sample from a tune called “Cozmo’s Air.”  Play it for your cat, and see how he/she reacts.

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(SoundCloud file via i09)

The cats showed a significant preference for the “cat-appropriate” music compared to the two human songs, to which they didn’t respond at all. Interestingly, the study also found that the cat music also evoked better reactions from younger and older cats as opposed to those that were middle aged.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Do Cats Like The Same Music We Like?” quote=”Do Cats Like The Same Music We Like?”]

The results were so encouraging that one of the researchers (David Teie) started selling cat songs online (at $1.99 per song) through a company called “Music for Cats.”

The future looks promising for cat music and who knows, maybe a whole new industry will emerge.


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