Do Cats Like Music?
By Dr. Carly I. O'Malley June 15, 2019
Providing your cat enrichment is an important part of cat parenthood. Environmental enrichment is a way to give your cat mental and physical stimulation. Under natural conditions, our cats would be using all of their senses to find food and would be physically hunting and defending their territory. When cats live in our houses, they no longer need to use their senses and bodies as intensely to survive. A lack of mental and physical stimulation can lead to boredom and behavioral problems. Providing environmental enrichment can prevent these issues and can also reduce stress and anxiety. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to enrich your cat’s senses, and one of those ways is through music!
Do Cats Like Music?
There is evidence to suggest that cats like music and that music can be used as environmental enrichment. Music can also be used to calm stressed cats (Hampton et al., 2019). But that does not mean you should put on your favorite album and rock out with your cat. Just like with everything else in their lives, cats are picky with their music preferences!
When thinking about how to provide auditory stimulation for your cat, it is important to remember that cats experience the world differently than humans do. Most people are also surprised to hear that cats actually have a better sense of hearing than dogs! Cats are designed to hunt small prey items that make high-pitched noises, such as rats and rabbits. This means that cats have evolved to hear up to 64 kHz (Fay & Popper, 1994). When thinking about what type of music cats may like to listen to, it is important to keep this in mind. Human music is appealing to humans because it is made within our auditory and tonal range. This means that human music may not be appealing to cats.
What Type Of Music Do Cats Like?
One study by Snowdon and colleagues (2015) tested cat preference for human music versus music made specifically for cats. The results of the study suggest that cats preferred the cat-specific music over human music. The cat specific music was created to encourage affiliative behavior in cats by including pulse rates similar to purring and suckling, and the music appeared to cause a positive response (Snowdon et al., 2015).
Another study also found that cats prefer cat-specific music. Playing cat music during a veterinary visit decreased stress and made cats easier to handle during the exam, but the same response was not seen for classical music or silence (Hampton et al., 2019).
Do Cats Like Human Music?
During a veterinary exam, cats were exposed to three different music treatments to test the effects of music on their stress levels. There was no difference in cat stress behavior and handling scores when cats were in silence or listening to classical music, but cats listening to cat-specific music were less stressed and easier to handle (Hampton et al., 2019). The results of this study suggest that cats are indifferent to human music.
Another study looked at the effects of different genres of human music on the respiratory rate and pupillary diameter of cats under anesthesia (Mira et al., 2016). It was found that the respiratory rate and pupillary diameter of cats were lower when listening to classical music and highest when listening to heavy metal.
Why Do Cats Prefer Certain Noises?
Cats have a different sense of hearing than humans which means they hear sounds differently than we do. They can hear higher pitched sounds than we can and can even hear better than dogs (Fay & Popper, 1994).
Is There Specific Music Created Just For Cats?
There is cat-specific music! Music was created for cats using tempos and frequencies similar to those in cat vocalizations. Cat music also incorporates positive sounds for cats, like purring and suckling sounds (Hampton et al., 2019). If you are looking to add auditory enrichment to your cat’s life, do not worry! Cat music is readily available on most of the popular music streaming apps (there are also cat specific TV programs!)
Listen to a sample of cat specific music here:
How Can You Tell If Your Cat Likes A Tune?
In the study by Snowdon and colleagues (2015) that investigated whether cats are attracted to cat music, the cats oriented themselves towards the speakers that were playing the music, approached the speakers, and some cats even rubbed on the speakers. This was the result the researchers expected to see if the cats were responding to the music. This is because cat music was designed to elicit affiliative behavior in cats. When you are playing cat-specific music, your cat may approach you, rub on you, and seek attention. Most cats show no response to human music as the auditory range it is in does not mean anything to them (Snowdon et al., 2015).
Cats are often happy to spend their day snoozing away while we are at work. However, that does not mean you should not try to provide them environmental enrichment to make their day more stimulating. Providing environmental enrichment can help reduce stress and anxiety which can prevent problem behaviors. One way to provide your cat enrichment while you are out of the house is to provide them with music to listen to. Cats are picky with the music they listen to and prefer cat-specific music. Cat-specific music is regularly available on many different media platforms, making it easy for you to provide auditory enrichment for your cat. Studies have shown that cat-specific music can even help reduce stress at veterinary visits. If you have a cat that is prone to anxiety, you can use cat-specific music to your advantage. Some cats, especially ones that may have been feral kittens, may get stressed when you have friends or family over. So the next time you are going to have a gathering at your place, put your shy cat in their favorite room and play their favorite tune.
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Fay, R.R. and A.N. Popper, eds. 1994. Comparative Hearing: Mammals. Springer Handbook of Auditory Research Series. Springer-Verlag, NY.
Hampton, A., Ford, A., Cox III, R.E., Liu, C-c., and R. Koh. 2019. Effects of music on behavior and physiological stress response of domestic cats in a veterinary clinic. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 1-7.
Mire, F., Costa, A., Mendes, E., Azevedo, P., and L.M. Carreira. 2016. Influence of music and its genres on respiratory rate and pupil diameter variations in cats under general anaesthesia: contribution to promoting patient safety. Journal of Feline Medical Surgery 18(2):150-159.
Snowdon, C.T., Teie, D., and M. Savage. 2015. Cats prefer species-appropriate music. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 166:106-111.