Scientist and Musician Create Songs Designed for Your Cat's Ear

Does music have charms to soothe the stressed-out cat? New research says it does.

 |  Mar 22nd 2012  |   7 Contributions


We've all heard that leaving the radio on at a low volume, or even playing specific types of music, can ease the stress our feline friends feel when they're left at home by themselves.

But a pair of researchers say we may have been on the wrong track when it comes to our opinions about the music our cats prefer. 

I know what kinds of music my cats don't like. They flee the room when I play music with a strong bassline, like dubstep or hip-hop. They give me the ears-down, stink-eye look and then flee the room when I decide I'm in the mood for Atari Teenage Riot or Bauhaus. On the other hand, they are more likely to tolerate ethereal, ambient, or traditional Celtic music.

We humans like music that falls within our acoustic and vocal range and has a tempo similar to -- or based on -- our heartbeats. The thing is, cats' auditory range is much larger than ours, their heartbeats are quite a bit faster, and they may be attracted to tones and pitches that we could find grating. Conversely, music composed by humans for the entertainment of humans is not music to their ears. 

In response to this sonic quandary, composer David Teie and scientist Charles Snowdon have created three songs designed specifically to appeal to cats.

Snowdon and Teie have done a great deal of research on what they refer to as species-specific music. In 2009, they composed two songs for tamarins, monkeys with a vocal range three octaves higher than our own and heart rates twice as fast. Although the music was annoying as heck to the human ear, the tamarins responded strongly to the songs created for them.

Now, Teie is selling the songs for cats on his Music for Cats website.

I conducted a totally unscientific test of the songs' appeal by playing samples available at the website while my cat, Siouxsie, was sitting in my lap.

Siouxsie's responses were subtle but apparent.

She didn't seem to have much reaction to "Spook's Ditty," an array of chirping sounds, high-pitched harp music, and whispering winds -- but that was the shortest of the three samples.

When I listened to "Cozmo's Air," featuring an atmospheric array of violin strings and high-pitched flutelike songs, backed by a constant purring undertone, her body language was mildly curious and I could feel her muscles relaxing.

"Rusty's Ballad," a slow-tempo series of strings and keyboard tones with a "thup-thup-thup-thup" rhythm line reminiscent of a cat's resting pulse, actually had her nodding off and repositioning herself for a nap.

The other cool thing about these samples was that I found them pleasant, too. Maybe that's because I really enjoy atmospheric, ethereal music, and although the rhythm and pitch of these tunes is designed to appeal to the cat's ear, I found them very relaxing.

Teie is selling these three songs for cats as digital downloads for $1.99 each. I'm thinking about buying them and seeing how Siouxsie, Thomas, and Dahlia respond when they listen to the full-length versions.

Go check it out for yourself and tell me about your cat's reactions. I'm dying to see how other Catster readers feel about the songs.

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