Do you sing to your cats? One of our writers sings to her cats and even makes up funny cat songs — and we bet she’s not alone. Check out her stories and advice for how to sing to your cats, plus insights from an expert on what your cats really think of your singing!
One afternoon I found myself singing to my cat, Forest. I believe that I was singing a rendition of “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and strategically inserting Forest’s name, such as, “When they see Forie comin’ in a surrey.”
As I sang while Forest ate, I stepped into the bathroom (just off the kitchen) and continued my tune. I figured that Forest had quit eating and carried on his way.
I exited the bathroom to see him still on the sink, watching for me to return. He had been listening to me sing the whole time. I snapped his picture, kissed him and continued my serenade.
“Cats hear higher frequencies than dogs or humans,” says Steve Dale, certified animal behavior consultant, contributor to The Cat: Clinical Medicine and Management edited by Dr. Susan Little, and member of the Board of Directors for the Winn Feline Foundation. “Our sense of hearing is in a range of 20 hertz up to 20 kilohertz. Dogs hear up to 40 kilohertz and a cat’s hearing jumps into the higher-pitched range of 60 kilohertz. So, does that mean cats prefer sopranos in women and tenors in guys? Maybe. Anecdotally, the answer could be yes. But the studies lining up baritones to sopranos to see what cats prefer hasn’t been done.”
Inserting my cats’ names into my tunes makes them know I am speaking to them. Even if other words are gibberish to them, they know their names. I also insert their nicknames, and they respond.
I would never belt out a loud, scary song. My selections include musical tunes, lullabies, Christmas carols, hymns or a blend of different melodies as the mood strikes me. For each ballad, I only sing a few lines or a chorus.
“There have been some studies to determine the specific musical genre cats enjoy,” Dale says. “Some studies suggest that cats will relax and some act less anxious in a shelter environment when classical music is played. There’s no way to determine if it is the music drowning out the sounds of other cats (and potentially barking dogs and annoying people) that’s calming cats or if it is the music itself. There are CDs of music specifically composed for cats, some feature higher-pitched music, which makes perfect sense.
Dale continues: “From a 2015 study in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, cats seem to appreciate cat music based on scientists creating tunes, which sounded like cats purring at times, and other cat sounds, all in the upper registers. Hardly the kind of tunes even a cat lover like Taylor Swift might write because there is no cadence which may be considered appropriate for the human ear. The researchers called this music ‘species specific’ and indeed the cats seemed to be far more responsive to the music specifically composed with them in mind.”
Little Bunny Foo Foo — “Little Bunny Foo Foo, hopping through the Forest, scooping up the field mice and boppin’ ‘em on the head.”
The Hills are Alive — “The hills are alive with the sound of Jackie!”
Chim Chim Cher-ee — “Chim chim cher-oo! I love you little Forie, I love you, I do!”
I Feel Pretty — “And I pity, any dog that isn’t Truckie today.”
You are My Sunshine — “Please don’t take my Josie away.”
Getting to Know You — “Getting to know Joan, getting to hope Joan likes me, too”
My Funny Valentine — “You’re my sunny funny Forie Valentine, my Forest-ita Valentine”
Hairy Nipples — “Forie’s got some hairy nipples, he’s a hairy nippled boy!”
Crunch-itas — “Crunch-itas — little crunchy crunchies.”
Trucker Josiah Toot Toot Tater Head — “Trucker Josiah Toot Toot Tater heady-head”
Josie Bear — “Josie Bear! Oh, Josie Bear, Oh, Josie Bear.”
I also must note a special “Happy Birthday Dance” jingle that is performed yearly to commemorate each of their births.
Sometimes, I’ll pause during a melody and invite my cats to join me, but my “Sing it to me, Forie!” is usually met with a blank stare and silence.
I’ve conducted singing experiments before, while lying across my bed or on the living room floor. Sure enough, if I sing and they are in the room, they gather next to me for petting and kisses.
In my observation, my cats react to singing like I am their mother purring, comforting them as she did when they were babies.
I have tested this singing reaction with other people’s pets that I have babysat and with my mom’s cats when I visit her. If they have never heard singing in person, the reaction can bring a little hesitation — but once they associate touch with voice they seem to relax.
A quick online search revealed that I’m not alone in my desire to sing to my pets.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association‘s Ninth Annual Pet Owner Survey, 65 percent of pet owners sing and/or dance before their pets. Some, they say, “have created little jingles they sing to their pets at suppertime.”
“For some cats, it’s not only the pattern of the song and the tone of voice — it’s also the attention from people in a non-threatening manner that is appealing,” Dale says. “Certainly, when someone’s cat already feels comfortable with their owner singing to them — many cats appreciate it. But beware, cats are discerning critics, and some may snooze or even walk away.”
“For years, cat behavior consultants (myself included) advised that when bringing a new cat into a household, to put that cat in to a separate refuge room, away from other cats and to close the door of the room,” Dale explains. “Periodically, visit the frightened cat armed with an interactive play toy and a children’s book. The pattern of reading these books is often poetic or ‘sing-songy,’ and we tend to read them in a higher-than-usual voice, and read slowly. There’s no data, I am aware of, regarding how or why this helps — but it seems to help to relax frightened cats. And for years I’ve said, ‘Sing a little children’s rhyme in a soft, quiet voice.’”
As for me, my playlist of song “originals” continues to grow. Perhaps I should start recording these tunes and playing them for my pets when I am not home. Maybe I have a hit single for a recording industry niche?
One thing is certain — at my house, I’m a celebrity singer. There is always an attentive furry audience and that’s what matters most.
Tell us: Do you sing to your cats? What songs do you sing? What types of music do they seem to love?
Thumbnail: Photography by Murika/Thinkstock.
Read more about cats and music on Catster.com:
Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her children’s book, “Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight,” to your collection. All proceeds help 9 humane organizations.