I once had a lovely little tabby named Gabby who would go out of her way to be nearby while practicing my piano. And if I also sang while playing, she would chirp double approval. Her reaction made me want to practice every day!
But recent research shows my kitty's appreciation for my musical talent might not have been all that common.
According to a study published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, cats like music, as long as it's not human music. They prefer cat music, thank you. At least most of them. My girl was an exception. The study was conducted and authored by University of Wisconsin psychologists Megan Savage and Charles Snowdon, who said, "We have developed a theoretical framework that hypothesizes that in order for music to be effective with other species, it must be in the frequency range and with similar tempos to those used in natural communication by each species."
In other words, if you want music cats will love, you have to find tunes they dig with appropriate pitch frequencies, sounds, and rhythms. It's the same with humans.
The researchers asked David Teie, a cellist who's played with the likes of the National Symphony Orchestra and Metallica, to come up with music having tempos that mimic cats purring and birds chirping. He complied with what he calls "Music for Cats," and you and your feline can listen to one of them, "Cosmos's Air," by visiting the PBS News Hour link below.
For the study, Savage and Snowdon chose 47 cats and played Teie's cat music, comparing their reactions to human music like Bach's "Air on a G String." Results showed the younger, and older cats had a "significant preference for and interest in" the cat music compared to the human song, to which "they didn't respond at all." Middle-aged cats weren't impressed with the cat music, slightly preferring human music. My Gabby loved my "human music" her whole life.
The reactions of study participants preferring cat music ranged from purring, rubbing their scent glands against the speaker, or tilting their head and ears in the direction of the music. Researchers proposed that it might be the cats that prefer cat music are just more sensitive to higher pitches. According to the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (JAHVMA), "cats can hear frequencies up to 64,000 hertz, while humans are limited to frequencies between 20 and 20,000 hertz."
Whether your cat likes cat music or human music, just sharing life with him is where the magic lies. Nobel Peace prize winner and musicologist Albert Schweitzer put it nicely, "There are two main refuges from the miseries of life: music and cats."
PBS News Hour
"Cats don't like human music” play them this instead"
"Scientists have created the perfect music for cats"