Earlier this year, Spotify announced their “Pet Playlists” – a collection of songs tailored to your pet’s personality. According to Spotify’s algorithm (which also takes into consideration your music tastes), my shy, apathetic cat would apparently enjoy listening to Miley Cyrus and Franz Ferdinand. However, a scientific study may provide an alternative tune to help relax your feline, particularly during stressful visits to the vets.
Inspired by the increased use of music in human medicine to provide a range of benefits, the impact of music on animals has also been studied. From dogs to tamarins, calmer behavior and reduced stress have been observed in response to music. Previous studies on cats have also noted a relaxing effect, notably when exposed to classical music, compared with pop and heavy metal.
However, scientists at Louisiana State University have added a new dimension to these studies, by measuring the effect music composed specifically for cats, has on them. Published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, the authors measured stress indicators of 20 cats who experienced different soundscapes in three fortnightly trip to the vets. Prior to, and during, physical examinations, the cats either listened to silence, Gabriel Fauré’s Élégie, or the feline-specific banger, Scooter Bere’s Aria by David Teie.
Many musical pieces that are pleasing to humans have a beat similar to the human resting pulse (around 66 beats per minute), and contain frequencies from the human vocal range. Applying these principles to the world of cats has resulted in this undeniably hypnotic track.
“This music contains purrs and suckling sounds made to sound like real cats and frequencies similar to cat vocal ranges, which are two octaves higher than human vocal ranges (55–200 Hz) and were found to be pleasing to cats,” the authors wrote in their paper.
Stress indicators of the cat were observed through video recordings of the examinations. This included a cat stress score, based on the behavior and body posture of the cats, as well as a handling scale score, based on the cats’ reactions to the handler. The researchers also measured the neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio, a biological marker of stress, in blood samples from the cat.
Both the cat stress scores and handling scale scores were significantly lower when the cats were exposed to the cat-specific music, compared to silence and Fauré’s Élégie, indicating a decreased stress level. However, the neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio did not echo this trend, as the feline music appeared to have no effect on the cats’ physiological stress response. On reflection, the authors suggest that the exposure time of 20 minutes wasn’t long enough to allow music to affect this measure. Further studies to evaluate the effect of cat-specific music on felines over longer periods of time is recommended.
“The study has shown that cat-specific music can significantly lower stress-related behaviors in cats visiting the veterinary clinic for wellness examinations,” the authors concluded. “Adding cat-specific music to veterinary offices as environmental enrichment could provide great value to the cat’s welfare in the clinic, to the client’s comfort and confidence in the veterinary team and the veterinary team’s ability to accurately assess the patient.”
Good news for cat-owners if you enjoyed the music. If not, there’s always Miley Cyrus.