How do domestic cats respond to music?

Cats and music—a curious combination! Let’s explore how our feline friends groove (or perhaps purr) to the tunes. 🎵

Domestic cat enjoying music. Or are they?!
Domestic cat enjoying music. Or are they?! Image: DALLE-E 3
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats
  1. Species-Appropriate Music:
    • A study by Snowdon, Teie, and Savage found that cats prefer species-appropriate music. The researchers composed music specifically for cats, incorporating features from their species-specific vocalizations. Cats responded emotionally to this music, emitting congruent reactions. Interestingly, their manifestations were stronger and occurred more swiftly compared to when human music was played. It seems that species-specific music resonates more with our feline companions1.
  2. Classical Music and Calming Effects:
  3. Tailored Music for Cats:

In summary, cats do have musical preferences, and understanding their reactions can help us create harmonious melodies for our feline companions. 🐾🎶

For further exploration, you can check out the scholarly articles:

Remember, whether it’s a symphony or a simple meow, music has its own magical way of connecting us all! 🎶🐱

Morris’s throughts

Doctor Desmond Morris tells us that some cats are disinterested in music, others detest it while others adore it. It’s all down to the individual. It is not possible, it seems to generalise. He mentions one of two individual people.

  1. Theophile Gautier: The French writer Theo Gautier apparently observed his female cat listening attentively to singer as they accompanied him on the piano. High notes made her unhappy. Perhaps because they reminded her of cats in distress. When a female singer reached a high A his cat will reach out to close the singer’s mouth with her paw! His cat always responded critically to the high A note.
  2. C.C. Pierquin de Gembloux: Another Frenchman, C.C. Pierquin de Gembloux reported that his cat “threw itself into uncontrollable convulsions” to certain sounds. Although another cat present responded in a totally different way. Rather than having a fit, the cat jumped up and sat on the piano listening intently to the music.
  3. Related to feline behavior: Morris believes that cats respond to music when the music is relatable to the kind of sounds that domestic cats make. For example if a cat goes into convulsions of sexual excitement over certain musical sounds, this behaviour is “probably no more than erotic responses to sounds that remind felines of the courtship tones of their species. And fear induced by very high-pitched musical notes could simply be the natural panic reaction to what the cat hears as squeals of pain.”

RELATED: Softer, nuanced communication with your cat

Known unknowns: The truth is that we are still unsure how cats respond to human music. There is ‘cat music’ but we don’t really know how they respond to it. We can’t judge their response solely on their behavior as cats are good at hiding feelings.

Emotional response

One problem with this topic is that we don’t know with clarity the extent of the domestic cat’s emotional response to all manner of experiences. We know cats feel anxiety, sadness and contentment but what about the more complex emotions?

If cats don’t experience the higher emotions can they experience the pleasure of music? Another unknown, I’d say.

RELATED: Cat Emotions and Brain Function

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