You’ve probably felt the powerful effects of music on your mood many times before, and research backs up the influence it has on our feelings. It turns out that your pet might be feeling those same effects. Can you guess which kinds of music your dog or cat likes the best? It’s probably not Metallica, but it might not even be Mozart . . .
Dogs and Cats are Sensitive to Music
Even if your pet isn’t in the habit of nodding along to your favorite song, she is definitely listening. Cats and dogs have hearing that is more sensitive than a human’s. They can hear a wider range of frequencies and are better at sensing the direction from which a sound comes.
Research shows that dogs also understand pitch, so, while she definitely doesn’t judge you, your puppy can probably hear those off-key notes in the shower. A dog’s howls and a cat’s meows are like forms of music that they use for communication, so some of the sounds a singer or instrument make are familiar to them.
All of this means that pets hear the music around them very clearly, comparing it to the sounds they’re used to and the sounds we consider background noise. Our four-legged companions have their own tastes in music, too.
Pets Hearing Themselves in the Music
You might think that your cat’s musical preferences come from his unique personality but it actually has more to do with his voice. A recent study found that felines prefer music that is similar in its range and tempo to their own voices. Instruments that mimicked a cat’s purring or the tweeting of a bird caused the strongest responses in the cats studied.
Dogs, on the other hand, are known to change the pitch of their howl if another dog joins in at the same pitch. Instruments that sound like a dog’s howl—clarinets, saxophones and other reed instruments—are more likely to cause a dog to join in. If your dog starts howling along to John Coltrane, it doesn’t necessarily mean he dislikes it; he might just want to answer the call.
Your Pet’s Musical Preference
Researchers studied the effects of different types of music on dogs. They found that pop music caused little reaction but heavy metal alarmed the canines. Classical music, on the other hand, soothed and quieted them. The key for any type of music is to play it quietly—even the “Moonlight Sonata” played too loudly will disturb a pet’s sensitive hearing.
In a separate study that focused on our feline friends, the cats were altogether uninterested in human music. Fortunately, some musicians are working to change this.
Making Music for Dogs and Cats
This research has led some musicians to compose calming music for pets: albums created specifically for cats or dogs. These songs are simple, slow and just outside the normal range of human music. Studies show that lower frequencies calm a dog’s nervous system and that slower tempos lower their heart rates. Cats respond well to harps and higher tempos. Music like this can help to keep a stressed or nervous pet calm for hours while they’re alone. It also acts as a kind of music therapy for animals in kennels.
Dogs and cats feel emotions just like humans do and it’s clear that music affects their moods, too. Every pet owner wants their best friend to be comfortable when they’re feeling stressed or nervous. The right music might be the perfect way to help.
- “7 Scientific Studies About How Animals React to Music.” Mental Floss, 4 Nov. 2015.
- “Cat Ears & Hearing.” Animal Planet, 15 May 2012.
- “Research Behind ICalmPet Music | How It Works and Why.” ICalmPet, BioAcoustic Research, Inc.