New York, March 11: Don’t force your cat to listen to Mozart symphonies or A.R. Rahman’s chartbusters because they will pay heed to only their type of “cat music”.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison show that while cats ignore human music, they are highly responsive to “music” written especially for them.
“We are not actually replicating cat sounds. We are trying to create music with a pitch and tempo that appeals to cats,” said lead author Charles Snowdon, an emeritus professor of psychology.
The first step in making cat music is “to evaluate music in the context of the animal’s sensory system”.
Cats, for example, vocalise one octave higher than people.
“So it is vital to get the pitch right. Then we tried to create music that would have a tempo that was appealing to cats,” Snowdon added.
One sample was based on the tempo of purring, the other on the sucking sound made during nursing.
In the tests, Snowdon and team brought a laptop and two speakers to the homes of 47 cats and played four sound samples: two from classical music and two “cat songs” created by the University of Maryland composer David Teie.
The music began after a period of silence, and the cat’s behaviour was noted.
Purring, walking toward the speaker and rubbing against it were adjudged positive response, while hissing, arching the back and erecting the fur were negative.
The cats were significantly more positive toward cat music than the classical music.
They began the positive response after an average of 110 seconds, compared to 171 seconds for the human music.
“Some of them needed to wake up and pay attention to what was going on, and some were out of the room when we set up,” Snowdon noted.
With more people trying to “enrich” the lives of animals by playing music to them, Snowdon hopes the more sophisticated approach he and his colleagues take will help put some facts on the table.
The study appeared online in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.