Have you ever cranked up “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in the presence of your cat and expected a reaction out of him? Perhaps his utter (and frankly disrespectful) lack of response led you to wonder: Do cats like music? The disheartening truth is that your cat does not care for your tunes. He may, however, enjoy music composed specifically for felines. What does that mean? Let’s find out!
How do we know cats don’t like human music?
It’s not that cats don’t like your music—it’s that it just doesn’t resonate with them. Let’s brush up on a basic fact about music: Did you know we have a pulse in our music because we heard our mother’s pulse in the womb for four months before we were born as our brains were developing?
Compare this to cats, whose brains are only 1/8 the size at birth of what they are at 10 weeks—meaning the mother cat’s pulse is not present as the kittens’ brains are developing. Instead, cats are more likely to respond to the sound of suckling for milk, for instance.
The bottom line? Music, biology, and communication are linked. Because humans compose music that falls in line with our own biology and methods of communication, it stands to reason that such music won’t appeal to other species.
Music for cats
This might all sound theoretical so far. Where’s the proof? Well, a few years ago the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science published just that: an answer to the question, do cats like music?
The authors of the study 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.”
As the abstract points out, “Cats showed a significant preference for and interest in species-appropriate music compared with human music.” How did cats show a preference? By purring and orienting the head toward, moving toward, rubbing against, or sniffing the speaker from which the music was emanating. Interestingly, younger and older cats were more responsive to cat music than middle-aged cats.
So, what kind of music do cats like?
The study utilized songs created specifically for cats, which were composed by musician Dave Teie. Teie is well regarded for putting forth the scientific theory that “every species has an intuitive biological response to sounds based on their brain development and vocalizations.”
The songs Teie composed for the study combine melodic sliding frequencies—similar to cat meows and feline sounds—as well as mimic the rhythmic and tonal qualities of a purr—one song sets a pulse related to purring at 1380 beats per minute—or a kitten suckling at its mother’s teat, among other things. Some songs even incorporate noises resembling bird calls!
Listen for yourself
Check out cat music for yourself—and see if your cat responds! Not everyone reports success, but many pet parents have found Teie’s music for cats (samples below) to be engaging and reactionary.
And—even though your cat sadly won’t join you crooning wimoweh—here is a little something for you:
Do cats like music? Well, yes! Just not yours.