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Here’s What Music Specially Composed for Your Cat Sounds Like

Research shows that cats prefer “species-specific” with frequencies and tempos that mimic the sounds of purring and birds

(Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS)
smithsonian.com

When leaving the house for the day, many people flick on their stereo in hopes that the noise might help keep their cat company. But a recent study shows that felines probably don’t care for our tunes. Just like your college roommate, cats appear to have very specific preferences when it comes to music—and their tastes have little to do with what you might like.

Here’s a sample, thanks to i09, of the kind of smooth listening your pet might really appreciate, according to a team of scientists paired up with a music professor:

It sounds a little like a slow Sigur Rós song played in the belly of a purring cat. And that might not be too far off from what was intended.

The new study, published in Applied Animal Behavioral Science, concludes that domestic cats prefer “species-specific” music that resembles the tempos and frequencies naturally used in their communications. io9 reports:

"We have 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," write study authors Charles Snowdon and Megan Savage, both psychologists at the University of Wisconsin, and David Teie, a musician who has collaborated with Snowdon on the study of species-specific music for the better part of a decade. For instance, Snowden and his colleagues propose feline-appropriate music might mimic the rhythmic and tonal qualities of a purr, or a kitten suckling at its mother's teat.

According to io9, the research team found that “Cosmo’s Air,” the song above composed by Teie, “has a pulse related to purring of 1380 beats per min" and includes tones cats use in their vocalizations. In the study, most of the 47 cats tested appeared to prefer these sounds to classical human masterworks.

How do you tell if a cat actually likes a noise?  The researchers looked at how much their subjects purred, rubbed against speakers and oriented their head toward the music.

Here’s another taste of a song for a cat—this one more energetic than the last, with chirping sounds meant to perk up your pets by reminding them of birds:

Researchers say that the study demonstrates that “[s]pecies-appropriate music is more likely to benefit animals than human music” and suggests “novel and more appropriate ways for using music as auditory enrichment for nonhuman animals.”

Meanwhile, David Teie, the man behind the cat music (who contributed to the study but reportedly wasn’t involved in research an data analysis), sells his compositions on his website. You can sample from the "sonic catnip" of Kitty Ditties, restful Cat Ballads and purr-inspired Feline Airs. Just don’t expect that your efforts to accommodate your feline friends’ musical palates will keep them from harshly judging yours.

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