Scientists Make Music for Cats

It seems your feline friend really does have an ear for music. Melissa [CC by 2.0]/Flickr

If your cat is the type to enjoy kicking back with a glass of kitty Cabernet while listening to some soothing tunes, you're in luck. Scientists have developed what they say is the first species-specific music for domestic cats by replicating sounds like purrs and meows to create original music.

Psychologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied cats' natural vocalizations, and musicians at the University of Maryland matched them to music within the same frequency range.

The songs were written in three different styles — kitty ditties, cat ballads and feline airs — and all the music was recorded with traditional instruments and human voices. Although some songs seem to incorporate birdcalls or meows, no actual animals were used.

Each style of cat-centric music is designed to evoke a particular mood in feline listeners while still being pleasant to human ears.

For example, "Spook's Ditty" is meant to arouse curiosity like "sonic catnip," according to the songs' creators, while "Cozmo's Air" is designed to match the sound of purring with a rhythm of 1,380 beats per minute.

What do the kitties think of their species-specific music? They're big fans, according to the researchers, whose paper was recently published in Applied Animal Behavior Science.

The scientists played the music for 47 domestic cats, and for comparison they also played two pieces of classical “human music,” which consisted of Gabriel Fauré's "Elegie" and Johann Sebastian Bach's "Air on a G String."

The cats didn’t react to the "human" tunes, but when the researchers played their specially designed kitty tunes, the felines responded by rubbing their heads against the speaker.

When cats rub on something or someone, they're marking it with their scent glands and claiming it as their own. In other words, the cats seemed to like the music so much that they tried to claim it.

The music wasn't uniformly appreciated by all cats though. According to the scientists' findings, younger and older cats responded to the species-specific music more than middle-aged cats.

While music for cats may seem like a luxury for pampered felines, the researchers see real-life applications for the tunes.

They say it could be used to calm nervous cats or played in shelters to soothe felines that are accustomed to human companionship.