Music For Cats
February 27, 2015 8:13 AM   Subscribe

The study, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Applied Animal Behavioral Science, adds to the growing body of evidence that many animals respond favorably to species-specific music. This is music that takes into account a particular animal's favorite sounds, hearing range, commonly used tones and other factors.
Introducing: Music For Cats

Samples comprise the following:

"Kitty Ditties: Playful and quick, these incorporate stylizations of some of the animal calls that are of great interest to cats. A little like sonic catnip, Ditties are meant to arouse interest and curiosity. When ultrasonic playback devices become available (sometime in the near future, we hope) these songs should be even more appealing.

"Cat Ballads: Just as the pedal drum provides the hearbeat in human music, the swish, swish of these ballads provides the sound of suckling in feline music. The Cat Ballad should be restful and pleasing for your kitty (perhaps for you too).

"Feline Airs: The purr is to cats what the moan is to humans. It can express pleasure or pain, but most importantly, it draws sympathetic emotions from the listener. The timing and cyclic rhythms of purrs are remarkably consistent among all breeds of domestic cats - the Feline Air is based on the pulses of the purr."
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane (54 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, I'm so excited to get home and see if this works. One of our cats LOVES music and will jump on the piano bench and sit next to my husband whenever he plays. I"m really interested to see if she likes cat music.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:19 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reaction of cat in room while I played the samples: lazy bored look at me and then back to sleep.
posted by Kitteh at 8:20 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


The second one caused the sleeping feline next to me to swivel one ear. That was all.
posted by Jode at 8:21 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


My cat's favorite music is my footfalls followed by the lyrics "Whoze a good girl" and "Want a treat?" Available now from K-Tel.
posted by Rob Rockets at 8:25 AM on February 27, 2015 [22 favorites]


My cat just gave me the "You are so uncool" look when I played these*.

*My cat always gives me the "You are so uncool" look.**

** I am "so uncool"
posted by srboisvert at 8:34 AM on February 27, 2015 [19 favorites]


Your species's favorite band sucks.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:36 AM on February 27, 2015 [30 favorites]


At first I thought this might be about cEvin Key's 1998 album of the same name... which frankly even my cat's won't listen to.
posted by cirhosis at 8:36 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


The first sample just caused my cat to look at me quizzically, as if to say, "Nice try, but where's the food?"
posted by chicainthecity at 8:37 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I love this. Both the concept and execution remind me of Soothing Sounds for Baby.
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dougal and the Pepsi Blue Cat
posted by biffa at 8:47 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Posting this in the middle of my workday when there are no cats is so unfair.
posted by jeather at 8:48 AM on February 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Why are you people not linking to pictures of your cats? That's Roswell on the left, Yorvit on the right.

Roswell's favorite "music" is the "boop" noise made by the cursor thing on our Roku. I had to turn off the sound for it because he would sit right in front of the TV and pat the screen whenever I tried to select something.
posted by rtha at 8:49 AM on February 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ooh can't wait to try this on our little monster. He pretty much only reacts to the sound of the treat jar and planes on tv.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 8:50 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The fact that the samples are in mp3 format is disappointing since that container cuts out the higher frequencies. Cats are sensitive up to 79K Hz and mp3 stifles the higher part of the spectrum to conserve space. They mention ultrasonic players, but really at the very least they should have uncompressed samples recorded at 96K Hz if they are serious about the science behind it.
posted by Bistle at 9:00 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


The fact that the samples are in mp3 format is disappointing since that container cuts out the higher frequencies.

Cats also prefer it when you use Monster cables and replace your plastic knobs with wooden ones.
posted by bondcliff at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2015 [25 favorites]


I played the Kitty Ditty and Caliban Party Ghost came running over with a "oh what's up" kind of expression. I played the other two, and he started purring and headbutting me. Thunder Perfect Cat showed no great interest.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


yes but greg nog he's just tenderizing you for the feast later
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:13 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Our guy Ajax (sorry, no picture) really liked Tchaikovsky. Later in life, he went deaf as white cats are wont to do, and we really had to crank the volume. Which works for the Thunder & Lightning , but not as much for Nutcracker in, like, July. I kind of wonder if he'd be into these. Maybe if we pushed the bass on the purring ones, he'd have been able to feel it.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:16 AM on February 27, 2015


This is really neat, one of the reasons I stopped eating meat is I have a strong suspicion there is a lot more going on in the heads of animals than we think, we just don't quite understand how to notice it most of the time.

Cows, of course, prefer revolutionary folk anthems.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Cats also prefer it when you use Monster cables and replace your plastic knobs with wooden ones.

Sarcasm aside I just think incorporating a mouse squeak at 32K would be more engaging for a cat. Hopefully the music you can purchase is not neutered like the samples.
posted by Bistle at 9:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


bondcliff: mp3 is perceptually encoded with humans the intended perceiver. They can and do cut things out on the premise that empirical study shows that most humans won't notice the missing frequencies. When it comes to the high frequencies that are cut, cats will notice changes that a human cannot.
posted by idiopath at 9:56 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hopefully the music you can purchase is not neutered like the samples.

Or the listeners.
posted by bondcliff at 9:57 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Bistle: first you'll need to get an amp, playback, and a set of speakers, that can do 32k. It's a safe bet your current ones can't.
posted by idiopath at 9:58 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bistle: first you'll need to get an amp, playback, and a set of speakers, that can do 32k. It's a safe bet your current ones can't.

That's true, but it would be nice to have the option. Even an uncompressed wav file at 44100 would be preferable.
posted by Bistle at 10:01 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The kittens (SLYT) that my husband and I rescued last winter seemed to enjoy harp music when we were working to domesticate them. As they have gotten older, I have tried several types of music geared towards cats and other animals that I have randomly found on Youtube, and generally, they have been uninterested. Thanks for these links, I will give them a try when home. (Ooops, the black and white one is Margaret Scratcher, and the beigey-pointed one is Cindy Clawford)
posted by meowf at 10:04 AM on February 27, 2015


Actually, cows prefer jazz.
posted by chicainthecity at 10:04 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


The dumb one is confused. He went to get the boss.
posted by slipthought at 10:05 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


It would be interesting to develop animal specific compressed file formats. kittyditty.purr for cats, puppyditty.bark for dogs, etc.
posted by Bistle at 10:16 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Whale songs did something for my dog when she was a pup. Ear against the speaker.

Interested to know if cats react similarly.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:22 AM on February 27, 2015


I also hope the full version has beyond-human frequencies, but I take solace in knowing cats can hear human frequencies, too.

Also, I really want to put speakers in my windows and blast these on a loop. My neighborhood is like 5 cats/m2.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:24 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mine very much liked all three.

My Maine Coon mutt is also a huge fan of Kraftwerk's "Autobahn". Huge as in no matter what he's doing or where he is, he'll perk up and sit on my lap to "watch" the speakers while it plays. He doesn't do that for anything else – not until this cat music, anyway.
posted by fraula at 10:40 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


The second one caused the sleeping feline next to me to swivel one ear. That was all.

Some say "That was all." Some say "success!" and apply for grants.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:42 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I also hope the full version has beyond-human frequencies, but I take solace in knowing cats can hear human frequencies, too.

According to John Bradshaw's Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Revealed, while cats can hear up to around 75kHz, this is at the cost of being unable to differentiate between adjacent frequencies to the extent that humans can. Or, as Bradshaw puts it, even if you did manage to teach a cat to sing, it'd sound terrible.
posted by acb at 10:45 AM on February 27, 2015


"Rusty's Ballad" is probably indistinguishable from Sigur Ros in blind tests.
posted by weston at 10:56 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


My cat responds to anything with whistling in it, but that probably has more to do with how my husband used to summon her for dinner back when she lived at his tire shop.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:59 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Test result - my cat perked up for Spook's ditty, and went back to sleep for the other two. Also, her favorite TV show is the Xbox loading symbol, with football-when-the-Skycam-is-in-view as a close second.
posted by fermezporte at 11:27 AM on February 27, 2015


Well, I can say that my rabbit hated metal. Glaring, ears flat, thumping, more glaring until I turned it off, and then I'd get the cold shoulder for a day.

But then again, a lot of people hate metal, so not sure what that counts for.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:33 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I looked up some alleged 'Music for Cats' on youtube a little back. Our old tom was not impressed. It sounded like the lamest new age you could imagine. However, when I played him a bootleg by the Cramps, he appeared disturbed by Lux's vocals. I think that's when he started spraying in the house. He became a basement cat at that point, as no one gets to spray my room but me. Dammit.

I also showed him a video of a Cyriak video on Youtube that featured a cat that looked and sounded just like him. He found it very disturbing, so I didn't repeat that experiment. Cat in the video must have been spouting some fortified cat rhetoric. I've never seen a cat react to any human media diversions in quite that way.

The cats now have their own basement pad, with food, toilet and heat, and plenty of room to roam. They can provide their own entertainment, and often do - usually in the early morning hours.

I love cats, I do. Not sure I truly understand them, but I do love them.
posted by metagnathous at 11:50 AM on February 27, 2015


My old lady went deaf last year at age 16.

I got her at six weeks old, and my boyfriend of the time was a conservatory-trained classical pianist. So her kittenhood was filled with Argerich and Barenboim and Brendel and Richter and so on. Even after we split up, I'd leave on a spot of classical piano for her when I was going away for a day or longer.

Although she may have internalized my ex's contempt for music that isn't Martha Argerich, this post nonetheless compounds my sadness.
posted by mykescipark at 12:12 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can't wait to get home and try these. My cat FLIPPED OUT when I was tuning my autoharp, especially when I plucked the really high strings.
posted by missrachael at 12:45 PM on February 27, 2015


Well, I can say that my rabbit hated metal.

When I was in maybe 6th grade I did a science fair experiment: What kind of music do cats prefer? I had two subjects at home. I got a refrigerator box, put a boombox at each end and a hole in the top, and put the cats in the middle. The three music selections were Metallica, Carly Simon, and Handel. After 10 minutes I'd see if they preferred one end of the box.

Results: One cat preferred Metallica, other cat didn't care.
posted by neckro23 at 1:04 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This seems reasonable. After all, human music is a thing.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:33 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


i really wish there was more music. I guess they're selling it on the "it works, trust me" model.
posted by rebent at 1:45 PM on February 27, 2015


Update: one cat did not care, the other is FREAKING out. Purring, trying to get into my laptop, kissing me on the hands.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:30 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


My old lady went deaf last year at age 16.

I had a female orange tabby who lost her hearing at around that age. She always hated loud noises, though: especially yelling, laughing, beeping, and babies crying. I used to joke that she just got fed up and turned her ears off.

I took woodwind and string techniques in college, and no matter what instrument I brought home she was immediately in the case as soon ans the instrument was out. She could squeeze into a piccolo case, or expand to fill up a guitar case, with her tail down where the neck goes. She hated the sound of every one of them, but not enough to budge out of the cases so I could put them away. Stopping the piano was easy because she could just drape herself over my hands on the keyboard. I took to practicing in the bathroom like Harpo Marx.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:42 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


With respect to the frequency stuff, it's not just .mp3, it's (as pointed out upthread) speaker and amp capability. I play acoustic recordings to animals for work that range up into the ultrasonic, and I've spent a lot of time trying to tweak speakers and microphones to get recordings in the right frequency range. I would not want to do that with home equipment. I don't think I'd want to buy special speakers just for the cat's gratification, either.

(FWIW, we just use straight up .f32s for our recordings, and it works okay. But we're not exactly playing super long pieces either.)

Besides, if you're going for bird calls rather than mouse calls, you don't even need to get all that high pitched anyway. Mammals can hear much higher frequencies than birds can, generally speaking, and I'm pretty sure that bird songs are by and large not going to be located in the ultrasonic range too much. I'm betting that's why the cat ditty is focusing mostly on bird-like vocalizations rather than mouse-like ones, since nearly all the noises that mice and other rodents make are entirely ultrasonic.
posted by sciatrix at 7:41 PM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Penny perked right up at the first one but didn't seem too interested in the others. When I played these last night, Bella was asleep, but when I played them again right now the third one got her to leave the windowsill and jump onto the sofa next to me. I'd call that a success.

Obligatory pics. Also, the cats of MetaFilter Flickr group.
posted by Lexica at 9:06 AM on February 28, 2015


I happened to play the samples in reverse order with my two cats (Max and Elvi) resting in bed beside me. Sample #3 ("Feline Airs") got some ear-twitches and a contented(?) moan from one. Sample #2 didn't do much for them; hardly even an ear-twitch. Sample #1, though? They FREAKED OUT. Wide eyes, ears swiveling around like little antennas. It was crazy to see, and I almost feel bad for inflicting it on them.
posted by Maladroid at 10:35 AM on February 28, 2015


Tried playing the 3 samples for our kitties who were wholly disinterested. I think they, like me, kept expecting some Laurie Anderson vocals to start.
posted by davelog at 5:31 AM on March 1, 2015


For what its worth electrostatic loudspeakers enjoy frequency response into the 60k hz range and can be built from scratch by an amateur if so inclined.
posted by Bistle at 8:19 AM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


None of my cats responded to the linked music, but they did seem to be fans of this.

Meowmania got the biggest response of all, though.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 9:45 AM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK when I first played these both cats left the room. Then one came back to sleep on my lap. I played them again and no reaction. Then I played Meowmania and he completely freaked out and is still running around the room trying to find these cats.
posted by mkim at 5:04 PM on March 1, 2015


Also, the cat referenced above generally is a lover of Jazz. I had a cat growing up that was really into Fleetwood Mac. My Dad's cat loved Beethoven. He would position himself in a perfect triangle with the speakers and just sit there. Also had some cats who were completely indifferent to music.
posted by mkim at 5:10 PM on March 1, 2015


Our ball of fingers is actually named Aaron Copland, so it's a good thing he seems to not hate Appalachian Spring. Totally unresponsive, as usual, to these pieces as well.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


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