Music is a universal panacea. Goldilocks feels calmer on listening to Western classical, Kapi & Bilahari feel relaxed when they listen to soft piano music & Polly mimics pop and can even move to beat and rhythm. Okay, that’s great, but so what? Well, perhaps your curiosity will be piqued if you knew that Goldilocks is a dog, Kapi and Bilahari Persian cats, and Polly is, (yes, you guessed it right!) a parrot. 

If you thought music was something that only we, human beings, enjoyed, think again! The benefits of listening to music have crossed over to our four-legged and avian friends. Seen your cat walk on your piano and envisioned training them to become the cat equivalent of Beethoven?! That might not be realistic, but you can help your cat feel calmer with music all the same.  

Do animals respond to music as humans do? An interesting line of thought, isn’t it? What is your pet dog, cat, or bird hearing when you play Mozart, Michael Jackson, or M S Subbulakshmi? Many research studies have suggested that soft, classical music relaxes and calms animals as opposed to rock and heavy metal. Animals seem to become restless and agitated when they are exposed to loud music.

Benefits of music therapy for animals

Studies have shown that there are benefits of music therapy for your pets: 

  • Music slows their heart rate and calms the nervous system
  • It provides stress relief as it reduces anxiety, helping them relax 
  • It leads to behavioural changes, helping them adjust to new environments better
  • It leads to increased animal welfare

Of course, ensure that you play soft, classical music instead of hard rock, so pets are relaxed rather than ruffled. 

What music do animals ‘enjoy’?

Just as you have your preferences for classical – Western, Carnatic, or Hindustani, rock, pop, jazz, blues, film, and folk, some animals also have their own idea of ‘good music’! Of course, it largely depends on the responses to stimuli. 

Music that closely resembles the pitches and sounds that each animal makes is what appeals to those animals. The frequency must match the sounds that the species in question is used to in communication with its own kind. For example, cats can listen to a wider range of sounds than humans can. So, while a human ear can hear from 20 HZ to 20 KHZ, cats can hear up to 64 KHZ according to the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (JAHVMA). So, you can compose your own music based on the sounds your pet makes at a pitch and tempo that appeals to them. 

Have you ever played music to your pets? If not, now is a good time to start! How do you know if your pet ‘enjoys’ music? Researchers studying cats and their response to music say that cats purr more or orient themselves towards the music or rub against the speakers. So, watch out for these kinds of signs in your pets!

The power of music…

  1. Want more milk from your cow? Play some ‘moosic’ – Beethoven helps calm even cattle! That’s what psychologists at the University of Leicester, UK found. On listening to music of different tempos, the Friesian cattle yielded more milk when they listened to slow music. 
  2. Cows have also been found to be more receptive to approaching the Automatic Milking System (AMS) with music playing during the milking period. The study published in Science Direct as part of Applied Animal Behaviour Science demonstrated the stimulatory effect of music influencing behavioural readiness of cows. 
  3. A 2002 research study on dogs in a shelter found that classical music calms them as they spend more time resting as opposed to standing, while heavy metal agitates them, making them bark more. This especially helps when they are in a stressful situation like in a kennel with many others.
  4. A study of fish found that certain fish (koi) responded to music by growing more than those not exposed to music, demonstrating discrimination of musical stimuli.

Why research on music and animals?

These trials will help you understand your pet better, help them relax in stressful situations like a visit to the vet’s clinic or when they are travelling, or when they move to a new neighbourhood or meet new mates of their and other species. Or to help them deal with pain. Also, if you have to go out for work, this is a good way to occupy and relax your pet when you are not there to do it! To increase their sense of welfare and well-being, it helps to understand the effect of music on animals.

Of course, there are pet owners who have also stated that their dogs or cats have not really shown any visible responses to music. So, more research samples and findings are required to arrive at more solid conclusions about the general behaviour, musical tendencies and preferences of your furry, piscine, reptilian, and avian friends.

But, all the same, next time you request your best friend, Alexa, to play some music for you, don’t forget to schedule some music time for your darling pets too. For your pets, this could be the equivalent of meditation! You could also sing classical songs to your pets – they might like your voice best of all!

Read more on singer-songwriter and cat lover Bindu Subramaniam’s take on the sounds of music on animals

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