New research finds that’ cat-specific’ music, which speaks to the preferred tempo and vocal range of the felines, is best served to reduce stress levels of the animals.
Music benefits the health of humans in many different ways. Reducing pain, anxiety and decreasing stress levels are just a few of the ways music is good for us.
Brain studies have even shown that music can help treat brain seizures after a stroke and help recovery. Music can help keep the memory of a person intact, too.
But does music benefit animal health in the same way that humans do? In recent years more and more research has focused on this — especially the stress-reducing effects of music in dogs.
Now, new research — which appears in the Feline Medicine and Surgery Journal — focuses on the stress-lowering effects of music in cats.
But the new paper is not just inquiring about any kind of music — instead, building on previous studies, the authors of the new paper evaluated the effect of cat-specific musical sounds on the stress levels of the felines.
Amanda Hampton, from the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, Baton Rouge, is the paper’s first author.
Creating ‘cat-specific’ music
Hampton and colleagues built on previous work which showed that felines are responsive and remain responsive to the sound of music even when, for example, they are under general anesthesia.
Other work has explored the different types of music that cats respond to, and found that classical music is more likely than pop music or heavy metal to cause relaxation.
In addition, Hampton and team used earlier studies to determine and deliver “cat-specific” music, or music that felines tend to prefer. Cats prefer music made with cat vocalizations, according to the studies cited by the authors; they also have their own favorite tempos, and prefer natural vocal frequencies.
Humans tend to prefer music with a beat similar to the resting heart rate of a person and with frequencies falling within the range of human vocals.
Cat-specific music for the current study consisted, however, of’ melodic’ lines based on cat vocalizations, such as purring. The frequencies were also similar to the vocal feline ranges, which are two octaves higher than those of humans.
Cat-specific music may reduce stress levels
In the new study, Hampton and colleagues enrolled 20 domestic cats and played them at random veterinary visits, 2 weeks apart, 20 minutes of cat-specific music, classical music or no music.
The researchers used cat stress scores to test the stress levels of the felines— which evaluated the cats ‘ body posture and behavior— as well as cat handling scores, which made reference to how the cats responded to the handler.
The researchers also drew blood samples from the felines and assessed their neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio as a physiological stress marker.
The results showed that cat-specific music could effectively lower levels of stress, as scientists found associations with lower stress scores.
As the authors write, “Prior and during physical examination, listening to cat-specific music was associated with lower[ cat stress scores] and lower[ handling scale scores],” compared to classical music or no music at all.
The music, however, “had no effect on the physiological stress response measured by[ lymphocyte neutrophils ratio].” Researchers believe this could be because 20 minutes was not long enough to affect this marker.
Hampton and his fellow Members conclude:
“[C]at-specific music may benefit cats by decreasing the stress levels and increasing the quality of care in veterinary clinical settings.”