There is no doubt that humans can experience wide-ranging emotions from listening to music. In fact, music has been shown to bolster overall immunity, fending off illness and disease. But how does music affect animals? Or do different types of music have different impacts? Some researchers are trying to find the answers to these questions.
Music composer David Teie is just one of many individuals who wants to know to what extend animals can understand music. In his journey to how animals comprehend music, he developed a comprehensive theory called species-specific music which attempts to “explain the cognitive processes involved in any species’ comprehension and appreciation of different music.”
The composer teamed up with a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison named Charles Snowdon, who studies animal behavior. To find the answer, Teie attempted to create music that each species would have a unique response to, first testing on monkeys. The music-monkey study demonstrated how different species react to specific music.
Then Teie went on to test cats and their reaction to certain music. As reported by Collective Evolution:
“The kitty ditties, cat ballads, and feline airs—as the various tunes are called—aren’t just cat sounds. They’re “actual music that has themes, repetitions, and variations,” Snowdon told National Geographic.”
For the study, Snowdon played 2 classical music songs and 2 songs specifically composed for the cats in 47 different homes.
The cats tended to react more positively to the music that was composed just for them, rubbing up against the speaker more quickly than when the classical music played:
The study abstract reads:
“Many studies have attempted to use music to influence the behavior of nonhuman animals; however, these studies have often led to conflicting outcomes. 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. We have used this framework to compose music that is species-appropriate for a few animal species.
In this paper, we created species-appropriate music for domestic cats and tested this music in comparison with music with similar affective content composed for humans. We presented two examples of cat music in counterbalanced order with two examples of human music, and we evaluated the behavior and response latencies of cats to each piece.
Cats showed a significant preference for and interest in species-appropriate music compared with human music…younger and older cats were more responsive to cat music than middle-aged acts…the results suggest novel and more appropriate ways for using music as auditory enrichment for nonhuman animals.”
Could we soon be using music therapy for our loving pets?