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Cats Have Science to Thank for a New Type of Music Written Specifically for Them

Your music-snob of a housecat would rather listen to custom kitty tunes than whatever you’re playing at the moment.

image via (cc) flickr user ophelia_noir

Even if you’re a cat person, you can’t deny that feline companions can be picky, judgmental assholes. They don’t care about you, don’t care about your problems, and sure as hell don’t care about your taste in music. Cats, as it turns out, would much rather hear songs made specifically for them.

Not this:

Not this:

Not even this:

Now, thanks to a team of scientists from the Universities of Wisconsin and Maryland, your music-snob of a housecat can finally listen to that feline soundtrack it (thinks it) deserves.

In a paper entitled “"Cats Prefer Species-Appropriate Music,” published last month in Applied Animal Behavior Science, researchers detail the process by which they created music attuned to the unique biology and physiology of their feline audience, writing:

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.

As the study’s lead researcher, The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Charles Snowdon, told Discovery News:

“We looked at the natural vocalizations of cats and matched our music to the same frequency range, which is about an octave or more higher than human voices. We incorporated tempos that we thought cats would find interesting—the tempo of purring in one piece and the tempo of suckling in another—and since cats use lots of sliding frequencies in their calls, the cat music had many more sliding notes than the human music.”

So, by manipulating things like tempo, frequency, and note-progressions, the team was able to create songs they believed would be of particular interest to a feline audience. They then played two of those melodies to a group of research cats, as well as two songs traditionally considered pleasant for humans: Johann Sebastian Bach's “Air on a G String” and Gabriel Fauré's “Elegie.” While the cats appeared relatively disinterested in the “human” music, they were noticeably more engaged and active when played the cat-centric tunes, reportedly rubbing their scent glands against the music speakers in a feline show of marking “ownership” over the music (yes, when your cat rubs against your leg, they’re effectively saying they own you).

Over on the team’s website you can listen to samples of their kitty tunes to get a sense of what your cat would rather listen to than whatever it is you usually play around the house. As for why cat music is important, the team writes in their study’s abstract: “The results suggest novel and more appropriate ways for using music as auditory enrichment for nonhuman animals.”

In other words: Everyone deserves some good tunes. Even our pets.

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