Music can soothe the soul. That we all know. What might come as something of a surprise is that according to recent research, its healing properties don’t just extend to humans. In a study conducted at LSU, researchers investigated the effect of playing music specially created for cats (yes, it exists) on its intended audience. According to the study, music for cats (as opposed to music for humans), is based on the kind of sounds they associate with rewarding experiences (suckling sounds, etc.). The tunes tap into the centers of the brain responsible for emotion (which develop during the nursing stage) using the same frequencies cats use to communicate with each other. The end result? One very soothed kitty and a much calmer owner.
After enlisting the help of two dozen cats, the researchers played the felines 20 minutes of music during several consecutive visits to the vets, with each visit spaced a couple of weeks apart. The music alternated between a cat -friendly score, silence, or classical music. Based on the cat’s stress levels and handling scores (which in most cases, where through the roof at the time of their arrival at the clinic), the music that had the most beneficial and calming effect was the cat-centric melodies. In conclusion, the researchers suggested that while the effect of standard music is negligible on a cat’s stress levels (which, as any cat owner will know, are usually at their highest during a trip to the vet), the effect of cat-centric tunes are anything but.
This isn’t the first-time studies have suggested cats respond well to music. It is, however, one of the first times the effects of “species-specific” music have been compared to those generated by standard music. Just as the tenor, speed, and pitch of different styles of music affects us in different ways, so apparently holds true for cats. As The Nest notes, slow, melodic music with soft, gentle tones seems to soothe frazzled nerves best, while music with lots of loud percussion or harsh tones seems to have the opposite effect. The type of music associated with yoga meditation, meanwhile, also seems to allow kitties to relax and start taking deep, healing breathes.
Cat Friendly Tunes
So profound is the soothing effects of music on cats, one man, a composer called David Teie, has created an entire oeuvre of songs created specifically for cats. The music centered on sounds that cats are familiar with and are believed to find soothing… beats similar to the sound of suckling milk, for example. So popular has his music become in the kitty world, a radio station has been specially created as a showcase for it. As Mentalfloss notes, Cat Calm Radio launched on National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day, with the station noting “We are the only radio station to play cat-specific music, designed to have a calming effect on your cat on the move, particularly on trips to the vet.”
So, next time your kitty’s feeling a little anxious, pop on some music… you might be surprised how well it works.
Other Ways to Calm Your Cat
If your cat’s nerves are stressed to the point that even Teie’s best work isn’t working its usual magic, you might want to try some of these other helpful ways of calming them down.
- Essential Oils – Scents don’t only work to calm and revive human spirits. A few drops of an essential oil like lavender can work wonders on an anxious cat. Simply place a few drops on a paper towel so the smell permeates the room. Just be careful to keep it well out of reach as some essential oils can be dangerous to cats.
- Don’t Smother – If you notice your cat is feeling anxious, it can be tempting to scoop them up and give them a good, long cuddle. But don’t. Cat’s aren’t humans, and what works for us in times of stress won’t necessarily work for them. If a cat is in a heightened or aroused state, it’s best to give them plenty of space. Although knowing you’re around will help, being smothered by you won’t. Cat’s might not be as aloof as they’re made out to be, but they still like living by their own terms, not yours. Be sure that if they want to be petted, they’ll let you know.
- Size Down – If your cat’s already feeling anxious, being in a wide, open space is unlikely to help. Some cats naturally prefer to retreat to tucked-away spaces they can hide in, while others prefer a high perch that allows them to scope out their surroundings. If you can, provide both an elevated cat tree and a cozy little hideaway- although be sure it’s not so tucked away your cat feels cornered.
- Regular Play – If your cat is the perpetually nervous type, don’t underestimate the value of regular play sessions. Play can work wonders at decreasing long term or chronic stress and can even help them become better acclimatized to new environments.
- Supplements – Although you should never embark on any supplementation regime without first speaking to your vet, certain supplements can have an excellent restorative effect on anxious pets. Those with L-theanine, an ingredient found in green tea, have been found to be particularly effective. If the anxiety is chronic, your vet may even recommend a course of prescription medication.
- Smell – Cats get a lot of comfort from smells- particularly their own. If you’re taking them on a trip in their carrier, pop a blanket or other item that bears their scent in with them. The comforting smell will help them feel more at home and remind them of a “safe, happy” place, thereby making the experience a lot less traumatic than it would otherwise be.