Cool kitties: Study finds specialized ‘cat music’ calms feline nerves

BATON ROUGE, La. — Anyone who has ever had a pet cat knows how hard it can be to convince our feline friends to take a trip to the vet. Somehow, whenever that dreaded cat carrier comes out of the closet, cats know what’s coming and do their best to evade capture. Even once you’ve managed to get your cat in the car, they usually spend the entire drive crying to be let free. Luckily, researchers at Louisiana State University have found that a certain kind of music can put your cat in a nice and relaxed mood the next time a trip to the vet is on the horizon.

Music is already becoming more and more accepted as a legitimate source of comfort and therapeutic relief in humans. Some studies show it’s even capable of improving physical and cognitive functioning in recovering stroke patients. Now it seems that humans aren’t the only living beings who can benefit from the right song at the right time. On that note, a prior study had found that cats listening to classical music became much more relaxed than other felines that were exposed to heavy metal or pop songs. Even cats placed under anesthesia remain physiologically responsive to music.

Cat listening to radio
Cat listening to radio for study. (Image courtesy of Abi Tansley)

In this piece of research, the team at LSU took things a step further by examining the effects of music composed specifically for cats on a group of felines bound for the vet. Yes, music for cats is very much a real thing.

Music generally considered pleasing to people usually features a beat that mimics the human resting pulse rate and or features human vocal frequencies. So, naturally, for this study, “cat music” was created to feature feline-like sounds such as purring or suckling noises and feline vocal frequencies (two octaves higher than humans).

In all, 20 pet cats took part in the study. Each cat underwent three, randomly ordered, experimental conditions before three separate trips to the vet, with each visit being spaced two weeks apart. The cats were played 20 minutes of cat music, 20 minutes of classical (human) music, and 20 minutes of silence.

During each subsequent vet visit the cats’ stress levels were assessed using video footage and their overall body behavior and posture. The cats’ reactions to handlers were also considered, as well as neutrophil to ymphocyte ratios assessed via blood tests in order to account for physiological stress.

Overall, all of the cats were much more relaxed and calm during their trip to the vet following the cat music in comparison to both the classical music and silence. Interestingly, this calmness was not reflected in the cats’ blood samples. Researchers speculate that 20 minutes may not have been enough time for the effects of the music to appear in the blood readings.

Besides the obvious benefits here for cats’ own wellbeing, the study’s authors say using specialized music for vet visits can also make life a whole lot easier for the cats’ owners as well. Not to mention the fact that it will allow veterinarians to more easily and thoroughly examine their feline patients.

The study is published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. Also, click here to check out the cat music used in this study.

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