The first day of MMTS023 brought a host of new and exciting topics to be discovered over the next five days. We began with a brief history of music dating back to the Ancient Greeks and an introduction to the beginnings of musical psychology. Marc then posed a series of questions that were seemingly simple but proved to be headache-provoking: “What is music?”, followed by “Is music an exclusively human activity?”.
My group struggled with coming up with coming up with a cohesive definition because really ANYTHING can be considered music to someone. The follow-up question, though, was one I felt sure I knew the answer to. I own cats back in the States, and I have seen them react to music I play; therefore, I firmly believed that music could not be an exclusively human activity. Regardless, some people in the class has differing opinions. I decided to do some research on if and how animals are actually affected by music.
My research led me to an article published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science in 2015 called “Cats prefer species-appropriate music”. The article, authored by Charles T. Snowdon, David Teie, and Megan Savage, discussed the results of an experiment wherein domestic house cats were observed listening to music designed for cats and music designed for humans. What the heck is music designed for cats? Researchers designed two pieces, Cozmo’s Air (which, at a frequency of 1380 beats per minute, replicated purring) and Rusty’s Ballad (which replicated suckling at 250 beats per minute) in order to create an “affiliative effect on cats” (Snowdon, Teie, and Savage 2015). The cats were played these two pieces in between listening to samples of “human” music. Researchers observed the cats’ behaviors as either as orient/approach (where cats would orient themselves near a speaker, rub their head on it, and purr) or as avoidant/fearful (where cats may leave the room, growl, and hiss).
The results showed that cats were significantly more likely to display orient/approach behaviors when listening to either track composed for felines over the music intended for humans. The researchers concluded that cats had favorable reactions to “species-appropriate music”, therefore showing music is a phenomena that cannot be exclusive to humans (Snowdon et al, 2015).
One of the researchers, David Teie, took his musical compositions for cats to the Meow Parlour, which is a cat cafe in New York City. Here’s a cute and informative video explaining his findings:
Moral of the story: find these fun cat-appropriate songs and serenade your fur babies. They love music!
If you are interested in checking out the study, here’s a link: http://www.appliedanimalbehaviour.com/article/S0168-1591(15)00060-X/pdf