Critter Culture
Pets and Music: Do They Really Enjoy It?

Pets and Music: Do They Really Enjoy It?

Critter Culture Staff



Many owners like to leave the radio on as company for their pets to enjoy while they are away from the house. We tend to assume that the same styles of music that please and soothe us do the same for our furry, feathered, or even fishy friends.

If you're one such pet parent, have you ever stopped to consider whether your music of choice is doing the same for your beloved non-human family member(s) as it is for you? Probably not — right?


Why we love music

It cannot be denied that music has a powerful impact on our mood. That's why we opt for upbeat, fast-paced tunes when we are feeling great (or want to) and more melodic, soulful songs when we're a little more down in the mouth and are in need of comfort.

In fact, for many of us, music is the cornerstone of our life; we listen to it daily — or near enough! It helps keep us motivated at the gym, bolsters us to do the household chores, lowers our stress levels, and even boosts our physical health.

And it's not just the lyrics of a song that can reach us. The tone, pitch, and tempo of music can all alter our emotions. In fact, the combined effect is so significant that many of us are sure it must be the same for other animals, too, especially our pets.

cosy Asian senior elder old man male sit relax while wearing headphone listen peaceful music and singing along melody with cuddle his best friend chihuahua dog who also old too together on sofa at home.home sweet home with pet concept travelism / Getty Images


What about our pets?

So, does music have magic that can "soothe the savage beast"?

Actually, the effects of the songs we enjoy on our canine, feline, avian, and reptilian friends is a hotly debated topic. Some studies suggest that different music genres can indeed influence animals' behavior and emotions, too. In contrast, others seem to show that most pets are, on the whole, pretty indifferent to it, just as long as it's not playing too loudly, that is!

What seems to emerge from this mixed-up research is that rather than the type of music being relevant, the most significant factor in whether pets enjoy our music is what type of animal they are.

As you might expect, dogs, the most domesticated of all pets, seem more attuned to our musical preferences than most other species we like sharing our home with.

Playing Guitar to Dog Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images


Dogs and music

While most dogs seem to respond to music much the same way as people, there are substantial individual differences in their particular genre preferences. Generally, though, most pups will happily relax into sleep if played any kind of classical musical.

One study found that dogs exposed to Mozart spent less time barking and more time lying down and resting. However, when heavy metal was played, their reaction was quite the reverse. They spent more time pacing, barking, and just generally acting nervous.

Reggae and soft rock also seem to trigger a stress-relieving response in canines. These worked especially across the long term and were even more effective than classical music. Pop, on the other hand, seemed to have no effect whatsoever.

However, by far, the best method of soothing your floofy friend seems to be by popping on an audiobook or radio talk show. Overall, dogs seem calmed more easily by human voices than by any kind of music.

Dog in noise cancelling headphones, blue isolated background. Photoboyko / Getty Images


The science bit

One possible explanation for why people and dogs enjoy human music, while cats and other types of pets do not, is to do with familiarity with the different sounds it's built upon.

The kinds of tunes we enjoy tend to fall within a very specific vocal range — our own. Moreover, whether fast or slow-paced, most of our music matches the natural tempo of the human heart — somewhere between 60 and 200 beats per minute. Anything that falls outside this will be too fast, too slow, or just sound too grating to us to be able to create any kind of enjoyment for people.

So, if this is, in fact, the case, logically, the same would be true for animals. If it is, we should be able to make music that is more appealing for our pets by tailoring it to their specific vocal range and (usually quite different to ours) heart rate tempo.

Close Up Of Woman Listening To Music Smartphone At Home monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images


Music for cats

Researchers have found that, by and large, most cats are happy to simply ignore music in favor of something they perceive as more exciting — food, toys, or snuggles; they set out to compose a playlist specifically for fussy felines.

Rather than just replacing human lyrics with meowing sounds, they adjusted the pitch and tone of the music in line with those used most often in cat communication and also the animals they like to hunt, such as birds and mice. They also aligned the tempo with that of a cat purring (around 1380 beats per minute).

What they found was that cats were indeed more responsive to these more familiar notes and concluded that there is such a thing as species-specific music preference. In short, every kind of animal marches to the beat of a different drum.

Grey cat with headphones isolated on white background Kseniya Ovchinnikova / Getty Images


Music for other pets

While experts have considered cats, dogs, and even cows and monkeys, sadly, not a lot of research has been done on whether other kinds of pets respond positively to music. Anecdotal evidence suggests that birds and lizards might… (or at least don't seem to mind our music) as long as it's played at a low enough volume.

If you'd like to give music a go with your animal babies, either because you enjoy listening to music or because you'd like to help them feel better when you're not home — it might be a good idea to stay away from heavy metal and hard rock in favor of something a little more mellow.

However, you might just find that podcasts or human voice recordings do the trick far better than any genre of music, especially if they're recordings of your own voice. In fact, if you're in any way musically talented, you might even consider creating a highly personalized playlist for your pet to enjoy!

Little bird listens music. Mihaela Rosu / Getty Images


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