What do you do when you want to unwind? Put on some music, turn down the lights, and reach for your favorite beverage? Those creature comforts can make for a relaxing evening, but does your cat experience the same soothing sensation from music?
When we listen to music we tend to slow down, smile, and enjoy the moment. Cats are very perceptive, and it is possible that they enjoy watching us enjoy music—but does this mean that cats like music? Research shows that cats may not like the same music that we enjoy. In fact, our music may irritate them or cause them to withdraw. This relates to cats’ superior senses, specifically hearing, and how that superiority causes them to prefer different sounds than us.
Highly Developed Sense
Cats have relied on their exceptional hearing for survival. Their ability to find food is tied to their ability to listen for sounds that tell them prey is nearby. Clues could include vibrations of footsteps, the rustling of a branch or leaf, or even the sound of another animal breathing.
When waiting for an opportunity to pounce, a cat’s ears will be raised as he or she focuses on the approach. Cats’ whiskers also help them hear things. Cats can detect sounds of very slight movement; using their whiskers as receptors they can detect vibrations, which influence their perception of sound.
Understand the frequency of sound helps illustrate the difference in hearing abilities among species. Each is subject to limitations on the higher and lower frequencies, and people and cats share the low range. We can both hear sounds at a lower limit of about 20Hz, but the ability to hear high frequency sounds is drastically different. Humans can hear up to about 20,000Hz, while cats can hear up to 64,000Hz. As you can imagine, that difference causes variations in how sounds are received and which are seen as pleasant.
The inner ear bones, the ossicles, move when sound waves hit the eardrum. This pushes on the membrane located on the fluid-filled cochlea, causing waves in the fluid that flow over tiny hair-like cells. This sends a signal to the brain, which interprets the sounds. The physiology of cats’ ears may cause it to hear sounds differently that we do, and will therefore affect their appreciation of music.
Another factor that may affect a cat’s musical taste is related to heartbeats. Even before we are born, both people and cats hear the rhythm of their mothers’ heartbeats and the patterns of normal movements, such as walking or stretching. They may also hear environmental sounds, such as voices, household appliances, or the sounds of other pets. Feline heartbeats are different from humans, and this may influence how cats perceive sound.
Cat Pleasing Sounds
Some cats may respond well to their owners’ music, especially if they were introduced to the sounds early in life. However, most cats will not resonate with your favorite country tune or the soundtrack from Hamilton. They probably won’t like rap or rock music either. Researchers have shown that cats do enjoy music, but many of the tempos and pitches of our music are not pleasant to them. You can find music composed specifically for cats, emphasizing sounds that cats enjoy. So, if your cat turns down your invitation to dance, don’t be offended. He or she is just moving to a different tune.
Have you ever wondered about the little pocket located on the outside of your cat’s ears? The scientific name for this small slit is cutaneous marginal pouch. Read more about this feline anomaly in our article, “Why Do Cats Have Little Pockets on Their Ears?”