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Feature February 2019 Issue

Anxious Cat? Try Music

For fearful or generally anxious cats, calming music may work wonders.

© AZALIA | Bigstock

They canít make music, but they sure can enjoy it.

We’re all looking for that special bond that allows a cat to fall asleep in our lap, or initiate play. If that bond seems to be missing between you and your pet, she might be suffering from anxiety. And music might be just the thing to take the edge off and soothe her anxious mind, says the Head of the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic, Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM.

In one study conducted at the University of Portugal, cats undergoing surgery had headphones placed on their ears. When classical music was played, their heart rate decreased, as did the diameter of their pupils — both signs that the song (Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings) had a soothing effect. Rock & Roll, on the other hand (AC/DC’s Thunderstruck), increased both heart rate and pupil diameter.

A website called MusicMyPet.com adds that music performed on the harp is used throughout the world as a means not only of reducing stress but also healing sick animals. And some research has shown that cats will relax in front of speakers playing classical music. One caveat: the music has to be soothing all the way through. It can’t be, for instance, Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, in which the music periodically takes a turn for the loud.

Based on the evidence, it’s not surprising that a number of animal shelters have installed sound systems for the purpose of playing music in order to create a more serene environment for the animals in their care. If your own cat is frustratingly skittish, and even if she’s not, why not try it at home? It may take some trial and error, as cats hear and enjoy sounds in somewhat different frequency ranges than we do. But you’ll soon find that you can settle on something that will get both you and your pet purring.

To get started, you may want to check out “Relax My Cat” on youtube.com. It’s free and offers a series of musical videos that are designed specifically to quell feline anxiety. You’ll enjoy it, too.

Comments (3)

I play piano and own two cats. One falls asleep on the couch showing her stomach, in a comfortable position. The other jumps on the piano seat and watches me play. She has stood up on the piano a number of times too. I have played when searching for this young one and she always comes to the room when I play, and its all different styles.

Posted by: Cassie DeCristofaro | July 16, 2019 9:07 AM    Report this comment

My "once in a lifetime cat ", my sweet Cupcake, was exceptionally susceptive to emotional response to music, both positive and negative. Aggressive music made him uneasy even at low volume. However gently rhythmic music, in his case Roots Reggae, and anything with soothing vocals, especially Leonard Cohen, sent him into something akin to a meditative state in my lap. I have since tried some of the same music in my rescue group's socialization centre with very similar response in some cats including true feral cats and emotionally traumatized abandoned and surrendered cats

Posted by: Tiddles | April 18, 2019 2:23 PM    Report this comment

I propose Rachmaninoff's Vespers. I have used it on repeat for myself at times when I was feeling anxiety or depression.
There are also cat-themed classical CDs. It will probably be easier to gauge results with music than with "anxiety sprays."

Posted by: skamandercat | January 29, 2019 4:54 PM    Report this comment

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