Cats prefer their 'own beat' over our classical music

A new study has revealed that while cats ignore our music, they prefer their own beat.

Washington: A new study has revealed that while cats ignore our music, they prefer their own beat.

The study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that while, they are highly responsive to "music" written especially for them.

Lead author Charles Snowdon said that they are not actually replicating cat sounds, instead they are trying to create music with a pitch and tempo that appeals to cats.

Snowdon added that the first step in making cat music is to evaluate music in the context of the animal's sensory system, for example, cats vocalize one octave higher than people, so it's vital to get the pitch right. Then researchers tried to create music that would have a tempo that was appealing to cats. One sample was based on the tempo of purring, the other on the sucking sound made during nursing.

In the tests, researchers brought a laptop and two speakers to the homes of 47 cats and played four sound samples: two from classical music and two "cat songs" created by University of Maryland composer David Teie. The music began after a period of silence, and the cat's behavior was noted. Purring, walking toward the speaker and rubbing against it were adjudged positive response, while hissing, arching the back and erecting the fur were negative.

The cats, which were significantly more positive toward cat music than classical music, began the positive response after an average of 110 seconds, compared to 171 seconds for the human music.

Snowdon noted that the slow responses reflected the situation and some of them needed to wake up and pay attention to what were going on and some were out of the room when researchers set up. The cats showed almost the same number of aversive responses to each type of music.

Snowdon says the field has labored under mistaken premises. One is the frequency problem, that is, animals hear different ranges than people do and the second misconception is that all classical music will be calming, when it may in fact be invigorating, angry or ominous.

Combined, these factors may eliminate any chance that the animals would respond as expected to the "music" under study. Snowdon added that the problem is a bit of both, they don't hear it, and it's not music to them.

The study is online at Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

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