Poster Cat with headphones
Cat with headphones
Jaap Joris | Flickr Creative Commons

Classical music... for cats

Cats. The viral darlings of YouTube. So revered and adored, they were given their own video festival. Perhaps you remember the 'CATcerto' that went super-viral a few years ago, in which a composer wrote orchestral music to accompany video of a cat playing the piano.

But what if instead of cats 'playing' music ... music was played for cats?

In a recent study published in Applied Animal Behavioral Science, a research team — led by University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologist, Charles Snowdon — visited 47 different cats in their homes, and played four samples for each of the felines — two classical music works (Fauré's "Elegie" and Bach's "Air on a G String") and two "cat songs" (composed by University of Maryland cellist/music researcher, David Teie).

They discovered that "cats showed a significant preference for and interest in species-appropriate music." Snowdon says, "We have developed a theoretical framework that hypothesizes that in order for music to be effective with other species, it must be in the frequency range and with similar tempos to those used in natural communication by each species."

Teie has composed an album worth of cat music, with tracks with names like "Rusty's Ballad," "Spook's Ditty," and "Cozmo's Air." It's a mix of cat-friendly sounds (chirping, the sucking sound of nursing kittens, motherly purrs) with human-friendly music. In a recent interview, Teie explained: "The sound of suckling milk was a reward-related sound and then I layer in the lower register of human music to make it palatable to owners. Hopefully it will appeal to both."

Thanks to a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, the Universal Music label has released "Music for Cats," marking the first time that a major label has released an album not made for humans.

In a press release, a Universal Music spokesman said, "We're thrilled to be part of this world-first project and break into the massive untapped market of non-human music fans. The possibilities are endless for more species-specific 'Music For' albums: dogs and horses could all be on the cards. David Teie's creative ideas, passion and solid research has laid the perfect foundation for success."

You can download the album from the Music for Cats website. Learn more about "Music for Cats" (and hear samples from the album) in the video below.

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