Cat Music: Sounds That Make Cats Happy

Are there sounds that make cats happy, calm and soothe them?  It’s hard to say because we don’t yet speak cat and can’t ask them about it.  We can only judge their behavior.  We need to ask first: what sounds do cats like?  Yes, there are scientists studying this type of thing.  Their findings can help us calm, soothe and entertain our cats.  My cat, Laila, and I also conducted our own non-scientific research at home.  A good way to spend an hour or two on a Saturday, right?

The Official Research

Do Cats Like Music

What are the sounds that make cats happy?  Obviously, they will hear any music but we want them to listen to the cat music and hopefully respond.  The research I found was a study done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and appears in the Applied Animal Behavior Science Journal.

Here’s the verdict: Cats like music in higher octaves that mimics the tempo of soothing things like purring and sucking/nursing.   Cats like music but not necessarily our music.  They prefer their own cat-specific music.  Figures, doesn’t it?  Cats respond to music positively by purring, walking towards the sound and rubbing against the speaker/source of the cat music.

The research done by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that when they played regular classical music, the average response time was 171 seconds and the response (if any) was minimal.  When they played the cat music for them, the cats exhibited all the positive behavior of purring, getting closer and rubbing – all in an average of 110 seconds.

So, it seems as though cats like cat music.  Now, let’s test it for ourselves…



Our Research

The Subject
The Test Subject

This is not scientific.  The sample size is 1.  But, hey, we’re having fun.  To conduct some research of our own, we went to YouTube.  Well, I did and Laila watched.  Turns out there are quite a few options for cat music on YouTube.  When I searched “cat music” on YouTube, I got more than 96M results.  Most were just classical music or regular music labelled as cat music.  I settled on 2 different videos of cat music on YouTube.

Test 1: Relax My Cat on YouTube

This did nothing.  I found the music relaxing but there was no change in Laila’s behavior in the 10 minutes we listened.  It was as though she didn’t hear it.

RESULT: Nice for humans but had no response from the cat.

Test 2: Relaxation Music + Cat Purring on Youtube

This yielded the best results for us.  Laila definitely heard the music and seemed intrigued.  After having it on for 10 minutes, she fell asleep on my husband’s hand.  She could have just been sleepy, but we’ll call it a win.

Listening to Music Makes me Sleepy

RESULT: Good music for cats due to the higher pitched tones and purring.

Test 3: Scientific Cat Music from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

I could only get a 1-minute clip of this music so I played it 10 times.  Again, Laila was intrigued and was alert when it started each time.  While it was playing she circled the computer a few times.

Cat Music Sounds Cats Like

RESULT: Good music for cats.  Need a longer and more varied clip to comment further.

Make Your Own Cat Music

Using sounds cats like, you can effectively make your own cat music.  Like a mix tape for your feline bestie.  I would tend more towards actual sounds cats like such as bird, other cats purring and higher pitched music based on our, albeit limited, research.  Classical music would be good filler to separate the enjoyable cat sounds.

Bird sounds should keep your cat alert and are a good substitute for the real thing.  Play bird sounds and watch your cat look for the source.  The purring will be a more soothing music for cats.




Another option would be louder, more annoying sounds like dogs barking, cars revving their engines and pots banging.  This should help to desensitize your cat to these noises, making them less nervous when they happen in real time.

After all this “research” I am going to play the relaxation music + cat purring the next time we leave the house.  It might soothe her and lessen her abandonment issues.  Have you tried out any cat music with your cat?  What sounds or music does your cat like?  I think it’s clear I’m willing to try anything to keep my cat happy.

Amy

10 thoughts on “Cat Music: Sounds That Make Cats Happy

Hello there,

Thank you for the insightful article.
I didn’t have a slightest idea that there is music for cats.
With that said, it sounds logical – the cats are very sensitive creatures and they behavior can be influenced by using the appropriate music.
I wonder what would happen if I play Megadeath to my cat?

Reply

Glad you got something out of the post.  You could probably play Megadeath and your cat wouldn’t care (if they’re anything like mine).

Thanks!

Amy

Reply

Interesting piece! My cat really enjoys soothing music and usually falls asleep once I put on some relaxing tunes. It’s great that there’s research to back it up so I know it’s really working. I like that you included different tests and results. I am also going to make my own cat music. Perhaps you can offer more tips on this? Thanks for sharing this very insightful article!

Reply

Hi,

Thanks for the great comment!  I think if you are going to make your own cat music, it would be best to stick with natural cat sounds like purring.  Maybe some bird sounds too?  I know Laila is always intrigued by birds, but that may not be too relaxing…

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My daughter has been pushing me hard to get a cat for the family. As I was poking around on the internet (avoiding looking at shelters), I came across this post. Do you find cats are better off with the music close to them as depicted with the cat and the headphones? Or is this better suited for a sound system that fills the room? Music that can make cats happy (mine was grumpy growing up) sounds like something worth learning about.

Reply

To be honest, the headphone photo is just a photo and I would not recommend trying to put headphones on your cat :).  A sound system, laptop, tablet or even a phone would work according to my tests.

P.S. I am glad you are “avoiding” shelters rather than pet stores.  There’s so many great shelter animals who need homes.

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Hi Amy, I’ve been looking for something like this for a while. I work at the vet and deal with stressful cat patients most the time and read somewhere that music therapy may help them cope better during hospitalization.

I listened to all three resources listed – they sound pretty much the same to me – but I’ll give that YouTube channel a try. Any idea if you can get a longer streaming for the audio produced by the university? Thanks.

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Hi Cathy,

Thanks for the nice feedback.  You’re right, the music is quite similar. I think music would be a great idea to try out to help cats cope while undergoing treatment or hospitalization at the vet.  I’m of the opinion that it never hurts to try.

I couldn’t find a longer clip from the university but perhaps you could try contacting them directly? I found this media contact info on the page:

Charles Snowdon snowdon@wisc.edu

I hope that helps and I’d love to know your results if/when you try it out.

Amy

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I have heard of videos for cats but not music. My cats do pay attention if they hear a cat purring or meowing on a you tube video .They will look for the cat. They really don’t pay any attention to any genre of music that is being played .They do seem to like it if I sing directly to them. I am assuming it is the sound of my voice that they are familiar with that makes the difference verses a strangers voice singing.

Reply

I think every cat is different but you don’t know what works for your until you try a few things out.  You can get a lot of free cat music on youtube so it would be worth a try.  Our experiment was fun!

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