Can animals enjoy music?

I’ve always wondered if animals can appreciate music, and if they do, what type? We do know of one species of animal, homo sapiens, that appreciates music, but what about all the others? Or is enjoying music a uniquely human phenomenon?

So I did some Googling a little earlier, and I found this: What Type of Music Do Pets Like?

To most animals, human music falls into that ungraspable, unrecognizable category. With vocal ranges and heart rates very different from ours, they simply aren’t wired to appreciate songs tailored for our ears. Most studies find that, try as we might to get their legs thumping, animals generally respond to human music with a total lack of interest. That’s why Snowdon has worked with cellist and composer David Teie to compose music that is tailored to suit them.

Back in 2009, the researchers composed two songs for tamarins — monkeys with vocalizations three octaves higher than our own and heart rates twice as fast. The songs sound shrill and unpleasant to us, but they seem to be music to the monkeys’ ears. The song modeled on excited monkey tones and set to a fast tempo made the tamarins visibly agitated and active. By contrast, they calmed down and became unusually social in response to a “tamarin ballad,” which incorporated happy monkey tones and a slower tempo.

Snowdon and Teie have moved on to composing music for cats, and studying how they respond to it.

“We have some work-in-progress where we’ve transposed music and put it in the frequency range for cat vocalizations, and have used their resting heart rate, which is faster than ours,” he told Life’s Little Mysteries. “We find that cats prefer to listen to the music composed in their frequency range and tempo rather than human music.”

On the basis of their results, Teie has started selling cat songs online (at $1.99 per song) through a company called “Music for Cats.”

This all makes sense when you really think about it. I used to think that Victoria and Daisy(both cats) enjoyed listening to Bach while disliking heavy metal, but I guess I was wrong after all. Based on this article, I would likely hate cat or monkey music, but if I knew my cats enjoyed it I might play it for them sometimes, preferably when I’m not home.

7 responses to “Can animals enjoy music?

  1. My dog is pretty intrigued by the guitar, and he loves to sing. He also likes to watch people dance 🙂

    • Interesting. It seems Eric’s and Couch’s dogs are much the same way when it comes to guitar. I have so little experience with dogs though.

      • I’ve had him for 9 years now (he’s 11). When he was a puppy I’d sing him to sleep at the end of my bed at night with I Will by the Beatles. Now he has his own comfy bed, but if I sing that song to him he’ll usually get up out of a dead sleep and follow me to my room.
        I love cats, but dogs seem to have an easier time adapting to human ways. Not necessarily a good thing…Jack also likes to watch TV now, for example. And eat the occasional potato chip.

  2. My cat has never reacted to music. My dog does “sing” when I play guitar. I have a video somewhere. When I play guitar she whines and howls haha not sure if she enjoys or hates it

  3. Ditto the dogs. Both of mine get lost in music, especially classical and instrumental.

    • Do your dogs prefer music from a particular era, like Baroque, instead of 19th century classical music? Thanks for your great comments!

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