Do Pets Like ‘People’ Music?

Some pet owners might insist their animals like exactly the same music they do, but this might not be true. Research has indicated animals typically don’t have much response to human music, but music that has been composed with their acoustic and vocal range in mind does create a more observable responsiveness, according to Charles Snowdon, an animal psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dogs might be the exception to this general observation, as they seem to become more relaxed with classical music and agitated when heavy metal is played. Snowdon said, “So, it is possible that they might be responsive to music in our frequency range. My prediction is that a big dog might be more responsive to human music than a smaller dog such as a Chihuahua.” (Source: MSNBC)

It is hard to tell how much the two large dogs in this video are enjoying playing a piano. They might be participating because they are following the lead of a human, had extensive training, wanting food reward or all of the above. Some might interpret such a scene as confirming that dogs like the same music and have the same emotional responses to human music, but what scientific research has confirmed such a view?

Some pet owners might vehemently assert that they have seen responses in their pets when they play certain pieces of music, and they could be right, but it’s hard to make conclusions based on personal anecdotes. Some pets might be responding to the change in mood for their owners and not to the music the owners play, for example.

Also, it seems fairly common for humans to project their own emotions on animals, which denies the perspective of animals, and the fact that, though there could be some overlap, there are also differences. These differences are something to keep in mind when playing music for or around animals. Other factors, like volume, should also be considered, as high volume can be stressful or damaging to pets’ ears.

If you are interested in the growing field of species-specific music, cellist and composer David Teie has created music specifically for cats and it is available online. There are several samples you can listen to on the bottom of this page. This music doesn’t sound quite right to human ears, but the point of the research really is that animals have different responsiveness. A Care2 writer, Lisa Spector, who is also a concert pianist has created soothing music just for dogs.

Image Credit: Ohnoitsjamie / Creative Commons

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79 comments

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Past Member 3 years ago

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Shelly Peterson
Shelly Peterson3 years ago

It has always been fun to see which kinds of music my different pets have liked...including my deaf cat!!!...Harvey always has responded to "vibrattions, such if he was across the yard, I would stomp my foot on the deck 3 times to get his attention and her would come running home!!!,..(..and our friends would laugh so hard, because Mike and I would "verbally" call him while doing this!!)

Joanne M.
Joanne M.3 years ago

They definitely have likes and dislikes. I remember one of my cats used to roll around in front of and rub against my daughter's stereo speakers when anything by Guns and roses was played but if i wanted to listen to Elvis he would leave the room in a huff.

Jelca Bruigom
Jelca Bruigom3 years ago

Everything said here is based on behaviorism, as soon as it gets structural one can conclude things, we can conclude that its very rare when a cat (or most animal maybe) would enjoy hearing House or Heavy Metal music, for they simply like more softer and changing sounds. But it is true that they differ like humans, all characters have a different need (read taste). It does however always influence, sounds are hard to ignore. But just as humans there a more and less sensitive pets.
In any treatment we need to consider the specific character of any animal. In my case the experiments are meant to benefit cats, usually used to un-stress the pets. Like if a cat or dog ruins your home when you're away, there is the possibility that it won't happen if you leave the right music on. You'll first have to find out which music is right for yours. In that case you are experimenting on an individual animal with a specific goal. Just like science it doesn't always work for every case, its more like psychotherapy. We all need our own treat.

Elizabeth Santos-mason
Elizabeth M.3 years ago

Of course they like music! I remember when I first got my lovely Calico cat , Tiger. I used to place my electric piano on the dining room table and play. She used to jump on the table and lay beside it and soon afterwards she was alseep.She just loved it! I also remember playing a Beatles CD (Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band) LOL, she just looked at me with disgust. It's like she was trying to tell me to turn off that rackett.

Barbara DeFratis
Barbara DeFratis3 years ago

Yes and NO!!! After all, I remember my first attempt to break into writing. While I wrote I enjoyed listening to classical music as background music and so did our three cats at the time, who seemed to have enjoyed listening to it with me, since they stayed with me and the radio. Until, any of my sons came home, at that time they liked Hip-Hop played loudly, which to put it mildly, the cats did not. After all, the second one of the changed channels, especially the volume--the cats were OUT OF THERE!!!

Chris C.
Chris C.3 years ago

Animals are like people...they have their different "tastes" in music. As for not relating to people music...I beg to differ. Please watch, with your sound up, the video I've attached below, of Bailey, the golden, reacting and bopping to the guitar. In the 2nd link the same golden again reacts to the guitar and the subsequent singing of the guitar player. Both are a must see/hear. You'll laugh out loud.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBluUZ4NnZg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bxINssIf5Y

Dale Overall

This depends on the individual animal involved, some of the cats that owned us would react differently to the same kind of music...as soon as it was turned on - by leaving the room and others would seem attracted to the same music or indifferent...it was tolerable to the ear.

The sixteen year old blind Tortie that owns me gets the nature TV/radio channel turned on when I leave with chirping birds along with quiet and relaxing music that takes second fiddle to the chirping of the birds which is the real music to her ears.

Mercedes P.
Mercedes P.4 years ago

Interesting. I try not to expose my cats to much music, especially loud music. They have much better ears, so it must be bothering, plus it is not natural for them. They don't seem to be bothered by man-made noises though.

MarilynBusy ForCharities
4 years ago

When mellow melodical music is playing, our cats are calm. They leave the room if something punkish, acid or loud and disturbing comes on. So do I.

If you know your pets, you know when they're happy or not.