A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that while cats ignore our music, they are highly responsive to “music” written especially for them. The sounds do not actually replicate cat sounds; the music was created with a pitch and tempo that appeal to cats.
The first step in making cat music is “to evaluate music in the context of the animal’s sensory system,” says Charles Snowdon, a psychology professor. Cats, for example, vocalize one octave higher than people, “So it’s vital to get the pitch right. Then we 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.
To test the songs, Snowdon and his team took a laptop and two speakers to the homes of 47 different cats and played four songs: two classical music tracks, and two “cat songs.”
The behavior of the cats was noted as either positive (purring, rubbing against speaker) or negative (hissing, arching of the back). The study found that a majority of the cats responded positively to their own specialized songs. The cats were significantly more positive toward cat music than classical music. They began the positive response after an average of 110 seconds, compared to 171 seconds for the human music.