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Outstanding STEAM: Music Composed for Cats to Enjoy

A recent scientific study has introduced the idea of music for cats' enjoyment. Housecats might get annoyed by music made for humans, but music that's made up of sounds tailor-made for their enjoyment might be a different story.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin and University of Maryland identified types of vocalizations, like purring, and noises that are familiar to cats, like the sound of birds chirping. They wove these sounds into compositions of different moods: one uses string instruments to mimick birds twittering, another bases its tempo off the sound of a cat's purr, and another features the sound of a kitten suckling. These sounds are recognizable to cats even in the context of the music.

After composing three different pieces, the researchers played the music for domestic cats and evaluated their behavior. This behavior was compared to their behavior while listening to different pieces of classical music. The researchers found that the cats showed a significant preference for the music for cats compared to the music for humans. When the cat music was playing, the feline subjects were observed to exhibit behaviors like moving toward the source of the music or rubbing the speaker, sure signs that the cats liked what they were listening to.

The composer in the project described the music for cats as "acoustic catnip": it might be something fun that your cat reacts to, or it might not be. Have a cat of your own? Wonder what music for cats sounds like? Listen to some clips here.

For more cat science, check out the Cat's Meow and Ancient Cat History Science Update podcasts on Science NetLinks.