Two psychologists, Charles Snowdon and Megan Savage, and a composer, David Teie, teamed up for the project at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. They created three purpose-written melodies and tested them out on a group of 47 domestic cats, also compared in “human” music by composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Gabriel Fauré.
The cats showed trademark disdain for the great composers but when “their” tunes came on they reacted positively rubbing the speakers with their faces.
“We looked at the natural vocalisations of cats and matched our music to the same frequency range, which is about an octave or more higher than human voices,” says Snowdon. “We incorporated tempos that we thought cats would find interesting – the tempo of purring in one piece and the tempo of suckling in another – and since cats use lots of sliding frequencies in their calls, the cat music had many more sliding notes than the human music.”
The same team of researchers has done this sort of thing before. In 2009, they showed tamarin monkeys ignored human music but were calmed by music tailored for them.
They say that the finding could provide a way to soothe the nerves of animals in zoos and other forms of captivity.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.