Nora the piano cat

While cats outnumber dogs as pets (according to the latest statistics from the American Pet Products Association, there are 78.2 million households that own dogs versus 86.4 million that own cats), cats receive significantly less veterinary care than dogs. A veterinary study by Bayer shows that dogs visit the vet about 2.3 times a year compared to 1.7 times a year for cats. One of the most cited reasons by cat owners is the stress cats (and their owners) experience with a typical visit to the veterinarian, both on the way there and while at the clinic.

A new study at Colorado State University is looking at how classical music can help make a veterinary visit less stressful and thus lead to better veterinary care for cats.

Numerous studies in human medicine have shown that classical music can reduce stress in patients by lowering pain levels, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates.  This response appears to be the same in animals. For example, one study of dogs in rescue shelters showed that classical music changed their behavior to produce more periods of rest, less time standing and more quiet time.

From the Colorado State University Office of Public Relations news release:

“If this study finds that classical music lowers the stress levels for cats and their caretakers during veterinary visits, veterinarians can start using calming music in their waiting room immediately and improve the emotional health of those in their clinic — human and four-legged,” said Dr. Narda Robinson, a veterinarian at Colorado State University.

In addition to the potential stress-reducing benefits of music for felines and their caretakers, relaxed cats are easier for veterinarians to examine and need less restraint.

Robinson and fellow researcher Lori Kogan, a psychologist with Colorado State University who specializes in veterinary and animal issues, want to enroll 50 cats and their caretakers in the study. Cats will need to visit the Veterinary Teaching Hospital two times to be randomly exposed to one of two different soundscapes — either no music or slow, classical music– during each visit while in an exam room for about 15 minutes. The waiting time will be videotaped and behavior will be noted through an observation window by independent observers who will not know if music is playing in the exam room. Clients will also fill out surveys about their own as well as their cat’s stress levels before and after the session. An appointment with a veterinarian is not necessary, and cats enrolled in the study will not be examined by a veterinarian as part of the study.

If you live in the Ft. Collins, CO area, your cat may be eligible to participate in the study. Qualifying cats must be able to hear and meet some minimal health requirements, while caretakers must be able to bring cats to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital during afternoon, evening, or weekends for two visits at least two days apart.

I’m excited about this study. Coming on the heels of the Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines issued by the American Association of Feline Practitioners, it’s encouraging to see that more major organizations are making efforts to make cats’ lives better.

Do your cats respond to music? If so, what kind of music do they like?

Photo of Nora the Piano Cat, photo credit: Burnell Yow! , used by permission. According to Burnell, Nora’s favorite composer is Bach.

You may also enjoy reading:

Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines to make vet visits easier for cats

Is your vet cat-friendly?

20 Comments on Can classical music lead to better veterinary care for cats?

  1. Each of the cats I’ve been owned by have had unique tastes in music. Hogarth liked folk, Felix preferred piano concertos, Jojo was an intense jazz fan and refused to miss his weekly radio program and Misha liked rap and techno and the tense music used for detective-thriller movies. Unique individuals all.

  2. I’m not sure the music would make a difference to my cats, but it might calm MY frazzled nerves after listening to all that yowling during the 20 minute car ride to the vet.

    P.S. I love Nora the Piano Cat, and have written about her before.

  3. The benefits of classical music have been well studied for quite a while. For the past 15 years I’ve used a fabulous series called “Relax with the Classics(R)” for personal work and in corporate business communication classes. My cats love it, too. A good aticle about it is at http://www.healingmusic.org/library/Newsroom/SoundHealthMusicAsMedicinePart2.asp. This scientifically chosen and sequenced music from San Francisco’s LIND Instiute also has been used in hospitals, schools, dairy farms, and all kinds of places to increase relaxation, learning, and productivity. Since the series came out, music therapy has been increasingly recognized for the great asset that it is.

    • Thanks for sharing the link to the article, Karen – it’s fascinating. I love that this becoming more widely accepted in human medicine. Hopefully, it will eventually become part of routine care, and the same will happen in veterinary medicine.

  4. Our cat Mew a Herringbone Tabby was brought up on classical music and was very chilled out, even when going to the vets she’d lie down in her basket and just watch, we used to open the lid of the basket at the vets while waiting and she wouldn’t jump out but just look around. her bp was normal, though she did have a slight heart problem. She would always sit in the living room with my Dad and seemed to love his classical music. Buster a cross siamese adopted us in his old age, at first he seemed very stressed out but as the weeks passed he liked to sit with Mew and Dad in the living room, falling asleep happily to classical music. My cat, didnt like classical music and was really stressed out, getting him to the vets was a military operation with full planning. all escape routes were closed and he would cry all the way to the vets, he was more a telly cat.

  5. Great information! I know that Susan Raimond (harp) has done similar studies, and saw her present at Tufts Animal Expo many years ago. The proper music can “entrain” the brain and heart as the press release states…to slow down and calm/sedate or speed up/energize. It’s a great noninvasive yet therapeutic help for pets!

  6. I read somewhere that music with low to moderate tones and tempos help calm cats. We have a selection of music we play for our rescue cats in our foster lounge, no classical music in our collection but jazz, lounge and ambient music, and the album Music Cats Love. It does make stressed cats less stressed but the effect is not unilateral – some cats still behave as normal as without music. We also advise cat owners in our cat care education communications to play music for their cats to ease loneliness during the day. And we still strongly advise catteries and shelters to play soothing music for the animals – and visiting humans! Who knows, it may even boost adoption rates…!

    • Elaine, I would think the combination of soothing music for cats and the humans should help with adoption rates – at the very least, it might help make the cats more relaxed, and thus potential adopters may get to see their true natures better.

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