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.
“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?
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