Saturday, April 4, 2009

Music for Animals: More than Relaxing?

Can music affect animals? Well, we all know that music affects humans -- we all get excited when our favourite song is played on the radio, or when we're going to a concert, but what about our pets? Do they rock out and relax to their favourite tunes, or desire to go see their favourite band play? The second part of that question may be out of the question since I doubt your bird knows who Bon Jovi is and you can probably slip the name Hendrix by your hamster without a squeak. Music does have effects on animals, though, and some very interesting ones, indeed!

Contrary to popular rumour that fish cannot hear, they do in fact have ears according to LiveScience and the National Wildlife Federation:
"Fish don't have ears that we can see, but they do have ear parts inside their heads. They pick up sounds in the water through their bodies and in the ear, according to the National Wildlife Federation."
This makes sense because my pink kissing gourami, Splash, appears especially intent when my brother, Justin, jams on his guitar:

Splash swims over to the side of the tank closest to the guitar and sends kisses, which interestingly enough happens more often when my brother is playing -- it looks like he loves the music!

I was discussing the effects of music on animals with musician and fellow blogger, Andrew MacLeod, who informed me that his dogs often lie down and fall asleep in front of the drums when he plays! That's pretty crazy considering how loud drums are, and goes against research conducted by Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Dogs Trust, formerly the Rehoming Centre of the National Canine Defence League in Evesham, England:
"Dogs seem to relax to soft slow strains, and sometimes become agitated to loud, drum-based tunes."
Some might think that Andrew has very strange dogs, but I believe there is more research to be done. Perhaps certain beats are somewhat relaxing or even have sleep inducing effects on dogs. Consider Pooch, whose nap is interrupted when her master stops playing the drums…

Looks like Andrew’s dogs aren’t the only ones who relax to the drums! Also, it appears that different instruments have different effects because when Andrew plays the harmonica, his dogs go wild! This is probably because the harmonica has a high-pitched sound that dogs' ears are more sensitive to.

It is true that certain music can be used to relax your pets. Janet Marlow, well known for her frequent appearances on Animal Planet, composes and sells her own relaxation CDs designed for cats and dogs. According to Marlow's website,
"The music has been composed and recorded by a specific process for your pets needs. Low and high frequencies can cause stress and anxiety in pets. The frequency range of the music has been modified for your pet's hearing sensitivities."
Pets and Music, and Pet Music are two sites similar to Marlow's. Joy Butler also proposes tips on using music to help your dog relax.

It appears then that music is usually played to animals to calm them, but what about animals that play music? Sure, hummingbirds can tap a beat, and male chimps improvise drumming solos on their chests, but I bet most people have never considered a musical cat! Let me introduce Nora...

She's been dubbed the Piano Cat and is certainly musically inclined! Nora was adopted from an animal shelter by Philadelphia piano teacher, Betsy Alexander, and since has been discovered the piano. Nora plays solo, and often plays duets with Alexander's students.

Further research, not on the effects of playing music to animals, but on cats like Nora who are interested in making music, is sure to uncover some hidden talent! After all, practice makes purr-fect!

1 comment:

  1. this is a really interesting issue! it is also just another example of how we think we know so much about the animal world when really we have no effing clue!
    this animal/music thing is true in my experience as well. When I am playing softly on my acoustic my dog doesn't mind and stays near but when I am playing plugged in then she leaves the room promptly! it just gets too loud and disturbing for her. crazy.