Researchers Discover Our Pets Preferred Melodies

When I was very young I loved watching the British comedy series The Goodies. One of the series' shenanigans that still remains fresh in my mind (after last seeing it around 20 years ago) was when the protagonists discovered that music by Max Bygraves changed the placid behavior of a giant cod into a psychotic, predatory shark-like beast.The episode got me thinking and to this day I still occasionally wander whether music can affect animals. The way our family cat always seemed to utterly ignore music booming from the stereo, as if it the often deafening riffs didn't actually exist, suggested to me that perhaps music is an enjoyment exclusive to humans.However, researchers in animal psychology and behavior have challenged this idea, claiming that animals can indeed perceive music and have emotional reactions to it as long as you're playing the right kind of music.The Type of Music Animals Prefer Humans prefer music that tends to fall within human acoustic and vocal range and which progresses at a tempo similar to that of the human heartbeat. As animals' vocal ranges and heart rates differ greatly from our own, they simply aren't able to recognize and enjoy songs that are tailored for our ears.According to Charles Snowden, professor of psychology and zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, animals enjoy what he calls "species-specific music", which are tunes specially designed using pitches, tones and tempos that are familiar to their particular species.In 2009 Snowden showed how cotton-top tamarin monkeys responded to monkey music which was essentially 30 second clips based on monkey calls, composed by musician, David Teie from the University of Maryland. While composing the music Teie focused on specific features that he had noticed in the monkeys' calls, including rising and falling pitches and the duration of various sounds.Snowden and Teie found that when the tamarins listened to music inspired be the sounds they make when feeling threatened or fearful, they displayed signs of anxiety and increased their movement. When the tamarins heard music based on emotions of affiliation, such as feelings of happiness, safety and friendliness, the monkeys became a lot more relaxed and their feeding behavior increased, both of which signify a calming effect.Music for CatsCurrently Snowden and Teie are composing music for cats, which is based on felines' own frequency range and tempo. Teie is currently selling the music for $1.99 on his website Music for Cats."We have some work-in-progress where we've transposed music and put it in the frequency range for cat vocalizations, and have used their resting heart rate, which is faster than ours," Snowden told Life's Little Mysteries.Previous research on music and animal behavior has also revealed cat's interest in particular types of music. In 2002 Dr. Hermann Bubna-Littitz, an animal behaviourist professor at the Veterinary University of Vienna, conducted a study on whether music could be used as an alternative to drugs to calm pets that have become aggressive or exciteable. The researchers found that cats enjoyed a fast beat and deep pitched tones, indicated by their movement towards the speakers when this type of music was played. Bubna-Littitz also noticed that the felines became more relaxed and their tendency towards aggression decreased when this music type was played.Music for DogsDogs are more difficult to tailor music for, as they differ in size, heart rate and vocal range. However as large dogs, such as Labradors and Mastiffs, have a vocal range that is similar to adult human males, they may be more responsive to music in the human frequency range than smaller dogs.According to research conducted by Dr. Deborah Wells of the Canine Behavior Centre at Queens University Belfast, some dogs are able to differentiate between different types of music. Wells' experiment took place in an animal shelter where dog's behavior changed significantly according to the type of music that they heard. When hearing heavy metal music the dogs began barking, but when classical music was played they became relaxed.Sources:Tenenbaum, D. Monkeys get a groove on, but only to monkey music,University of Wisconsin-Madison New Release. September 1 2009.Wolchover, N, Animal Psychologists Discover What Music Animals Prefer, Life's Little Mysteries. 19/3/2012. href='' - -