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Does Soothing Music Really Help My Pet Stay Calm?

12810298 - dog with headphones listening to music

Researchers have wondered for years: does soothing music have a similar effect on pets as it does on humans? Could a peaceful piano ballad put Fido at ease during a thunderstorm? According to extensive studies on shelter dogs, relaxing music with a steady tempo can lower cortisol levels, the hormone present in the blood responsible for stress. In fact, calming music and sounds seem to have a similar influence on many animals, causing a physiological response and the slowing of heart rates. This can be especially beneficial for canines, whose autonomic system is designed to swiftly recognize moments of fight or flight.

Interestingly, a study conducted in 2002 took the research a step farther and explored exactly what kind of music was most likely to calm an easily agitated pup. The takeaway? Dogs seem to respond most positively to simple music that has a tempo of around 50-60 beats per minute. “Classical music with a single instrument at a slower tempo has been especially shown to produce relaxed behaviors in dogs,” states Dr. Cornelius, founder of Last Wishes, an organization helping support families in end of care services for pets. Not surprisingly, fast music or tunes with especially heavy bases or loud percussions could have an adverse affect, causing your four legged friend to become anxious or on edge (it sounds like thunder!).

Wondering if this could apply to your kitty? Yes and no! With their keen sense of hearing, cats do prefer calming music similar to dogs, but they especially favor “species-appropriate music.” This includes music that mimics the sounds of birds chirping and cats purring or lightly scratching — think of it as a soundtrack of all the things cats love. In fact, with research backing just how beneficial cat-geared music can be for a jittery furry friend, it’s become an industry, with Kickstarter campaigns raising thousands of dollars to produce cat-friendly albums to be left on the stereo when owners leave for the day. Curious to have a listen? Music for Cats offers a free audio sample.

The real question is — if you have a dog and cat, would they both be happy to listen to the same album? We’ll leave that for them to decide.