can animals feel music?

February 12, 2007 at 11:46 PM ·

may seem silly, but can animals feel music? This cat is obviously fascinated by the sound produced by the piano - he understands that he can play different notes but pushing in different places. He understands he can play with both paws simultaneously. He understands that he can play 2 or more notes at a time. I was amazed with this video for some reason. The cat is drawn to the piano because of its sound...does the cat feel the concept of music? the concept of arranged notes or playing notes for a purpose?


Replies (64)

February 13, 2007 at 12:08 AM · Very interesting! We don't have a piano, but my black cat has an undying passion for high notes on the violin. When I play artificial harmonics, or high notes up the E string, she goes mad with happiness...rolls around, purrs, sweet mews...

She is my "different" kitty (she also loves to eat vegetables). I don't think she "gets" music though. And I have never tried to teach her violin, because she has no thumbs!

My gray cat just likes to nap in the violin case.

February 13, 2007 at 12:16 AM · Oh my God, that's the weirdest/funniest/coolest thing I've seen in a long time!!! LOL! (although all the repeated notes made me wonder if the kitty was just trying to play the first mvt of Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata"...)

If only my cat were similarly inclined. She hates music of all descriptions--though for some reason, she particularly detests Polish music! I'm serious, just a few bars of Chopin or Wieniawski is enough to send her scurrying under a bed or into a closet. :)

As for the answer to your questions, I think it's just typical cat curiosity, not any sense of music per se. My aforementioned Pole-hating cat has a very sharp grasp of the concept of cause and effect--this pianist cat is probably just, fascinated, exploring the same concept.

February 13, 2007 at 12:28 AM · one of my parakeets started chirping in time to my mozart 5th concerto once...i'm not sure if that was a coincidence or not...

February 13, 2007 at 12:49 AM · I believe animals are sensitive to music and express it in various ways:

some examples from my cats-

If you played the recorder all 4 cats would come running. They would rub against the recorder and purr loudly. Perhaps they thought a tasty treat was aroung the corner, or maybe they were begging me to stop. A response nonetheless.

I had a very musical cat named Carmina who used to visit my piano on a regular basis. I was once rehearsing a Beethoven Sonata with a friend when she decided to add additional bass notes (luckily in the right key). My former cat Spot, on the other hand, would run as soon as he heard the violin-that is until he realized my students would pet him if he hung out in the room (not musical at all, just an opportunist).

All 4 of my cats became became visibly upset when they heard the Poppen recording of the Chaconne with superimposed chorales-it disturbed one of them so much that he decorated the speaker. Animals respond to sounds/vibration in the environment all the time, why not music?

February 13, 2007 at 01:38 AM · I have had several cats over the years and they all responded to music. Some loved it, some hated it..and they liked or disliked different stuff. My current kitty becomes upset with upsetting music, calm with calm music and scared with scary music which I find interesting because I would think cats have very different ideas of what is scary, disturbing, calming...or maybe not.

Our parakeet sings boisterously with music, often exactly matches rhythms and usually starts and stops within a fraction of a second of the music starting and stopping. He definitely is singing with the music although he hasn't bothered to tell us just what he thinks of it.

February 13, 2007 at 05:28 AM · my african grey loves music...his pupils dialate and contract quickly when my boyfriend plays the guitar, and he loves his baby's toy that plays für elise, tries to repeat me when i sing it to him on "la", and he has tried imitating me practicing my scales before.

my dog also loves music, especially loud, fast violin parts...he gets all into it...howling and changing his volume depending on what i'm doing. he'd even come and sit infront of my door and wait to be let in, singing along, while i practiced. my dog learned the bruch concerto so well when i was preparing for my college auditions that when i played the cd he still howled to it.

and then it just freaks the other birds out :)

February 13, 2007 at 05:36 AM · My grandfather's dog would come and sit under my stand while I practiced - the only time that dog was ever still for more than 2 seconds! One my cats will come and do crazy happy cat antics on the chair, and the other one will plop himself down inside my case. I'm currently trying to teach one of my cats to turn the pages of my music for me. I'm not having much luck yet. Maybe if I taped a feather on the corner of each page that needed turning... mmmmmmm...

February 13, 2007 at 06:47 AM · I dont know about all the psychology etc. behind animals and music but some animals seem to genuinely love and enjoy music while others dont. Cats typically run screaming from the violin yet my dog of 11 years would sit in front of my window and listen to my practice my scales ever since I was a little kid - she was my practice buddy! She seemed to always get excited when I'd come home after being gone for a few days or weeks and take my violin out and play again.

February 13, 2007 at 07:01 AM · My hound dog, Fei Fei, loved it when I played over the top gushy romantic stuff--Made me wonder about him to tell ya the truth.

February 13, 2007 at 07:13 AM · My dog, when I'm practicing in a room with a door closed, whines until he's let in, and sits there contentedly. I also knew a dog, Cocoa who used to howl when we tuned our strings....Aww pups.

February 13, 2007 at 07:22 AM · Wonder why Rossini wrote the Cat Duet for 2 voices & a piano? It was on a Classic CD, cd sampler years ago.

February 13, 2007 at 08:25 AM · When I would practice piano at my parents' house, our dog would sit directly underneath it. Sometimes he would even thump his tail on the ground (to the beat?). I had a theory that he liked the vibrations on the floor, not necessarily the music (he didn't care for the violin). When I play at my parents' house these days, their new, small, skiddish dog seems curious for about two seconds, then hides under something nearby. My dog, Nicky, doesn't seem to care one way or the other. Mostly he likes to be where I am, but if he can tell I'm "busy," he may go elsewhere. I am generally of the opinion that animals have more and deeper thoughts than we realize, but in the case of music, I've never been convinced my critters "got it." That cat video sure is something, though -- it does seem that he enjoys the "cause and effect" of banging his paws on the instrument. Check out the dog singing "Queen of the Night" on youtube as well... a funny forward from a soprano friend!

February 13, 2007 at 10:28 AM · Of course, animals respond to music. The natural world echos bits and pieces of aural aesthetics, and animals both create and respond to sounds in their natural environment. It is one of the ways in which they communicate. If the cat had taken up typing, though...

I wonder about a couple of things. I wonder if the cat was placed on the bench each time. If not, I wonder why the cat chose the same register each time. Nora never played the keys outside of that particular two-octave range. This range also defines the typical range for a typical meow. Coincidence? Is it a coincidence that the cat continually played around with the C and D? Was it because of her previous familiarity, the smell recognition, or the sound? She seemed very much in love with the B, C, and D two octaves above middle C.

I was impressed with her phrasing. It was better than the student's.

February 13, 2007 at 10:22 AM · My cat, who is a true cosmopolitan, and who originally was a street kitten in far west Malaysia (that's a long story), loves my violin playing.

I should note at this point that some human beings have also been known to admire my violin playing.

She comes down to my practice room especially to hear me play. She is of a rather placid, shy, and thoughtful nature, and sits quietly and contentedly at my feet while I play. Occasionally she gets a gentle stroke with my bow tip, every now and then, to let her know that I know she is there and that her presence and love are kindly reciprocated.

February 13, 2007 at 01:41 PM · I showed my friend and she believes that there was catnip put between the keys (hence nora rubbing her face on the keys too).... hah.

February 13, 2007 at 02:13 PM · gee, just goes to show that violin is more difficult:):)

not sure if the cat really "understands" that much. but who cares as long as it is cute. just make sure he did not just jump out of the litter box:(

not sure if cat reacts to music as voices, noises or really can interpret finer details as pitches, patterns and dynamics, something that some song birds are known to be better at. but cats can be taught couple words through repetition and reward i guess.

February 13, 2007 at 04:25 PM · A lot of time in animal shelters they'll be playing classical music because it supposedly calms the animals down. It could be the animals reaction to calmer people instead I would think.

February 13, 2007 at 04:22 PM · Emily, that's a fascinating observation about the tone range of a typical meow. I'm going sort of neurotic lately trying to identify the pitch of every blessed sound I hear, and have discovered that my cat usually sings somewhere between B-flat and C-sharp. (When she's annoyed it drops down to an E-flat, or thereabouts.)

One odd thing happened fairly recently though--I was sitting at the piano, plunking at some twelve-tone nonsense I was writing for composition class, and my music-hating cat eagerly ran into the room, looked bright-eyed at me and jumped onto the piano bench beside me, where she sat for several minutes. Who knew cats were into the Second Viennese School?!

February 13, 2007 at 05:51 PM · It isn't generally known, but many cats were actually the composers of famous pieces of music. Remember the Cat's Fugue? And what about:


The Magnifi-Cat

The Underwater CAThedral


(wassamatter? Catgut got your tongue?)

:) Sandy

February 13, 2007 at 06:22 PM · sheesh-^--a CAT-astrophy... Sander!

February 13, 2007 at 06:52 PM · Maia,

where is the video of a dog singing Queen of the Night?

February 13, 2007 at 08:33 PM ·

February 13, 2007 at 11:47 PM · I suspect someone may have dusted the keyboard with catnip. Stoned cats are hilarious, certainly more amusing than primates similarly afflicted.

February 14, 2007 at 09:41 PM · The first time I found out that my instructor had a cat, was while I was practicing. She rubbed against my feet and then sat at them for about two minutes. Although now she comes around even when I not playing, so that may not mean anything.

February 14, 2007 at 11:17 PM · Verg good Sander. LOL. I also agree with jessie. I've trained animals and a little catnip rubbed on the keys could elicit this behavior. I trained our dog to play the piano on command. I put a biscuit on the keys, asked the dog in a conversational voice if he would like to play the piano, then released him. After awhile with no food on the keys he would react to the question and go play. People watching this were shocked and dumbfounded. As you know, the explanation was very simple.

February 15, 2007 at 01:00 PM · When I was growing up, my parents had a dog that used to sing when I'd play the violin....seriously! She would make these really funny moaning noises (sometimes even in tune) with the violin. Apparently, this is called keening.

February 15, 2007 at 02:43 PM · I once had a teacher whose large dog would start howling any time someone played tenths. :)

The first violinist of my former quartet had a bird that would start singing along as soon as someone hit B-flat.

The violist of my former quartet had about half a dozen cats who would always interrupt rehearsal when we were at his house--a kitty would wander in, plop itself down in amongst us, and look as adorable as possible. Our piece would be abandoned in a rising chorus of "Awwwww...."

February 15, 2007 at 03:42 PM · My dog thinks she absolutely HAS to be in the room when I practice. She will pace until I open the door and let her in. I have always found this surprising considering that a dog's ears are so much more sensitive than a human's. It seems to me that all the notes I hit that are painful to me would be really excruciating to her. But, she curls up and goes to sleep.

My daughter's cello teacher has a huge 125 pound dog who thinks he is a lap dog and tries to lean on my daughter throughout her lesson. He also has a thing for licking her cello.

February 15, 2007 at 04:39 PM · Oh yeah..And I forgot to mention...My parent's dog sites under the piano when my Mom plays it!


February 15, 2007 at 05:38 PM · Four years ago my partner and I moved from DC to New Mexico. We had our three cats in the car with us. Two of them travel well, the other howled for the entire trip - until, one particular Enya song played on a CD. He was immediately quiet. So, we hit the repeat button and he stayed quiet. After about an hour of the the same Enya song, we decided the the howling was easier to take!!!

February 15, 2007 at 06:07 PM · Hey Jim,

OT, but I am in NM, too. Albuquerque. Just thought I'd say hi since I don't come across too many others from NM.

February 15, 2007 at 06:33 PM · I just got a new puppy, and everytime I practice the violin, she runs away. I think it's the loudness of the violin (and also because she's 5 months)...but that's just my experience.

February 16, 2007 at 12:26 AM · Every time my dog starts playing the violin, I can't help myself and I start howling. I wonder what this means....hmmmm.


February 17, 2007 at 04:07 PM · That video has to be the most adorable thing I've ever seen.

February 18, 2007 at 12:07 AM · My sister has a dog. Every time I play the vioin, he will "sing" along. Sometimes I shuss him to shut up because it distracts my practise. When I start playing again, he would "sing", look me in the eye as if it's something he couldn't help doing. With other dogs, they run away!

February 18, 2007 at 01:58 PM · We should get all singing dogs together into a chorus. We can train them to sing the choral part of Beethoven's Ninth ("Freude, schoene gutter function...") or the Messiah ("For unto us a pup is born...") or a Bach Cantata ("Gott, Ich liebe meine bone", BWV 57,822) or a Puccini opera ("Is-a da pooch ini da house?", BMW 18).


February 27, 2007 at 03:37 PM · This video is absolutely fascinating! I love animals! I've never ever seen a cat play the piano. The cat appears to really be mesmerized by the keys of the piano and the sounds they are making. Animals are incredibly smart and very, very sensitive.

February 28, 2007 at 06:09 PM · My goffin cockatoo "dances"--sways from side to side--in time to music. Then there is birdsong (and Messiaen et al.)

My mother's cat (Abyssinian) showed her first affection to me by sitting next to me on the piano bench (the bass side). An equal-instrument patron, she added sitting under the music stand while I practiced violin.

My dog just sleeps during violin practice, but more hopefully drops a collection of toys at the piano bench during piano practice. The more toys, the more the implied criticism of my neglect.

February 28, 2007 at 09:20 PM · I have four cats and love this video!! None of my cats have played piano. But two of them enjoy the violin. When I play cello, one of them lays under the cello around the endpin. I defininetly think that animals can feel music.

March 11, 2007 at 06:17 AM · I have to agree, they can feel it, my dogs don't howl but they do come lay down by me

March 11, 2007 at 06:32 AM · I think they do feel it. We have a parakeet and whenever I'm practicing Beethoven's Spring Sonata he goes crazy.

March 11, 2007 at 08:29 AM · Our cat prefers certain composers even e.g. Brahms Whenever we play his symphonic works or instrumental concertos cat comes, finds (no markings there) exactly the spot on tbe carpet in the center between the two speakers and listens there quietly for up to ten minutes. Then other interests prevail and cat leaves the place.


March 12, 2007 at 02:17 AM · Yes, cats can feel the concept of music, but they just don't like anything in G Major.

March 12, 2007 at 03:26 AM · Greetings,

but they love purrfect fourths and any works by Feline Mendelssohn although some of the furmatas get them down, even if one calls them pawses,



March 12, 2007 at 03:29 AM · My cat seems to like 12-tone rows, but hates everything else. It's quite bizarre.

March 12, 2007 at 09:30 AM · That video was really adorable...

From personal experiece,I am quite sure that animals do respond to dog Fluff used fancy Brahms,Bruch and Beethoven and my cat Mischa somewhat surprising favours russian composers..just comes rushing through the window when his favourite pieces are played consistently..


March 12, 2007 at 01:04 PM · not sure about feeling music, but some have managed to do quite well in English 001.

March 12, 2007 at 04:02 PM · I have had a succession of cats over the years, and they all seemed to love Mozart; the more consonant the harmonies, the better. By "love," I mean, they come and sit or lie down right by the speakers, and their ears move slightly back and forth.

Catnip on the keys? Maybe, but cats rub their cheeks on things because they want to mark them with their scent. Sometimes they do this for their territory, sometimes because they love the person or thing. I notice that her favorite note seems to be 'B.' Odd. Can the cat distinguish between the keys? I don't know, but it's obvious she can hear differences between notes, and I'm convinced that, like birds and other animals, they have to have a sense of pitch in order to distinguish various messages from other animals.

March 12, 2007 at 05:06 PM · The website advertised in the video is an interesting one.

March 12, 2007 at 05:11 PM · Those of you who have classical music playing 24-7, try dropping everything and rewarding your cat lavishly whenever she randomly meows matching pitch to the radio. I won't say what eventually happens, since you wouldn't believe me anyway. :-)

March 12, 2007 at 06:50 PM · Better yet, praise your friend's cat every time he does something disgusting. You wouldn't believe what happens then either.

March 12, 2007 at 06:55 PM · Yes they do...Each time I close my computer and hear the closing music, my dog ( German Sheppard) means time to go out...I compose and listen to all genre of music on my computer...and when I close it, Fidji reacts to the music ...Very amusing.

March 13, 2007 at 07:55 PM · The music perception of animals depends on the species. As far as cats or dogs are concerned, I think they are able to respond to different timbres, consonance and dissonance and similar things.

They probably also realize that their owners pay attention to the sounds we call music and respond to this.

But they are not able to grasp the concept of music, to perceive and understand harmonic progressions. They just don't have the neurological basis for that.

My dog doesn't really respond to me playing the violin (I don't play much around her though), but when my grandpa plays the harmonica he starts to howl.

March 13, 2007 at 08:16 PM · Cats have temporal lobes, which is the primary locus of harmonic processing in humans. What neurological substrate is known to be missing?

March 13, 2007 at 09:55 PM · Although I believe animals are aware of music I do not believe that animals are necessarily intelligent like us. (i.e. speech) This is an interesting thread though.

March 14, 2007 at 02:33 PM · "...intelligent like us"?????

What about....

Bach's Litter Fugue in g minor

Tchaikovsky's Litter Russian Symphony

The Brahms Fixtet

Tchaikovsky's Russian Spayer's Dance

Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Claw

Menotti's The Meowdium

March 14, 2007 at 09:38 PM · I'm not sure that the cat in the video is really so much interested in the sound of the piano as the feel of the keys. Maybe the cat was just enjoying the smooth feel of the keys and the way that they move...

March 15, 2007 at 02:06 PM · The cat in the hat

Is not where it's at.

The cat in the video

Can't play Bach's Prelidio.

I hate the cat's version

(It's not even a Persian).

It's stuck on my screen,

Can't find one that's clean.

I can't paste or glue one,

Cause I gave Yehudi Menuhin.

March 15, 2007 at 03:18 PM · Memo From The Board:

Mr. Marcus' license is hereby revoked.

March 15, 2007 at 03:22 PM · Again?

March 15, 2007 at 05:12 PM · My cats all hate the violin. They don't mind recorded music, but they run away when I practice.

One of my dogs has sung along with me while I practiced. I can't remember what I was practicing (I'm pretty much a beginner) but every time I started playing, she'd howl/whine along. And she'd stop when I'd stop. Other than that, neither dog has shown much caring about the violin. Or music in general.

Catnip in that video is very possible. My cats reacts exactly that way when they get catnip. Rubbing their faces in it.

That is an adorable video regardless.

March 15, 2007 at 05:34 PM · Bill - of course cats have temporal lobes. What's more important is what their lobes can do.

Humans do harmonic processing mainly in their right frontal lobe, in the place where Broca's Area would be (only that it's on the left). In order to analyse harmony the brain needs to be able to analyse hierarchical structures - and only humans are able to do that. (mirror neurons might be involved here)

In the temporal lobe we mainly do melodic processing.

March 15, 2007 at 10:18 PM · My cat runs away whenever I play the violin...What does that supposed to mean?

God, I'm going to kill my cat one day. Your cat acts as if there's something on the piano or something. Catnip maybe?

March 16, 2007 at 10:43 PM · I have not heard anyone say anything about birds. I do have two in my shop where I build violins. Once

I play the first notes on a violin I listen for feedback from the birds. They seem to respond almost immediately to a good and well set-up instrument, by joining in with their song. It takes a few moments longer when I play a poor instrument.

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