Cats and music – Katzenmusik?

Cats and music – do cats like music?

Do you like music? And do your cats like the same type of music?
Maybe you have never thought about it, but animals are as much influenced by sound as humans are. And, actually, even plants have favorite types of music, believe it or not!

But back to our beloved pets: They don’t like all kinds of music, it depends much on the range of sound and the rhythm. They love calm music, well, at least my cats and dogs do. And they don’t like very strident sounds or heavy loud drums which cause fear and they begin to whine and want to flee.


Cats don’t like every sound and they chose their music

As a singing teacher and singer I often practiced with my cats nearby. They were fine when I or my students were singing in a low range, but as soon as we went into high pitches, the high C with full voice, they couldn’t stand it at all, complained, ran over the piano keys and the furthest corner of the room. On the contrary, when we did sound meditation and overtone singing, they came near and jumped on our laps, they seemed to want to be part of the music by purring their favorite song. No doubt, cats like music, but not all music. And so do dogs. But here I want to focus on cats.


Cats as musicians – always “Katzenmusik” ?

Some cats even like to play music themselves. Mine just ran up and down the keyboard, but there are more sophisticated musicians among them, no doubt.

Listening to this video, despite my amazement about the cat handling the keyboard and listening to the sounds they create, I feel reminded of what we call in German “Katzenmusik” (=”cat-music”). We usually used that term when the result of our musical attempts was not really pleasant to listen to, out of pitch or rhythm, squeaky or rumbling, something noticeably wrong. Wikipedia says that the term comes from the strange sounds which cats make during their mating time. Anyway, calling a performance “Katzenmusik” is not at all a compliment.


Cats as attentive audience of live music

Maybe cats are not meant to become full term classical musicians – but they definitely love classical music. I can observe this with my cats – and you can see it here in this beautiful short video where the Turkish musician Sarper Durman plays a “night music” for his three cats, one of which is actively present on the keyboard – by not contributing any “Katzenmusik”, but only supervising his master‘s play.


Specially gifted cats as performers on stage!

But, sometimes, cats are good enough musicians to play with an orchestra on stage – as in this piece of music, “CatCerto”, composed especially for “Nora the cat”. This is the moment when “Katzenmusik” gets elevated to the concert hall:

2 comments on “Cats and music – Katzenmusik?
  1. Julia says:

    Hello Heidi,

    Thank you for the interesting and entertaining story.

    My son is a musician. We don’t have cats, but he has a service dog – black Labrador retriever Parkie. Like your pets, she likes calm music. Parkie loves sleeping by the piano when my son practices classical music. The problem is that she starts running (moving her legs) and barking in her dream (never barks when awake!) She also snores. All these noises don’t compliment my son’s playing. He is able to ignore her and still concentrate on his work, but to an outsider, all together it sounds like “Katzenmusik” in its original definition – not the way it sounds in your last video.

    But, when my son rehearses with other musicians and they use amplifiers, Parkie runs away and looks for a quiet place to hide.

    Cats and dogs behave differently, but there are music lovers among pets, and they do set their preferences. And I agree with your cats – I don’t like high-pitched sounds either 🙂

    All the best to you!

    • Heidi Hornlein says:

      This is funny, Julia! Barking in the dream! Yes, my dog snores, too and I imagine that your son better doesn’t make recordings, unless….

      I remember in the 80s there was a music piece with a barking dog as singer, lol.

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