The next time you visit your vet, you might walk out with a prescription of soothing music. There are professionals within the veterinary community who are experimenting with music therapy to help calm pets before major medical treatments or during periods of anxiety. This unique form of treatment might sound new age to you, however some believe that music can be very therapeutic for animals. So far, the treatment has been used extensively through a chain of veterinary clinics in Leeds, UK. Soon, music therapy treatments for animals may spread to pet stores, clinics, and homes around the world.
So what kinds of jams do animals like to listen to? Well the soothing effects seem to come from instrumental tracks, the kind that you might normally hear in an elevator. One of the more popular albums, “Through a Dog’s Ear,” has been labeled “BioAcoustic music” by creators Lisa Spector and Joshua Leeds. This musician and sound producer duo created these musical tracks using simple sounds meant to trigger relaxation in the brains of animals. So it’s no wonder why music therapy for animals relies so heavily on acoustic, simple tunes. These cut down on exciting or stressful auditory stimuli like car alarms or rock music.
The ideas of pet musical therapy are founded on scientific experiments involving animal reactions to sound. For example, music played at the Maple Farm Sanctuary in Massachusetts helped calm down cattle. They would respond to the soothing tones of a harp player and fall asleep after listening to these audio tracks for a few moments. And researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa were able to influence chimpanzee behavior with audio that mimicked the sound of a heartbeat. These tests were performed on physically aggressive male chimpanzees who were infamous at the local zoo for destroying property and fighting. Researcher Joseph Ruszowski found that playing music for these animals helped them calm down and fall asleep. So the next time you can’t get control over your pets at home, you might want to put on some classical music to get your hyperactive dog or cat to settle down!
The implications of music therapy research on animal behavior are very interesting. It might be possible that our pets are more similar to humans than we originally expected. The next time you spend quality time relaxing with your pet, see how they react to soothing music.