Science Tells Us Which Animals Like Music and Which Don't

Reyna Abraham

What’s your favorite style of music? Do you prefer the mathematical symmetry of classical music, the dulcet tones of singer songwriters, or the heart pounding rhythms of hip-hop? Whether you are a rock aficionado, have a huge vinyl collection, or get your tunes primarily from the radio, music appreciation is pretty much part of the human condition. Animals, on the other hand, have a pretty diverse reaction to music. Whether it is created by humans or themselves, animal reactions are definitely mixed. Here are some pretty amazing studies exploring just how different animals respond to music.

Some Moo-sic Produces Extra Milk in Dairy Cows

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Image: BC Dairy Association

According to a study from 2001, researchers found that dairy cows that listened to certain types of music produced more milk and were more relaxed. According to the study, music tempo affects the cows’ productivity. So, songs like REM’s “Everybody Hurts” or Simon & Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and even Beethoven's “Pastoral Symphony” resulted in the cows producing 3% more milk. They weren’t moo-ved by songs like Bananarama’s “Venus” or The Beetle’s “Back in the USSR.”  Go figure.

Cat’s Couldn’t Care Less About Human Music

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Image: Getty Images

This may come as no surprise, but cats are fickle when it comes to music. They really don’t care one way or another about music composed for human ears. However, when music is designed for kitty consumption, felines are more likely to listen. Charles Snowden, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with composer David Teie and psychology student Megan Savage, came up with some music specifically organized and created for cats. Their study delves into the reasons why certain musical frequencies and tempos appeal to cats. You can even set up your cat with some headphones and listen to it here.

Birds and Humans Happen to Have a Lot in Common When it Comes to Music

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Image: Feathernotes

For more news that is hardly surprising, birds really enjoy making music. Researchers at Emory University decided to find out for sure whether or not birds are truly making music. It turns out that bird’s brains react to making music in the same way human brains do. Sarah Earp, the lead researcher of the study, states that the areas of the bird’s brains that are affected by music are the brain regions “associated directly with reward...the neural response to birdsong appears to depend on social context, which can be the case with humans as well.”

Elephants Love to Make Music---and May be Better at it Than Humans

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Image: Jerry Alexander/NPR

Elephants are arguably some of the most incredible mammals that roam the earth. We already know they are artistic--just check out some of the paintings they create with their trunks! Conservationist Richard Lair decided to create the Thai Elephant Orchestra to harness the creative power of pachyderms. The elephants play specially designed instruments such as harmonicas and steel drums and when scientists studied the music the elephants, they found the elephants were able to keep the rhythm even better than their human counterparts.

Dogs Prefer Classical Music to Relax

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Image: Vet4Life

No one likes the idea of any dog stuck in a kennel, but when it is unavoidable for whatever reason, consider playing some classical music. In a study published in The Journal of Veterinary Behavior, researchers found that classical music helps kenneled dogs to relax. The scientists played all different kinds of music for 117 kenneled dogs, including rock, metal, and classical. They found the metal music caused body shaking--a sign increased nervousness and agitation in the dogs, but the classical music pretty much lulled the dogs to sleep. (As it does for some humans as well!)