Colorado State University Study Investigates if Classical Music Can Calm Cats at Veterinarian’s

A Colorado State University study is looking at how classical music may lead to better veterinary care for felines. The study, based on research results for humans and dogs, will look at the effects of music on lowering the stress that 50 cats and their caregivers experience while at the veterinarian’s office.

Cats visit veterinarians less often than dogs. One key reason clients cite is the stress they and their cats suffer on the way to the veterinarian’s office and after they arrive. A veterinary study by Bayer shows that dogs visit the vet about 2.3 times a year compared to 1.7 times a year for cats.

Research shows that music therapy in human medicine can reduce anxiety and stress in patients and can lower pain levels, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates, anxiety and emotional distress in a quick, safe, inexpensive and non-invasive way.

Non-humans appear to respond the same way, with initial research showing that certain classical music reduces stress in rodents, primates, dogs, birds and other animals. For example, one study of dogs in rescue shelters showed that classical music changed their behavior to produce more periods of rest, less time standing and more quiet time.

“If this study finds that classical music lowers the stress levels for cats and their caretakers during veterinary visits, veterinarians can start using calming music in their waiting room immediately and improve the emotional health of those in their clinic — human and four-legged,” said Dr. Narda Robinson, veterinarian at Colorado State University. “Pet owners note that their cats dislike going to the vet more so than dogs, which means they may take them less often. This may then lead to less regular medical attention for cats.”

In addition to the potential stress-reducing benefits of music for felines and their caretakers, relaxed cats are easier for veterinarians to examine and need less restraint.

Robinson and fellow researcher Lori Kogan, a psychologist with Colorado State University who specializes in veterinary and animal issues, want to enroll 50 cats and their caretakers in the study. Cats will need to visit the Veterinary Teaching Hospital two times to be randomly exposed to one of two different soundscapes — either no music or slow, classical music– during each visit while in an exam room for about 15 minutes. The waiting time will be videotaped and behavior will be noted through an observation window by independent observers who will not know if music is playing in the exam room. Clients will also fill out surveys about their own as well as their cat’s stress levels before and after the session. An appointment with a veterinarian is not necessary, and cats enrolled in the study will not be examined by a veterinarian as part of the study.

To participate in the study, cats must be able to hear and meet some minimal health requirements, while caretakers must be able to bring cats to the VTH during afternoon, evening, or weekends for two visits at least two days apart.

Participants who finish the study will receive a CD with music selections from a specially designed music therapy series for animals.

The study is funded by outside sponsor funds designated for research.