Baston animal behaviour expert Karen Wild talks about the impact music and sound can have on pet dogs and cats

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Last week we looked at whether or not music affects our pets, writes animal behaviour expert Karen Wild.

Just as certain songs can soothe our souls, specific sounds are supposed to create a harmonious environment for our dogs and cats. Let’s explore how we could test out using music and sound to help our pets.

For dogs, music is sometimes said to help reduce stress and anxiety. Caution – there is not much evidence for this! Calming classical or instrumental music with slow tempo and gentle melodies are said to help dogs relax during stressful situations such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or separation anxiety, but remember, this is only a minor effect. If the situation is still stressful, dogs aren’t daft. They can still hear better than we can, can feel vibrating doors/windows, see lights and smell fireworks, or tell that you aren’t at home.

White bichon frise with headphones. Photo: istock

Sound therapies designed specifically for dogs incorporate nature sounds, such as gentle rain or ocean waves, along with rhythmic patterns that mimic a dog’s heartbeat or breathing. We don’t know if these noises inherently work on that basis (it is a recording of the real thing after all, not the real thing itself).

Whilst impact might be limited, you can try pairing ambient sound with regular, settled times to help your dog recognise that this is about to be a settled time, long before anything big or noisy happens.

Cats might benefit from sounds but it needs to be soft and gentle, not jarring or alerting. Gentle classical music or nature-inspired sounds like chirping birds or rustling leaves are unlikely to be recognised as the real thing. Whilst I remain sceptical, some cat owners have observed their feline friends responding positively to soundscapes specifically designed to engage their hunting instincts, featuring the rustling of paper or the sound of birds chirping. The risk is that the cats end up frustrated because there is no actual bird or mouse to find.

Frustration is unpleasant, so provide games for your cat to indulge this instinct. Avoid using cat laser toys, as they can’t catch them and it makes frustration worse. Toys with built-in sound effects, such as chirping mice or crackling balls, might be best. These can ignite their natural curiosity and stimulate their senses.

If you do decide to try, start with any sounds at a very low level and observe their reactions. If they appear uncomfortable, adjust the sound or choose a different type of music or sound.

Your pet has unique preferences. This is key to understanding what works best for them, and be prepared before you spend any money – it is often reported that they don’t care at all!

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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