Saturday, January 22, 2005

A song for my cats 

Recently, one of the search strings that brought someone here was "cats reactions to music." While people regularly come here while looking for music for cats, this was the first person wondering how cats - theirs, I assume - might react to music. While I can't make any sweeping generalizations about the feline population as a whole, I can say something about our cats' reactions to the music that they hear.

The cats don't pay much attention to the music CDs to which Paul and I listen, a mix of folk, jazz, and classical. They do like the cabinet that houses the stereo equipment, but that's because it is a) warm and b) cavelike. We discourage them from napping on the stereo equipment; it gets enough cat fur without their lying directly on top of it.

While our cats are curious about my violin and bow, and especially their green-velvet-lined case, they are startled by the sounds that the violin makes. If I start playing while they are in the same room, I set off a cat stampede, with all three cats heading for the opposite corner of the house. Perhaps if I played more often at home, they wouldn't be so spooked. Maybe someday I'll find out.

Our cats love when I sing to them. When we first got Sergei and Sasha, they were kittens. I wanted them to grow up accustomed to being held, so when I woke each morning, I picked each of them up and carried him around for a little while. At first, I talked to them, telling them how gorgeous they were and discussing the news on NPR. At some point, I began singing to them. I started out singing random notes and bits of nonsense doggerel, and ended up with what's known around here as the Good Morning Song. Each of the cats has his or her own verse. The boys love being held while I sing to them; I imagine that the vibrations that singing generates in my chest feel like purring to them. They purr right along with me. Lyra doesn't like to be held, but she purrs when I sing to her. (I'm usually petting her, too.) Paul noted that he was the only member of the family who didn't have a verse, so I made up one for him. When I sing it to him, he purrs, too.

Last night, I made an audio post of Sasha's verse. As I sang into the telephone, Lyra came in and jumped up on my desk. After posting the song, I played it on my computer. Both Sasha and Sergei came into the room. Serg joined Lyra on the desk, arching his back and purring. Sasha sat on the floor, looking up at me with his head tilted to one side. He could hear his song, but I was not singing. And I was not holding him... how confusing!

Click to hear Sasha's Good Morning Song. Sadly, the phone did not pick up Lyra's mewing along with me.