I recently saw a quote on a T shirt which read: “Animals may not be our whole lives, but they make our lives whole”. Maybe you agree with that saying? Having a companion animal is known to boost mental – as well as physical – health, as proven by research studies and by the everyday lived experience of so many people. Living with, caring for or interacting with an animal can also have specific impacts on people with issues like a disability. But it’s the animals’ own wellbeing I’m writing about here – as more and more owners care so deeply for this that they don’t just give treats or go for long walks, but use music too to enhance their pets’ lives, just as they might do for themselves.
More and more I hear of people playing music to their animals – leaving music or the radio on for them when they themselves go out, or playing it to them when they are in, to calm or stimulate the pets. With many animals left salone for long periods of time while their owners go to work, music and sound can really help. And surely, the happier the pet, the happier the owner as well.
Stimulus is known to improve wellbeing, lift mood and make people and animals more alert. Sensory stimulus like music could be particularly important for animals like dogs which have limited response to colour or other visual stimuli.
I’ve heard of a lady playing classical music to the horses in the stables she runs. Farm animals too can experience music – I’ve heard that playing classical music to cows in milking sheds even improves milk yields as it relaxes the cows. And on the radio, Classic FM features special dedicated Pet Sounds shows for Bonfire Night and New Year to soothe pets distressed by loud fireworks.
One question is this: do animals have their own tastes in music? Could some find particular music styles just as addictive – or as deafening – as we do? One experiment played different kinds of dance music to elephants. The elephants responded to the rumba, which they seemed to enjoy, but the tango failed to impress! It would be interesting to learn more about other species or other music genres.
And nature has its own music. Now that sound recordists capture so many of nature’s sounds using the latest technology, I wonder if playing these to companion animals might be beneficial to their wellbeing? Who are we to think “our” music is better or more stimulating? Many natural habitats hum with life – with birdsong, animal calls (barks, coughs, growls or bleats), the buzz or whirr of insects, the trickle or rush of running water – and these outdoor environments are companion animals’ natural setting, so playing them these sounds might help. It might calm and still owners too, as a way to experience nature in a moment, wherever you are. So many people now are so used to screens and music, constant stimulus, that maybe natural sounds could be a counterbalance?
Do you have or know an animal which enjoys music or other sounds? It would be great to hear any experiences in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you.