“The most wonderful time of the year” is more often than not the most stressful time of the year…for us and for our pets.
Whether it’s new people coming and going, changes in routine, fewer walks and less exercise, our pets can be very stressed around the holidays. For the same reasons, we usually are too.
We love our pets. So we want to be sure we’re not overlooking their needs during this hectic time.
If your pet is anxious to begin with, the holidays will really throw them into a tailspin. So what can you do to help your furry family enjoy the holidays as much as you do?
Well, do you find that listening to holiday music is soothing to your frazzled nerves? It can be for your pets too.
It’s been known for years that music therapy is very beneficial to humans. Two significant studies have shown the calming effects of music on our pets too; one in 2002 by animal behaviorist Dr. Deborah Wells, and one in 2004 by Dr. Susan Wagner, veterinary neurologist.
Dr. Wells’ study showed that classical music had a beneficial effect on dogs in animal shelters. The music reduced barking and allowed the dogs to relax enough to fall asleep.
In 2004, Dr. Wagner joined forces with Joshua Leeds, a sound researcher with 20 years experience in psychoacoustics–the study of the effect of music and sound on the human nervous system.
Their research took Dr. Wells’ research a step further. Dr. Wells determined that classical music had a calming effect. Wagner and Leeds looked at different types of classical music to see if beats per minute and harmonic complexity made a difference to the dogs.
They discovered that not all classical music is created equal in our dogs’ minds. Their research on dogs in a kennel environment resulted in 70% of the dogs becoming calmer when the music was simple; solo instruments, slower tempos and less complex arrangements had a greater calming effect than faster more complex compositions.
In the home environment, 85% of dogs were calmer and more than half the dogs went to sleep when listening to these simple classical compositions.
They also showed that specific anxiety behaviors (fear of fireworks, separation anxiety, etc.) can be reduced with the right music.
As a result of their research, Leeds worked with a musician to create Through A Dogs Ear/Through A Cats Ear—Music and Sound Therapies for Canine and Feline Anxiety. Their recordings are psychoacoustically designed to benefit your pet’s nervous system and immune function.
Although the Wells and Wagner studies were done specifically on dogs, music works for cats too. But cats seem to have a preference for the harp.
Harpist Susan Raimond established a harp enrichment program that’s been used by the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the San Diego Zoo, and she’s spoken on the subject at several veterinary schools.
Harp music produces certain tones that humans can’t hear but cats can. These sounds have an anxiety reducing effect on cats, slowing their heart rate and their breathing pattern.
Freeborn County Humane Society in Minnesota uses a harpist to calm cats surrounded by barking dogs until they can build a separate cat building.
Diane Schneider is a harpist that created Harp of Hope, a collection of songs originally recorded for people. After a number of people told her the music calmed their anxious cats, she released an animal version.
Veterinary hospitals have even used her music to calm their anxious patients. Diane Schneider’s compositions are also specially arranged to promote relaxation.
So, although you could try just leaving the radio on, it seems that there’s a real benefit to playing music specifically designed to reduce anxiety in pets.
Not all pets will benefit from music therapy, but for some pets it really works wonders. And for those pets, it seems to work quickly.
If you’d like to give it a try, click on the links to Through a Dogs Ear/Through a Cats Ear, Susan Raimond or Diane Schneider where you’ll find CDs available for sale on their websites.
You’ll want to start playing the music for your pet when things are calm in your home to get them used to feeling calm when they’re listening to it. And then introduce the music at stressful times.
Remember, a quality diet is important to managing stress too. In fact, some nutrients can actually reduce stress. If your pet is particularly anxious, talk to your vet about their diet.
Maybe music will be the key to a stress-free holiday for you and your pet.
Has music therapy worked for your anxious pet? Share your experience in the comment section above. We’d love to hear about it.