Do animals 'get' music?

Do, like monkeys ‘get’ music? Or apes, do apes ‘get’ music? OR like Dogs? Do they, perchance, ‘get’ music? Is it simply a matter of having ears, or perhaps - is it a matter of having ears and clever brains? Do deaf people what have been deaf all their life ‘get’ dancing? Do musicy dancing even make sense without soundy music?

Love the name.

My cats respond to music. My older cat, socks, was a kitten when I was taking piano lessons, and was accustomed to that particular kind of noise. If I am playing the piano he will very often come into the living room and lie on the couch to listen to me play. He even purrs when I play- I guess he draws some sort of comfort from it (maybe a Pavlovian association of music playing and being petted)

Our other cat, Buster, goes absolutely bonkers when my mom practices the violin. He pins his ears back and whines at people; kind of scurries around the house in a very agitated manner and picks fights with Socks. I think he doesn’t like it. Socks is unaffected by the violin practice.

I actually came to the boards just now to ask the same question! weird…

FWIW, my dogs don’t seem to be affected by music at all. To them, I guess, it is all just noise.

I’m sure a critter could relate to music just like voices, bells or any other pattern. They respond to whistles, snaps, words, flashes of light, shapes, etc by association. If you had enough patience and free time, I’m sure you could train them to do a simple dance when music came on. It’d be a great way to scare the living hell out of people.

I’ve thought of this many of times being a big music fan. I analyse music to every note and I really do not think animals recognize music from any other noise. My own observations being that I have a very smart lab/german shepard mix and I can play music all day long without her lifting a floppy ear. Now if the music includes a sound she relates to (i.e. Jane’s Addiction “been caught stealin” where the intro is a dog barking, a door opening such as in that one song in Pink Floyd’s Wall [ya know, …wow are all these your guitars, wanna take a bath…] song, or even doorbells on TV commercials[mind you I no longer have a doorbell]) then yes she hears it and albeit not music, hmm, well… I think I made my point, no they can’t discern musical qualities (My poor dog is terrified of my guitar for instance, she acts as if I picked up the biggest beating stick in the world when I pick up the guitar [and no, I do not physically abuse or even punish my dog, she is the most spoiled pet on the planet] she just doesn’t like the guitar). Hope that helped or if not at least I got to ramble about my baby.

but yeah, I didn’t make that clear. She reacts to sounds in the music (such as the doorbells, etc.), but never music itself.

Sorry, had to post just to get the username above off the screen.

My sisters African Gray parrot definitely enjoys music, bobs his head up and down in time when he likes the beat, and will sometimes laugh when a song is over. His favorite song seems to be a fast catchy one by the Dixie Chicks. He has also been known to start making a noise like the drum in jazz music (I forget what its called, but its a soft drum sound, like in Take Five`.)

He also seems to become hypnotized when you sing to him in a low voice. Maybe he`s trying to learn the words.

When I was a child I had a siamese cat named Andy.

My father, a masters student in trombone performance at the time, had a composer friend who wrote strange atonal pieces for my father. Whenever he played music written by his friend, Andy would come into the room and make an irritated “eh-eh-eh-eh” sound as if complaining about the music.

Andy would only do this with that guy’s atonal pieces. “Standard” music seemed not to bother him.

In elementary school, one of my friends claimed that her rabbit would wiggle his ears to the Spice Girls’ music.

Now, my dog generally tries to leave the room when I have punk or rock music on.

I used to have a cat named Precious who would run up and lick the stereo or TV whenever Shania Twain’s “Man I Feel Like A Woman” came on. My other two don’t seem to notice any music at all when I have it on.
Maybe it’s a personality thing.


My parents-in-law have dogs who become transfixed when they play a strange new-age CD with soft music mixed with the sounds of dolphins. The dogs gather around the speakers and concentrate with their full attention.

The largest dog, a 90 pound Lab-beagle mix, is fitfully afraid of thunder (they live in Florida) and fireworks. He’s cry, dig, chew on his fence (if outside) until his gums bleed, and basically require a sitter by his side for the duration of the noise… Except he’ll go right to sleep with the dolphin music.


Actually, I’ve done that a few times myself.

I’d pay to see that one time.


I seriously doubt animals get music any more than they get art of any kind. They tune it out only to listen for obvious signs of danger or food.

I think apes somewhat ‘get’ it. Birds also seem to pick up singing quicker than normal speech, so I think they have an ear for music as well.

When I was a kid, my little-old-lady neighbor had a parakeet that danced. She would put the radio on and Buddy would hippety-hop back and forth on the perch in his cage, and bob his head, just generally get down with his bad self until she turned the radio off. He would also dance when she sang and clapped her hands. This wasn’t conditioning–she told me that she had never offered him little bribes to make him dance. He just liked music!

When other members of my family play music, my dog just acts normal, but when I put on dissonant stuff like Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart or Edgard Varese, she gets a little bit crazy. Then again, that could be just because I blast it at top volume…

Come to think of it, whether music is harmonious or dissonant is, to some extent, a mathematical property, being based on the mathematical relationships between the tones. (However, with our logarithmic scale, those relationships are only approximated.) So it seems that some aspects of music appreciation could very well be innate, not learned, and perhaps present in animals.

Frédéric Chopin noticed that whenever he played a particular prelude, a spider would descend from the ceiling on a strand of its web and hover over the piano. The spider responded only to that particular prelude. He told the cleaning lady not to disturb it.