April is National Stress Awareness Month, so today I want to talk to you about pets and stress.
I think stress has always been a part of our lives for as long as humans have been around, but the stress itself is different than it was 50 or 100 years ago. Life moves at a faster pace and there are different things to be stressed over (no one got upset 50 years ago if their Internet didn't work!). Scientists also have a better understanding of what stress does to us these days. Many diseases are linked to stress and it has been shown to shorten life expectancy. Stress is a serious problem.
So what about pets? Do our pets get stressed out, too?
The short answer is yes. Stress affects pets, too.
Some pets are more stressed out than others - sort of like people. Different pets have different stress levels and, like us, they all handle stress in different ways. You can put two people in a similar situation - say a fender bender - and the people can react completely differently. The accident may send one of them over the edge while the other takes it as just another minor inconvenience.
Well, cats are like that too. Some cats are just innately "wound up" and very vulnerable to stress. They get very upset at the smallest things. Some are very in tune with their people. For these pets, our stress also stresses them out. Our pets pick up on our emotions and react to the chaos in our lives. When we're tense, they're tense.
Some pet owners feel guilty about leaving their cat home alone, so they leave the TV or radio on to reduce stress and keep the cat company. For a long time they thought that this would help keep the animals company. But studies show that this actually does more harm than good! Leaving the TV or radio on will certainly create "noise," but it won't necessarily create a relaxed environment for your cat. In fact, TV and radio can actually CREATE stress for our pets due to the drastic changes in programming content, volume level and the random mix of musical styles.
Interestingly, research shows that some music can actually soothe pets (just like music soothes people). Studies prove that music helps relax our pets and researchers have even pinpointed some very specific characteristics in the music that work best.
Dogs and cats seem to react best to classical music. Studies prove it. Cats tend to relax in front of the speakers when classical music is playing. Dogs will actually bark less - especially when they listen to the music of Bach. Classical harp music has been shown to help alleviate stress in cats, dogs, chimpanzees and other animals.
In recent pet anxiety studies, house pets responded favorably to classical music under stress-inducing situations, often slipping into a very serene and peaceful state after only a few minutes of listening. Certain instruments and sounds were more effective than others. For the music to actually calm our pets, it must create a consistently smooth, soothing dynamic from start to finish. That means there should be no abrupt changes in tempo, volume or rhythm. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case with radio broadcasts or most "off-the-shelf" classical music CDs.
We found a wonderful classical music CD that was developed for the specific purpose of relaxing pets. It is called Music My Pet.
The science behind this pet-friendly CD is very sound. It comes from Tom Nazziola, the same award-winning producer/composer/performer that created Disney's acclaimed Baby Einstein series of children's CDs and DVDs. He studied the latest pet anxiety research to identify the sounds, chords and harmonies that proved most soothing to our pets. Then he chose appropriate classical pieces by popular composers like Bach, Beethoven and Brahms and re-orchestrated them using the instruments, sounds and musical elements proven to calm dogs, cats and other household pets. It's pretty amazing, and it really works.
If you're looking for a good way to help your cat cope with stress, I suggest you take a closer look at this CD. I think you'll find it as innovative and relaxing as I did. And you'll probably enjoy it just as much as your cat will. (I love it!)
Click here to listen to a sample track from the CD
Stress is unhealthy for our pets. But this amazing relaxation CD can really help.