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  • Writer's pictureLinda

Effects of harp music on pets in pain

I tried this and it seemed to work.

Quite a few years ago I worked as a Creative Arts Therapist. One of my co-workers was a music therapist and I learned a lot from her about the effects of music on people's moods and well-being in regards to healing and self-expression.

What I didn't learn until I started my professional pet sitting business many years later, was how music, particularly harp music, helps pets in pain.

As a pet sitter, I always wanted the pets in my care to feel relaxed and content while their humans were away. I would usually recommend to pet owners that they'd let me leave on a quiet radio on in between pet visits while they were away. I did this for a few reasons. I would suggest leaving a talk radio station on quietly so it would give the sense to the pets that somebody else was in the house with them. It could also be used to mask any disturbing sounds outside that might make the pet nervous.

Sometimes if the owner would have on a particular station when they were home, I'd suggest that the same station be left on in-between visits as well - not during overnights, but during the day between the morning and supper visits. It could be comforting to pets because it was a similar routine as when the owners were home.

In time, I began to suggest classical music stations because I knew this type of music - thanks to the music therapist - would help people relax. I naturally figured it would be the same with pets.

I remember reading, when I ran a horticulture therapy program with children in a psychiatric hospital, that sometimes plants would grow towards a certain tone in classical music - towards the speaker - rather than the sun. That's how powerful classical music can be.

I also knew, via the music therapist, that peppy music can cause more activity, a lighthearted attitude, and joy. However, music that was too hard or peppy - say like hard rock, metal music, and other similar music, can cause agitation, restlessness, anger, and fear in people. I found the same to be true in pets.

As a side note, pay attention to your pet's reaction to the various music and sounds you have on in your house. Do they leave the room? It could mean the music bothers them. Do they howl? Again, it could be agitating them.

Back to the focus of this post - it was a client of mine that told me she read that harp music can reduce pain and anxiety in pets. I found that interesting so I did a little of my own research and found that sometimes kennels would play harp music, low, in the background, when housing pets. It would have a calming effect on the dogs.

It was during a round of pet sitting that I was able to use harp music and see its effects personally on a cat. Let me tell you about it, please.........

It was a several-cat household and one of the cats had feline leukemia and didn't have much time left on earth. The owners had to go away and felt that the cat would pass away while they were gone. We talked at length about how I should care for the cat and what to do if the pet passed away while they were gone.

This was very sad to me and in the end, it was the only pet that ever died on my watch. Even though it was expected, it was very difficult.

I would stay at the house extra long to give the cat extra care. The round of pet sitting was about a week and the cat passed away about 5 days into my services. The cat would lay, curled up in a little ball, in a nice cushy cat bed. Food and water right there so he didn't have to get out to eat. Litter box on the other side just a foot or so away. The entire time I would notice that he would eat a little bit and drink a little water, but didn't know if he ate or drank much at all in-between visits.

The other cats would leave his food/water alone, and stay out of the room in which he was resting. I believe the other cats knew what was going on. About day three, I remembered the info about harp music so I brought in my boom box and a harp CD. I put it on softly about 10' away from the ill cat. I sat nearby and within three minutes the cat got out of his cat bed, walked slowly towards the boom box, and laid down right next to it. After a few more minutes, his body relaxed. I was amazed.

The sweet cat was helped by the harp music. I'm sure of it because I saw his reaction the minute the CD started playing. He passed away a few days later and I do believe he left this world with a little more peace than pain.

Since that time I would recommend harp music to pet owners if their pet would be anxious during thunderstorms, fireworks, or if they were recuperating from surgery or were old and had sore bones. As a backup in a home, I would put on classical music many times between visits if I sensed the pet was lonely, or if there was some construction going on outside, or wind or thunder, or if I sensed the pet was a little restless or anxious.

I was told by another pet sitter that the Disney resorts would use harp music in their kennels so while owners were visiting the park, the harp music would help calm the pets in the kennels. I don't know if this is 100% true, but that is what I heard.

Music affects all of us, and I would recommend that you be aware of how music affects our pets - the pets in your care if you are a pet sitter or veterinarian, or your own pets at home.

Another tidbit I've learned along the way, that even more than harp music, humpback whale music is supposed to have an even bigger effect on cats than does harp music.

Don't have harp music or humpback whale music in your collection or on the local radio stations? Find it on YouTube and play it in your house, or as a pet sitter, play it on your phone during a pet visit and watch the pets' reactions.

One more thing - don't play it loud. Soft music is best - as if in the background. Don't play it 24/7. Let the house have some silence overnight. Remember that pets' hearing is a lot better than ours, so too loud is not good. Try it with birds too - but again, keep it soft.

I hope you find this post helpful. Please e-mail me if you've had similar experiences with this type of music and pets.


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