The short answer to the question is “yes”. But it is more complicated than that, because experts would have you believe that cats really only like music specially written for cats, whilst cat owners will tell you plenty of stories about cats leaving the room when certain music plays or coming into the room when certain radio stations are switched on and leaving as soon as they’re switched off. Owners will tell of cats curling up on their laps or rubbing up against speakers when certain songs are playing.
It’s most likely though that your cats, being particularly switched on to your reactions – know that you enjoy the music that you’re listening to and because they want to spend time with you as this will get them a positive reaction, they mimic liking the music too.
A study by University of Wisconsin psychologists Megan Savage and Charles Snowdon, published in May 2015 in the journal “Applied Animal Behaviour Science”, the official journal of the International Society for Applied Ethology, suggested that cats do indeed like music, but that it has to be ‘species-specific’ music, designed to be “in the frequency range and with similar tempos to those used in natural communication”, by the species.
To this end, the researchers had engaged composer David Tiele to write some music specifically for cats, probably the best-known piece of which is “Cozmo’s Air”. This and some of his other tracks were played to 47 different domestic cats, along with “Air on a G String”, by Bach and Faure’s “Elegie”.
In every case the cats were deemed to have shown a “significant preference for and interest in”, Tiele’s specially composed cat music, but were said to have shown “no interest” in human music.
If the anecdotal reports of cat owners are anything to go by though (and if you watch some of the videos online of cats listening to the specially composed music), it’s clear that cats don’t make a huge fuss about music generally. I played the cat music to one of my cats and his ears wiggled slightly more than when listening to the regular music I play in my house.
Cats enjoy spending time with their humans, listening to music tends to relax humans, make them happy and more willing to play or sit and stroke a cat if it stays around, so – like many other behaviours (like dogs seemingly smiling), it seems possible that cats have adapted their behaviour to get a favourable reaction from their owners when music is available.