Music reduces pet stress in shelters
Music reduces pet stress in shelters Pamela Fisher and her best friend, Lili pose in a field of flowers in Canton, Ohio. (Dr. Pamela Fisher via AP/Thinkstock)
Music reduces pet stress in shelters
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Can music tame the savage beast? Can it hush puppies and calm kitties?
A veterinarian thinks so. Dr. Pamela Fisher has put music in over 1,100 animal shelters. She says that it calms dogs and cats. And it even cuts down on barking.
Fisher started the nonprofit Rescue Animal MP3 Project nearly four years ago by asking artists around the world to donate dog- and cat-friendly music. The result was MP3 players packed with 30 hours of classics, including music by Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin, nursery rhymes like "Three Blind Mice" and harps, pianos and violins mimicking ocean waves and gentle breezes. She gives them free to animal shelters, sanctuaries and spay-and-neuter clinics.
"I have used therapeutic music in my practice and wanted to figure out a way to help the shelter animals in my own community," said Fisher. She is a holistic veterinarian whose practice in North Canton, Ohio, includes alternative approaches like aromatherapy. Her "community" has grown to include shelters in all 50 states. They house over 115,000 dogs and cats.
One fan is Tina Gunther. She is vet tech at the Cut Bank Animal Shelter near Cut Bank, Montana. She also is its sole volunteer (there are no paid employees). Winter temperatures at the rural shelter for six dogs and six cats routinely run well below zero, and "the wind blows nearly every day. We call them black blizzards - the top soil is just blown away," Gunther said.
To calm the animals, Gunther tried the radio. Besides hit-and-miss reception, the news and sports had people yelling and disturbing sound bites. Then the project MP3 player was installed for the dogs on one side. "The difference has been dramatic," she said.
She and her husband had to buy a second player for the cats. "When they play songs they like, they go and sit by the speakers," Gunther said.
No one has studied the impact of Fisher's specific music recipe. But others have looked at how music and noise in general affect animals. A 2012 Colorado State University study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that dogs were more likely to sleep and less likely to bark when Mozart, Beethoven and other classical artists were playing, but not when heavy metal, altered classical and other sounds were.
Fisher's website features many testimonials about the positive effects of her MP3 players, including a video from the Tuscarawas Humane Society in Dover, Ohio, that shows dogs relaxing and settling down after hearing the music. Tuscarawas shelter director Lindsey Lewis says on the video that the music has calmed the atmosphere and lowered the noise level.
A survey of more than 500 shelters conducted by Fisher also validated her approach. It found that barking reduced by half and animals on average more relaxed.
"It just de-stresses them. They are still happy and wiggly. They just aren't barking," explained Tania Huycke-Phillips. She is the foster and facilities coordinator at Bay Area Humane Society in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Beyond the music, the shelter staff does all it can to reduce stress for the dogs, including toys, treats, food and spending time with them. "Reducing stress shows off their personalities and they get adopted quicker," she said.
To buy the MP3 players, Fisher applies for grants. She also collects donations and holds fundraisers.
The music also helps relax staff members and that benefits the animals too, said Fisher. She grew up singing and playing folk music on the guitar.
The project brought Fisher a new best friend, but it took a look, not a sound, to seal the deal. She was installing the music system at Summit County Animal Control in Akron, Ohio, in 2012 when a mutt named "Lili stole my heart with her glance."

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Why does music seem to calm the animals?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • roberth1-mcc
    10/13/2015 - 10:01 a.m.

    Music seems to calm the animals because it reduces stress, barking is decreased by 50%, and the soft music seems to calm them also. All of these things lead to these dogs and cats getting adopted quicker.

  • taylorn-mcc
    10/13/2015 - 10:01 a.m.

    Music calms the animals because it reduces their stress and when their stress is reduced, they are much more clam and happy. Since the music is soothing, the animals seem to relax much more and sometimes even fall asleep while it is playing.

  • ians-mcc
    10/13/2015 - 10:02 a.m.

    Music seems to calm down animals because they like hearing the voices or the instruments in the music. It can calm them down by them just relaxing which in a way is very similar to us human.

  • teddyp-mcc
    10/13/2015 - 10:02 a.m.

    Music seems to calm the animals because music has a nice rhythm and soft tone and beat which gives the animals a feeling of calm. This soft music reduces stress and barking as well. The sound of music is truly relaxing and it gives comfort calming the dogs and animals down, putting them in a "Calm, comfort zone."

  • annac1-mcc
    10/13/2015 - 10:02 a.m.

    Music seemed to clam the animals because the music that is played is relaxing and reduces the stress and noise levels in the shelters. This also calms down the workers, then calming down the animals.

  • tylers21-mcc
    10/13/2015 - 10:05 a.m.

    I think music calms the animals because it is like nothing they have heard before and it made them curious. Another possible reason is because it the staff, dogs, etc. aren't running around or barking, they have no need to be loud.

  • gracem-mcc
    10/13/2015 - 10:05 a.m.

    It seems to make them happy and wiggly. The dogs don't bark as much and the cats and dogs both sit and listen to the music. They music they play has a calm atmosphere and lowers the noise levels.

  • miap-mcc
    10/13/2015 - 10:06 a.m.

    It calms animals because it gives them something to listen to and to not hear other dogs barking or fighting. It relieves stress from the animals and even the staff members. The music they listen to is happy and soft which makes them happy and less likely to bark and fight.

  • heidia-mcc
    10/13/2015 - 10:06 a.m.

    Music seems to calm animals because it seems to relax them because they hear the soft sounds out the pianos and harps that it makes them feel happy inside. When i was reading this it reminded me of when we were going to get my cat from the shelter and music was playing buy his cage and he seemed at peace and he look so chill and relaxed

  • jacksonm-2-bar
    10/13/2015 - 10:44 a.m.

    If music can help dogs than we have found a breakthrough in the brain field. that will hopefully allow us to find what soothes us humans.Dogs would never bark or howl after they hear music.

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