When we adopted our parrots, we learned that some have great rhythm and bob to music. If you are familiar with Snowball, the dancing cockatoo, you know what I mean. They’re smart and need some tunes to groove a little, but what kind of music do our birds like? We weren’t sure, so we tested them.
We sat Ruby, our late African Grey, in front of the TV and flipped through the cable music channels way up in the big numbers. Why not the radio, you ask? I was avoiding the DJs, and the cable TV’s built-in guide listed the stations by specific genres. As a bonus, there were no commercial interruptions. Ruby sat in front of the TV as we tried a few channels. Hard rock? She turned her back to the TV. We interpreted that as a “no thank you.” We got the same reaction for soft rock, bluegrass, and country. She turned and faced the TV for soft music, with lyrics or instrumental. We deduced that she’s a sensitive bird that likes her music to be quiet and non-threatening.
Sugar, our Goffin’s Cockatoo rescue, disliked soft music of any kind. He wanted a strong beat so he could bob along. He particularly got excited when he heard I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) and Sugar, Sugar. Given his name, it could be that his original owner played these songs specifically for him. We know that Sugar is at least 44 years old, but he may be old enough that he heard these songs when they were first released in 1965 and 1969. He likes upbeat songs, but he also likes old-fashioned rock and roll — nothing too hard or acid rock. As far as I could tell, he didn’t like techno, jazz, soft pop, or folk. He seemed to dislike country, especially. We judged his music taste by the enthusiasm of his dance/bob, if he likes to bathe to it (yes, bath time requires happy music), or whether he flies out of the room whenever we played a certain genre. Scientific? No. Amusing? Yes.
Hannah has a clear preference for country music. We learned this using a different test method. We turned on the radio and found one station that didn’t make her scream like a banshee; it was country. She spends several hours each day in her happy place listening to country radio, and she seems contented. She’s eager to go in every morning and eager to move back to the bedroom in the evening. It’s her routine, and the music is critical. I suspect that as a breeder bird, she heard no music, but the rescuer that took her in probably played country radio.
Our Bengal cat, Nami, often hangs out with me when I work at home, and I generally listen to instrumental music that doesn’t distract me. Nami doesn’t seem to mind, so it must not be offensive. Whenever I play my slack key guitar (Hawaiian acoustical guitar) playlist, she will run in to sit on my lap or the desk beside me. She seems to smile. Scientific? Nope, but she makes her preference clear.
I can’t tell if the other cat and dogs have a preference. They don’t seem offended by my musical taste, as far as I can tell. Do they even listen? I’m not sure. I would be interested to hear if anyone else has determined their pets’ musical taste and how they know. The remaining cat and three dogs haven’t shown a preference — I need some new methods!