A leading cat charity in Surrey is using the soothing sounds of nature to calm cats in care during lockdown.
Cats Protection’s Mitcham Homing Centre is closed to the public, but cat welfare is maintained by a dedicated team, who sometimes find creative solutions to cater for the wellbeing of the cats and kittens.
Mitcham Homing Centre’s Senior Cat Care Assistant Jane Francis, said: “We are still here for the cats and to provide as much human contact, play and stimulation as possible, but it is quite quiet here right now. Our large pens are quite soundproofed to outside noise; all we hear is the faint hum of the air conditioning, which isn’t exactly inspiring for cats or people.
“I felt that stimulating as many senses and natural behaviours as possible, without overloading them, could only be beneficial for the cats, especially the more sociable ones and kittens who are still learning about the world around them. We even noticed that cats, and especially kittens, seem to flourish and become more confident after the introduction of sounds.”
Jane’s inspired solution was to place mp3 players in the pens. While it might be cool for cats, Jane’s playlist might not be to everyone’s taste. Many cat owners will know that David Attenborough’s wildlife programmes are a firm favourite with their pets who are often drawn to the screen by the power of sound.
She said: “I know that some people would probably opt for classical music but I thought it would be good to keep it natural and realistic. So I downloaded ambient sounds, such as birdsong, rain, trickling streams and general garden sounds and the cats loved them. Nature and even weather conditions prove the best.”
Cats Protection regularly uses audio tracks in its sensitisation programme for kittens under eight weeks old, and has produced a CD of kitten-friendly sounds to help prepare them for noise all around. The tracks are also available free via Cats Protection’s Soundcloud page: https://soundcloud.com/cats-protection/tracks
While this audio programme includes more familiar natural sounds such as sneezing, laughing and coughing, it also includes a washing machine, letterbox and lawn mower. There are even roadworks and artillery sounds to familiarise kittens with loud sounds from television and films and mimic clatters and bangs that occur in homes and gardens. In short, cats will be less likely to run startled to a safe space if they hear a loud motorbike or a dropped pan.
It is important that volume and the length of exposure is controlled; catnapping calls for peace and quiet and, as these cats cannot move to a quiet room or out-of-the-way bed, their environment needs to be managed by the volunteer cat carers.
Jane said: “Sound levels are low and they mimic being out in the garden with birds chirping or rain falling, which the cats will experience naturally when they eventually find their new forever homes, and they would have heard before coming into care. It both relaxes them and prepares them for when lockdown is over.”
Jane continued: “To complete the outdoor theme, the Mitcham team has grown cat grass to put in the pens. Again the kittens loved it, as did a few of the older cats. Some have ignored it – but that’s cats for you.”