When I play guitar (acoustic and electric), my cat gets really scared. And it's not just guitar, he gets scared when I'm playing violin, mandolin and other instruments too.

He kind of shrinks and sulks away like he's afraid of the noise but I'm not sure what's going on. However, he is not scared when I play my keyboards or when I have the electric guitars plugged in.

He's normally very gregarious and playful and happy. My other cat doesn't mind it at all.

Does anyone have any advice?

  • I answered other questions with an answer that would be similar; about desensitization and counter conditioning; you could have a look. I'll make that an answer later, I'm on my phone.
    – Cedric H.
    May 17 '14 at 18:09
  • I've researched desensitization and I think I'm going to try that.
    – user
    May 18 '14 at 1:10
  • 2
    You can also try bribery. Cats like bribes.
    – Oldcat
    May 23 '14 at 22:02
  • Lay the instruments down (one by one) and let the cat approach it on his own to touch/sniff etc. Then show him what your going to do (pluck a string gently) making sure he sees you do it. Encourage him to interact with it a little and he may come around.
    – Enigma
    Oct 6 '14 at 16:29
  • 1
    I'm actually trying that now! It's kind of working
    – user
    Oct 7 '14 at 11:38

It can also be because the cat doesn't understand what is going on. It might think you are torturing some poor animal with the hums and sings that come from the instrument. No insult to your playing, I think animals in general don't get music.

I can share a story of how I got my cat to calm down and accept the vacuum cleaner. She was deathly afraid / hated of it, no surprise really, but the hate went on after I stopped vacuuming. She would go over and pick a fight with the thing, swatting it for a reaction. Kind of entertaining really.

I would go over and calm the cat, touching the hose while petting her, moving the hose a little bit. It kind of worked, but then the next cleaning session brought the fear back. I tried the same petting while touching the cleaner while it was on, over time it worked. I could eventually put the machine on low speed and could even get to the point of vacuuming her!

She never fully made peace with the machine, but learned that the massaging suction feeling was actually quite nice. And as long as I was at the same side of the machine as her, she allowed it. I hope nobody misunderstands and thinks I tortured my cat, this was all done using affection as encouragement. No force.

The point I want to make is that you can reassure your cat that nothing bad is going on. Try playing a few notes and let her curiosity come over, hopefully the cat will investigate, smell around and find that there's really nothing crazy going on.

  • Thanks, that sounds like a good idea. I always feel really bad when I play guitar because he gets so scared. I've been trying the reassuring thing with him, petting him while playing a few notes. He seems to be a little less afraid when I do that.
    – user
    May 19 '14 at 13:34

Cat ears are a lot more sensitive to sound than people's ears.

And cats, like people have their own individual likes and dislikes. I assume your cat hates the sound of the guitar and feels bothered by your playing it. If you want to be sensitive to his preferences I suggest you not play acoustic guitar (or other stringed instruments) around him.

  • The problem is, we live in a small apartment. Maybe I'll just have to close the door.
    – user
    May 18 '14 at 1:10
  • Also, it doesn't matter how loud or soft I play, he's still afraid of it. My other cat isnt though
    – user
    May 18 '14 at 15:46
  • This one cat might interpret the string sounds like yowls or just find the sound irksome.
    – Dan S
    May 18 '14 at 16:21

I have noticed and pondered this as well with my cat. It's not that animals don't get music. We know that is simply not true (look at videos of elephants enjoying music, and there is "cat music" to help cats relax, etc.), but the conclusion I came to is that it's the hollow sound in acoustic instruments. Cats' ears pick up a lot of stuff and maybe the sound of the hollow instrument moving around bothers them. My cat is terrified of my acoustic guitar. But not when I play electric. It's weird.

  • Are you able to provide any references for this answer? I'd be interested to read about how the acoustic and electric sounds differ to animals. As this is the basis of this answer, it would be useful to add.
    – Henders
    Jan 16 '19 at 11:11

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