By Tracy Ahrens
One afternoon I found myself singing to my cat, Forest as I popped open a can of pate to feed him.
I believe that I was singing a rendition of “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and strategically inserting Forest’s name, such as “When they see Forie comin’ in a surrey.”
As I sang while Forest ate, I stepped into the bathroom (just off the kitchen) and continued my tune. I figured that Forest quit eating and carried on his way.
My cell phone in hand, I exited the bathroom to see him still on the sink watching for me to return. He had been listening to me sing the whole time. I snapped his picture, kissed him, and continued my serenade.
I often sing to or around my three cats (Forest, Joan, and Jack) and my dog, Trucker Josiah. People have snuck up on me before with a visit to my home, catching me singing to my pets while cleaning the house.
My cats purr when I sing to them. They rub on me, knead their paws, and their whiskers fan forward saying, “I love you.”
Inserting their names into my tunes makes them know I am speaking to them. Even if other words are gibberish to them, they know their names. I also insert their nicknames and they respond.
I would never belt out a loud, scary song. My selections include musical tunes, lullabies, Christmas carols, hymns or a blend of different melodies as the mood strikes me. For each ballad I only sing a few lines or a chorus.
Some classic tunes I’ve altered for serenades include:
Little Bunny Foo Foo – “Little Bunny Foo Foo, Hopping through the Forest, Scooping up the field mice and boppin’ ‘em on the head.”
The Hills are Alive – “The hills are alive with the sound of Jackie!”
Chim Chim Cher-ee – “Chim chim cher-oo! I love you little Forie I love you I do!”
I feel Pretty – “And I pity, any dog that isn’t Truckie today.”
You are My Sunshine – “Please don’t take my Josie away.”
Getting to Know You – “Getting to know Joan, getting to hope Joan likes me too”
My Funny Valentine – “You’re my sunny funny Forie Valentine, my Forest-ita Valentine”
Then we have originals, such as:
Hairy Nipples – “Forie’s got some hairy nipples, he’s a hairy nippled boy!”
Crunch-itas – “Crunch-itas – little crunchy crunchies.”
Trucker Josiah Toot Toot Tater Head – “Trucker Josiah Toot Toot Tater heady-head”
Josie Bear – “Josie Bear! Oh Josie Bear, Oh Josie Bear.”
I also must note a special “Happy Birthday Dance” jingle that is performed yearly to commemorate each of their births.
Sometimes I’ll pause during a melody and invite them to join me, but my “sing it to me Forie!” is usually met with a blank stare and silence.
I’ve conducted singing experiments before, while lying across my bed or on the living room floor. Sure enough, if I sing and they are in the room, they gather next to me for petting and kisses.
In my observation, my cats react to singing like I am their mother purring, comforting them as she did when they were babies.
My dog responds by associating my gentle touch, hugs, and kisses with my voice. Trucker relaxes, lies down, closes his eyes, and starts to sleep. As his hearing has faded with age, I often sing to him while lightly pressing my lips to his head so he can feel the vibration of my voice.
I have tested this singing reaction with other people’s pets that I have babysat, and with my mom’s cats when I visit her. If they have never heard singing in person, the reaction can bring a little hesitation – but once they associate touch with voice they seem to relax.
As mentioned, cleaning the house usually makes me break out in song, and songs gather a furry audience.
I recall one day when I was on my knees cleaning the kitchen floor. I was singing random tunes and inserting Forest’s name. I looked up to see him lying in the kitchen entryway, sleeping.
Another time while I was cleaning the floor and singing, Forest appeared across the room on a chair. Who knows how long he was resting there, purring, watching me like a talent scout.
A quick online search revealed that I’m not alone in my desire to sing to my pets.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association‘s Survey, 65 percent of pet parents sing and/or dance before their pets. Some, they say, “have created little jingles they sing to their pets at suppertime.”
Google “singing calms pets” and you’ll find that singing is recommended by veterinarians and pet behaviorists. Animals are soothed by specific tones and pitches. Special CDs of songs exist just for cats and dogs.
My playlist of “originals” continues to grow. Perhaps I should start recording these tunes and playing them for my pets when I am not home. Maybe I have a hit single for a recording industry niche?
One thing is certain, at my house I’m a celebrity singer. There is always an attentive furry audience and that’s what matters most.
Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at kwww.tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her children’s book, “Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight,” to your collection. All proceeds help humane organizations.