Recently I met Joel Spry from ABC Radio in Darwin. He’s from an ex-dairy farming family who played classical music to the cows to help with let-down at milking time and to the chooks to make for happy layers. The neighbours’ merinos were lulled with music to stop them chewing on each other’s valuable wool come shearing time.

Nora the Piano Cat Nora the Piano Cat. Photo © Burnell Yow!

From these accounts to cows listening to Dixieland standards and Thai elephants soothed with piano, music unequivocally reaches non-humans. So how do the non-human compatriots of musicians respond to the music in their lives?

Pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska believes the cats in her life have always made their musical preferences just as clear as their personalities. Her recently departed Florentine possessed a love for violinists so great “that his passion would sometimes reach a boiling point and he would start ripping shreds out of their sheet music in a sort of delirious ecstasy”. Florentine composed, too; “he would offer up miniatures inspired by the Second Viennese school… [playing] single notes with absolute purity. He made me a believer.” Stories abound online, including that of the...