Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The Calming Sounds Of Music

By Catya
Catya is a judge with the California Hamster Association. She shares her experiences in hamster ownership from a high school student's perspective.

Click image to enlarge
syrian hamster
Toby, a Syrian hamster, was a patron of the musical arts.

Catya playing harp
Photos Courtesy of Catya
Catya learned that even the fish at the aquarium respond to music.

Greetings from harp camp! I’m spending two weeks at an awesome harp camp right now, away from my hamsters (they have a hamster-sitter), but I have been thinking a lot about hamsters and music.

Here at harp camp, we practice about three hours a day, and I hope that the hamsters will notice an improvement when I get home. *wink* They seem to love the sounds of the harp. I often find them asleep in the corners of their cages closest to the harp. Other animals seem to respond to the sound of the harp, too. Recently, I was playing for a wedding ceremony at a nearby public aquarium, and the harp was right in front of the glass containing giant sea bass. Whenever I played my low strings, the huge fish swam right up to the glass and tried to puzzle out what sort of fish was making those peculiar vibrations in the tank. Wouldn’t it be cool to know what the animals think of our music?

Although I doubt that hamsters understand music the same way we do, they seem to react to it in wonderful ways. I almost always hum or speak in a singsong voice when playing with my hamsters, to calm them. I’ve also heard my brother’s Winter Whites screech in indignation when Kevin plays his bagpipes. But I’ve seen really dramatic effects in a few special cases.

The first and most amazing time we noticed the powerful effect of music on hamsters was with one of our Syrians, Toby. Toby was a rescue; we took him in when his owner couldn’t take care of him anymore. He resulted from an accidental inbreeding and seemed to have some sort of mental handicap. We called him our “Rainman” hamster, because although he was very smart for a hamster, he ran and ran and ran in circles all night, until his feet bled. We tried lots of things to stop him from running – giving him an exercise wheel, letting him roam the house in a hamster ball. We spent lots of time trying to enrich his environment, giving him interesting toys in the hopes of capturing his attention long enough for him to stop running. In the end, he always went back to his running. (By the way, there is a genetic defect in some hamster that causes “waltzing” which is just spinning in one place all the time – Toby didn’t have that problem, thank goodness, his circles were like laps around the cage.)

One night, around the time he usually started running, my sister Angela happened to be practicing her guitar. She was playing something very soft and soothing, and as soon as she started, he stopped in his tracks, mesmerized by the sound. As long as she played, Toby sat where he was, listening and sometimes grooming himself. Even after the music stopped, Toby was much calmer and didn’t circle quite as much that night.

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The Calming Sounds Of Music

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Reader Comments
I know my Hammy the hamster likes to listen to music..He responds to certain types of music!
Karen, Standish, ME
Posted: 8/13/2008 9:47:14 PM
Harps and hamsters! Who would have thought it? Very interesting, I might start playing some gentle music for my hamster. Or do you think she'd like rock better?
Gregorio, Torrance, CA
Posted: 8/11/2008 7:59:32 AM
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