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Orchestra Director Creates Soothing Playlist for Anxious Shelter Pets

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Music. It soothes the soul. It mends a broken heart. It excites, it inspires, it motivates and moves and now, it may help find homes for pets.

Orchestral masterpieces are literally going to the dogs thanks to Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He’s hoping his custom playlist will help find homes for stressed out animals at the Pennsylvania SPCA.

“I don’t pretend it’s the only playlist possible, but I think it’s just an introduction to the classical music for pets,” Nézet-Séguin said, cat in arms, at the PSPCA’s Erie Avenue headquarters.

The 326-song, 34-hour playlist features recordings from Nézet-Séguin himself, as well as a mix of piano pieces and orchestral classics. He was inspired by playing music for his own cats, especially Parsifal, his first, eponymously named after the famed Richard Wagner orchestra.

“I started to make music for my cats … and I noticed how they changed. Instead of being this empty silence, it’s like a presence. That’s why I just chose the music that they preferred,” Nézet-Séguin said.

The goal with the playlist is to soothe the animals, who shelter employees said can get so stressed that they exhibit behaviors that make potential fur-ever families turn away.

Sometimes they bark. Other times they spin in their kennels. The cats sit in their litterbox.

“It is confinement. With any animal or any human in confinement, you’re going to be stressed, there’s no doubt about it. And animals experience the same thing,” said Kayla Dorney, an animal enrichment and behavior specialist at the shelter.

But with the backing of an acclaimed conductor, these stressed out pets will hopefully mellow out, and people will see them for the great additions to the family that they really are.

“We’re gonna evaluate how they respond. And I have no doubt it’ll be a positive influence on them and their behavior,” Dorney said.

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