The cat piano – a 1650 device designed to torture cats to entertain royalty. Kinda like Siegfried & Roy
Chill out, PETA. Athanasius Kircher designed the cat piano and documented
it in the Musurgia Universalis in 1650. The piano was designed to raise
the spirits of an Italian prince who was too stressed out. The musician
would select cats whose voices were at different pitches then arrange
them in the pens accordingly. The piano delivered sharp pokes into the
tails of the cats. Cruel? Definitely. Funny? My guess – they were laughing their heads off.
The cat piano confirms Darnton’s discovery that most
early modern Europeans found the torture of cats funny. It also
illustrates Kircher’s fascination with the relationship between the art
of music and the natural production of animal sounds. But for us it is
an instrument that has mercifully been forgotten.