Pianos and Pets: Tips and Tales

Pets are a constant source of entertainment, but they can be a nuisance when you're trying to maintain your piano. 

Meet some of my favorite pet visitors, then learn some new tricks to maintain a cat-free piano. If you're a pianist with furry family members, read on.

Interesting pets I've seen

Plenty of pets are curious about the piano tuner. A strange person is in their home — better investigate. I've had countless dogs and cats supervise my work, and most of them had no comment.

One of the most memorable pets, though, had a lot to say. When I sat down at the piano, I noticed a birdcage standing nearby. Inside was a very stressed parrot that paced on its perch, muttering, "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay" while throwing seeds around the room. The poor anxious bird must not have been used to guests! I did my best not to disturb the parrot any more than necessary and I hoped it was able to convince itself that things were, in fact, okay.

One of my favorite pets that visited me on a tuning job was a ragdoll cat. This cat liked to nap on the strings — even during a tuning! I had to pick up the cat and set it on the floor so I could get to work, but ragdolls go boneless. I didn't know this at the time. With a handful of soupy cat, I thought, "Oh no! I broke it!" But the moment its feet touched the floor, the furry sack of potatoes turned into a cat again and wandered out of the room. 

Another client had a free-range turtle that had a small ramp leading from its water/habitat, so it slowly and silently roamed the house. This curious pet made for great company — I just had to be careful where I put my feet.

Halfway through a tuning, I sensed someone breathing near my neck and thought it was a child trying to see what I was doing. I was surprised to see what was essentially a pony looking me in the eye. Ok, it wasn't a pony, it was a Great Dane. Once we looked at each other, he silently walked away — no bother.

I’ve had many dogs and cats sit next to me or even on the bench while I tune. Often the client says they are surprised since their pet usually hides from new people. I guess most pets like me. I like them too.

How to keep cats off the piano

That ragdoll, cute as it was, shouldn't have been snoozing inside the piano. Fur can cause issues with maintenance, attract grime, and can get tangled inside the action. Hopefully, the cat doesn't manage to hurt iself or get stuck in the piano, but stranger things have happened. Get ahead of the issue by keeping your cat off the piano in the first place.

- Keep your grand piano closed when not in use. This way, fur and dander stay on the outside, which is much easier to maintain.

- Use a piano cover to keep clawed cats from scratching the piano when not in use. Covers also do a great job of protecting the instrument from moisture, an unpleasant byproduct of many pets.

- Try SSSCAT sensor sprays. This device uses motion detectors to release a loud hissing noise at just the right moment to frighten the cat away. We've had mixed results with our cats at home, but it's worth trying, especially if you're not able to be home all day.

- However you protect your piano from pets, don't use a spray bottle. Even if this is your usual behavior correction technique, you definitely do not want water in or around your piano. 

- If you have parrots, make sure to keep them well away from the piano. Many parrots enjoy gnawing wood or plucking strings, which can cause expensive damage to your piano. Their droppings aren't so easy to clean up, either.

How to clean pet fur out of pianos

Even if you do manage to keep your cat off the piano, pet fur floats around the room and accumulates inside the instrument anyway. Cleaning it out is an important step in piano maintenance, and thankfully, it's easy enough that anyone can do it at home.

- Use a microfiber soundboard sweeper to pick up cat and dog hair that's fallen inside your grand piano. Cleaning the soundboard is a careful job and you should only use a sweeper meant specifically for this task. DIY solutions tend to scratch up the instrument.

- Pinblock brushes sweep away fur, dirt, and grime while you vacuum it up with your hose attachment. 

- Cory Piano Polish does a fantastic job of cleaning away dirt, grime, and fingerprints (or paw prints!) and repelling hair. Use a soft microfiber cloth and follow this cleaning guide to make the most of the polish.