Ok, first thing’s first for all the cat lovers reading this: There is no official record of a cat organ actually being built.
But it didn’t stop a lot of influential people thinking about it.
And in great detail.
The instrument was described by the French writer Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin in his book Musiciana, extraits d’ouvrages rare ou bizarre (Musiciana, descriptions of rare or bizarre inventions):
“…a chariot that carried the most singular music that can be imagined. It held a bear that played the organ; instead of pipes, there were sixteen cat heads each with its body confined; the tails were sticking out and were held to be played as the strings on a piano, if a key was pressed on the keyboard, the corresponding tail would be pulled hard, and it would produce each time a lamentable meow. The historian Juan Christoval Calvete, noted the cats were arranged properly to produce a succession of notes from the octave… (chromatically, I think). This abominable orchestra arranged itself inside a theatre where monkeys, wolves, deer and other animals danced to the sounds of this infernal music.”
The instrument was then later described by German physician Johann Christian Reil (1759–1813) for the purpose of treating patients who had lost the ability to focus their attention. Reil believed that if they were forced to see and listen to this instrument, it would inevitably capture their attention and they would be cured.
There’s no faulting that logic – anyone forced to see and listen to an operational cat piano is going to give it some attention.
God alone knows what other mental ailments it would inflict on them, but at least the attention thing would be sorted.