I recently adopted two small kittens and am curious to know if keeping a clock ticking near where they sleep somehow imitates their mother’s heartbeat and would make them feel more restful.
– Mike, Garden City, New York
What a thoughtful question. People don’t often think about the sound world around their felines, and it’s great you want to provide a calming environment for your kittens.
To answer your question, I decided to reach out to Sound Behaviorist Janet Marlow, CEO of Pet Acoustics, a company that produces species-specific music to reduce pet stress. As a fifth-generation musician, Marlow grew up with pets and always noticed they would gather around whenever she played classical guitar. One day, when she took one of her cats to the vet’s office, she was surprised there was no music playing to soothe the patients.
Marlow has since spent the last 22 years conducting research and behavioral observations on the hearing of dogs, cats, birds and horses, and was the first to create species-specific music, which eliminates percussive sounds and high frequencies for animal listening. According to Marlow, feline hearing is greater than the individual hearing of dogs, horses, and birds, and three times greater than human hearing. Since cats are more affected by the sounds around them than other pets, it would seem prudent for feline pet parents to provide a calming environment for their felines.
“Hearing is an overlooked cause of pet stress that can lead to illness and behavior problems,” says Marlow. “Cats show stress differently than dogs. They have the same level of response to sound, but dogs respond emotionally by coming up to us and showing us their stress whereas cats move away from the noise and find a place to hide.”
So, to answer your question, the rhythmic ticking of the clock might soothe people, but it’s a “man-made percussive sound,” says Marlow, that won’t mask other noise or calm kitties.
“Animals don’t respond to human talk, like when we leave the television or radio on, which permeates a short-distance,” says Marlow. “Music permeates the air, fills the space and masks out sounds that only cats can hear.”
Marlow recommends pet parents pay attention to a cat’s body language, specifically the direction and reaction of the ears, to see how they are reacting to their sound world. If they are twitching their ears all the time, they could be hearing things that are causing them stress, and music, it seems, is a better antidote for creating calm kitties.
For more information on species-specific music, visit petacoustics.com
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal