Ears, unfortunately, don’t have the handy ability to shut. If you enjoy listening to loud music, you’re forcing your cats to endure it too. If you share your house with a cat, you might already be aware that loud noises like the vacuum cleaner can have them taking quiet refuge somewhere else.
But can loud music be harmful? The short answer is yes. Cats are more sound-sensitive than humans, which means noises sound louder to them than they would to us. Cats also have a more comprehensive hearing range and can hear noises at lower and significantly higher pitches than people. So, let’s look at exactly how cats’ ears differ from ours and what that means for your future of rocking out to loud music.
Cats & Their Hearing
A cat’s hearing is very sensitive, even better than a dog’s1. Its hearing range is around 45 hertz (Hz) to 64 kilohertz (kHz), while dogs have a range of 67Hz to 45kHz. A cat’s ear comprises the same structure as other mammals: the outer, middle, and inner ear. Cats have the best hearing among domestic animals. Hearing this wide range of sounds helps them detect prey and allows them to hear and avoid predators.
The Outer Ear
The pinna makes up the outer ear (this is the external triangular fold at the top of their heads), along with the ear canal. The pinna collects and funnels sound waves down the ear canal to the middle ear. They turn and move independently without cats having to move their heads. Cats almost use their ears like radar. Their ears can turn toward the source of a sound, increasing their sensitivity to sound by 15% to 20%.
The Middle Ear
The eardrum and small bones, known as ossicles, are contained in the middle ear. The ossicles vibrate when detecting sound waves and transmit the vibrations to the inner ear.
The Inner Ear
Sensory cells in the inner ear respond to the vibrations by bending and moving. This sends electrical signals through the auditory nerve to the brain to be processed. The vestibular system is also found in the inner ear, providing a sense of spatial orientation and balance.
Can Loud Music Harm a Cat?
Prolonged exposure to noise levels above around 95 decibels (dB) can cause hearing loss or damage. Not only that, but excessive noise can also raise your cat’s blood pressure1 (hypertension). This is caused by your cat living in a heightened state of stress.
The table below from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1 (CDC) indicates how loud everyday noises can be. This puts how loud music can be into perspective.
|Everyday Noises and Sounds||Average Sound Level Measured in Decibels (dB)|
|Maximum volume for radio/stereo/TV||105 – 110|
It’s clear that a cat’s ear is designed to capture more sound than humans or even dogs, which helps them in the wild. But this skill doesn’t necessarily translate well in domestic life, where a cat doesn’t have control over the sounds it’s forced to live with. In a house, there isn’t a means of escape if your cat needs it, which can stress your cat out.
Cats will generally move away from sounds that are too loud, but they can only do this if there is somewhere for them to go. If they can’t leave the room, they might hide. A cat’s body language can be subtle, so it’s up to you to take note of what is normal for your cat, so you have a good idea when they’re upset or stressed. Not only will a cat feel stressed about being confined in a room that is too loud, but it could also cause damage to its hearing health.
What Should You Do?
We’re not saying you can’t ever listen to loud music again just because you have a cat, but you will need to be mindful of the cat before you do. Make sure your cat has an escape route, or even encourage them into a different room before you start to play loud music. Make sure everything they need is where they can reach it, such as the litter box, cat tree, food and water bowls, and toys.
Loud music can harm your cat. Prolonged exposure can stress your cat out and result in hypertension, and it can also lead to hearing loss. If you enjoy listening to loud music, it’s a good idea to make sure your cat isn’t in the room and that they have somewhere to go. We’re not saying you need to keep extra quiet for your cat, but when it comes to those thunderous noises, remember you have a family member with super-sensitive hearing!
Featured Image Credit: Anfesamo, Pixabay