Cats have good hearing. They use their ears to hunt and remain alert to any potential threats. Conversely, loud noises will lead to a fear response in cats, so prolonged exposure to sound and loud noise needs to be minimized.
Cats prefer quiet because it enables them to relax/sleep. Prolonged exposure to noise above 95 decibels can cause hearing damage. A short, sharp noise of 120 decibels can put your cat at risk hearing damage.
Exposure to constant noise must be controlled. According to Physiology & Behavior, excessive noise raises a cat’s blood pressure (hypertension). This is because your cat is living in a heightened state of stress.
Are Cats Sensitive to Noise?
A cat’s superb hearing means that it can be very sensitive to noise. How sensitive this is will depend on the cat’s personality and upbringing.
Some cats are more nervous than others. If you have an anxious cat, it will likely be frightened by any sudden noises.
You need to know as much as possible about its previous home. Did the cat live in a quiet home, in a peaceful town? If so, living with young children in a loud city will be a shock. It’ll take time for your cat to adjust.
How Loud is Too Loud for Cats?
The table below defines the average decibel level of different sounds:
|Typical Human Conversation||60 decibels|
|Car Engine||70 decibels|
|Average TV or Radio||75 decibels|
|Vacuum Cleaner||80 decibels|
|Shouted Human Conversation||90 decibels|
|Average Music Stereo||95 decibels|
|Car Horn||110 decibels|
|Loud Power Tools||110 decibels|
|Emergency Services Siren||120 decibels|
To manage the risk of permanent damage to your cat’s hearing:
- Keep your cat indoors and soundproof the home.
- Use headphones when watching television or listening to music at loud volumes.
- Minimize exposure to vacuums and similar noisy appliances.
- Ensure that your cat has a quiet space to escape to.
Get a vet to check your cat’s hearing at least once a year.
Do Cats Prefer Quiet?
Given a choice, cats will always choose a quiet location. There are three reasons for this:
- Cats hunt by sound, which is easier to do in silence
- Cats are unlikely to be ambushed when they can hear everything
- Cats sleep better without noisy distractions
Making minimal noise is inadvisable. Cats like routine and structure. The quieter the environment, the likelier a nervous reaction to sound becomes.
Can Cats Sleep Through Noise?
Cats doze in a noisy environment, but this is not their main sleep. Most cats catch up on deep sleep during the day, when a house is empty.
When a cat dozes, it is not actively asleep. You may be aware that cats have a third eyelid. This helps a feline to doze while remaining aware of its surroundings. The same applies to its hearing.
A cat in a noisy environment is still alert. It leaves one ear open, listening for potential danger. In this situation, a cat will block out familiar sounds.
It won’t be concerned about the dishwasher, human conversation, or television. In the event of sudden loud noise, it’ll leap to attention.
Ensure that your cat has at least one private space. This gives it somewhere to escape to when overstimulated or wants to sleep properly.
Sounds That Make Cats Happy
There are some noises that cats actively enjoy. These include:
- Shaking and rattling
- Clicking and scratching
- Other cats
- Opening and closing doors
- An owner’s voice
The sound of a door opening or closing will pique a cat’s interest. It will wonder if a favorite person has returned. Speak to your cat. Felines recognize humans by their voice, not sight/appearance.
Why Do Cats Like Shaking and Rattling Noises?
Cats associate these sounds with dinner time. A cat will notice this 3-step process for dinner:
- The shaking of a bag of kibble
- The pouring of kibble into a bowl
- The placing of the bowl on the ground
The same may apply to an electric tin opener. If your cat understands this sound, it’ll become excited. Shaking a bag of treats will get a cat’s attention.
Why Do Cats Like Clicking and Scratching Noises?
There are two possible explanations:
- The cat underwent clicker training.
- Your cat may associate clicking sounds with a treat.
It’s more likely that these sounds stimulate a cat’s hunting instincts. An excited cat will click its tongue. You will hear this when a cat watches birds through a closed window. This sound is a precursor to pouncing upon prey.
If a cat hears a clicking sound, it will suspect that prey is nearby. Scratching will garner a similar response. Cats use their good hearing to locate prey. The scratching sound of a scampering mouse is very exciting to a cat.
What Noises Do Not Cats Like?
Four forms of sound provoke fear and anxiety in cats:
- Loud, sudden noises
- Loud, droning noises
- Danger sounds of any volume
- High-pitched, tinny sounds
You may not be able to control exposure to all of these noises.
Cats Hate Loud Noises
Loud noises irritate cats the most. In addition to being frightening, they can cause hearing damage.
These sounds fall into two categories – short, sharp shocks, and prolonged droning. Examples of short, loud noises could include:
- Backfiring cars
- Motorcycles revving
- Car horns
- Slammed doors
- Televised explosions
Most cats jump and flee to safety upon hearing these sounds. Such noise is sometimes unavoidable. July 4th, for example, will bring fireworks.
Prolonged loud noises are just as harmful. Examples include:
- Power tools
- Building work outside/inside the house
- Shouting and loud conversation
If extensive building work is taking place in/near your property, temporarily re-home your cat. Drills and power tools will cause stress. It risks permanent hearing loss and potential heart problems.
A loud environment can be much harder to manage. Living close to a kindergarten, for example, will no doubt be noisy at certain times. Your cat will eventually adjust to this background noise.
Vacuuming is the main issue that cat owners face. Felines hate the sound of the vacuum. It’s loud, lasts for ages, and it invades their private territory.
Cats Hate High Pitched Sounds
There are some noises that only cats can hear. These will most often be high-pitched sounds. Higher sounds are a feline’s specialty.
The peak of human hearing is typically 20,000 hertz. Even then, most humans older than 20 cannot hear such high pitches.
Cats can hear sounds as high as 64,000 hertz. Felines use this to their advantage when hunting. A cat can locate prey from up to 50 meters away.
This is why cats stare at walls. A feline can hear rodents or insects within. Your cat is preparing a hunting strategy.
Cats can also hear ultrasonic devices, such as a car remotes. Even an LED lightbulb may emit sounds that your cat can hear.
A cat’s hearing deteriorates with age. While it is young, a cat’s hearing is arguably its sharpest sense.
Cat Danger Sounds
Cats live in a state of constant awareness. At the suggestion of danger, most cats will flee. The sound most associated with feline danger is ‘hissing.’ Noises that are like hissing sounds to a cat include:
- Scrunching a plastic bag
- Spraying an aerosol can
- Boiling a kettle
- Repressuring a boiler
Your cat may hiss back when it hears these sounds. Your cat may decide to assert dominance over its territory. Panicking and fleeing are more likely.
Do Cats Like Music?
Cat owners often find that music attracts their cats. Classical music, in particular, is believed to appeal to felines. This is not the case, though.
Cats enjoy music according to Applied Animal Behavior Science, but only when the music is designed exclusively for them.
Scientists put this theory into practice while creating cat-specific music. The tempo and metronomes were designed to appeal to feline senses. Also, purring and feeding sound effects were applied.
The results were surprising. The cats rubbed themselves against the speakers. This was an attempt at ‘claiming’ the music as their own.
David Teie has recorded numerous collections of cat-friendly music. Most of Mr. Teie’s compositions are designed to relax cats and help them to sleep.
Do Cats Like White Noise?
Some cats draw comfort from white noise because they like routine. An electrical appliance that steadily releases white noise will be comforting for a cat. It can block out any unwelcome background sounds.
If you have an anxious cat or noisy house, consider getting a white noise machine. These small electrical appliances release a consistent sound.