A dog or cat’s sense of hearing is an integral part of how they experience the world
By Mikkel Becker
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Most of us know that dogs have a keen sense of hearing. Cats, too! Dogs and cats have a much wider and higher range of hearing than humans; they are capable of hearing frequencies far beyond what is audible to our puny ears. In fact, a cat’s hearing is better than that of a dog and certainly superior to our own! Take a tour of canine and feline ear power to learn how they hear the world around them.
First, let’s compare hearing ability. Human hearing range extends from about 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz. Dogs hear frequencies from 40 hertz to 40,000 or 45,000 hertz. Cats rule, hearing from about 30 hertz to 60,000 hertz. That’s one of the things that makes them such excellent stalkers of prey.
Ultrasonic sound waves have a frequency above the upper limit of human hearing. But what’s ultrasonic to a person is likely normal for cats and dogs, well within their hearing ranges.
Take dog whistles. They aren’t actually silent, but simply at a higher frequency that is beyond normal hearing range for humans.
And human hearing weakens with age. An adult’s ability to hear higher sound frequencies diminishes as they get older, reducing the possible range by half for the average adult.
One of the reasons cats and dogs hear so well is because the structure of their ears enables them to be more accurate when determining where a sound is coming from. Unlike humans, who have ears that for the most part stay in place -- can you wiggle your ears? -- dogs and cats have mobile ears that allow them to home in on the direction and source of an incoming sound.
Cats, whose hearing abilities exceed those of most other mammals, have cone-shaped ears that work similarly to a satellite dish, taking in a wide range of frequencies. The shape of the cat’s ear serves two purposes: amplifying sound that is taken in and determining the direction of the sound’s source.
Their sensitive ears explain why pets so often run, hide or quiver in fear at loud or unexpected sounds such as fireworks, garbage trucks or gunshots. And it’s not just those types of sounds. It’s likely that there are many sounds in the environment that disturb pets -- electronic equipment, for instance -- but because we can’t hear them, we assume they don’t bother our pets, either.
But many devices designed for human hearing ranges have potential residual higher frequencies that are well within the hearing range of pets.
In fact, many times when a dog or cat is described as getting upset over nothing, they may well be hearing something we simply don’t perceive.
The effects on pets of exposure to sounds that lie beyond our human capacity to hear is unknown. But scientists who study the effects of noise on lab animals have found that it may affect an animal’s heart, sleep and endocrine cycles, as well as be related to increased risk of seizures. Seizures in some cats are linked to higher frequency sounds, including common household noises such as the sound made by aluminum foil when it’s crumpled, a printer in use and a phone ringing.
To help make your home environment more inviting to your sound-sensitive pet, try to reduce exposure to residual technology sounds. Consider turning off electronics when they’re not in use. (That’s good for your wallet, too, because unplugging at the power source reduces phantom power draw of devices, decreasing your electricity bill.) Try making one room in the household electronics-free so pets have at least one quiet space where they can retreat and be uninterrupted by noises we may not even realize are sounding off.
CDC to stop some
-- Beware of adopting a dog from overseas, no matter how heart-wrenching the cause. Many are accompanied by fake rabies certificates. One dog imported into the United States from Azerbaijan for adoption by a family in Pennsylvania tested positive for rabies -- a fatal disease that can be transmitted to humans through bites or scratches -- and was euthanized. Rabies is not commonly spread between dogs in the U.S., but large numbers of unvaccinated imported dogs could change that circumstance. Effective July 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is banning importation of dogs from more than 100 countries classified as high-risk for canine rabies and from countries that are not at high risk, if the dogs in question have been in high-risk countries during the previous six months.
-- Esme steals gloves. Owner Kate Felmet of Beaverton, Oregon, posted a sign advising passersby that her cat was a thief and to please reclaim their items if they saw them attached to the adjacent clothesline. Turns out Esme isn’t the only cat burglar around. Other owners tweeted that their cats stole mail (that’s a federal offense, felines!), socks, cable ties, photos, paintbrushes and more.
-- Are you considering a pet rat? They make great companions for adults and children because they rarely bite, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. Rats aren’t loners, so it’s best to have two of the same sex so they can grow up together and be friends when you’re not around. Pet rats need a large wire cage with opportunities to climb and play, run on an exercise wheel, and take cozy naps in a nesting box or hammock. Feed them commercially formulated pellets supplemented with small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables. And be sure they have a wooden block to gnaw on to keep their teeth from overgrowing. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
When to spay or
Q: How old should kittens be when they are spayed or neutered?
A: According to a task force whose members represent the American Veterinary Medical Association, the America Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association, the most current recommendation is for kittens to be spayed or neutered by 5 months of age.
That’s for a couple of reasons. Early spay/neuter surgery short-circuits the development of hormones that cause males to spray, mark and fight. And kittens reach sexual maturity rapidly, able to reproduce at very early ages -- well before they are 6 months old, the age at which many veterinarians still prefer to perform this surgery.
Some veterinarians who prefer to spay/neuter at 6 months or older believe that kittens sterilized at an earlier age may face future health risks such as feline urinary tract disease or bone and joint disorders, or that male cats will be predisposed to urethral obstruction. Philip A. Bushby, DVM, professor of humane ethics and animal welfare at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says those concerns aren’t supported by science.
The fear that early neutering of male cats results in narrowing of the penile urethra and increases the risk of urinary obstruction was disproved in the 1990s, he wrote in a statement. A study comparing adult penile urethral diameters of cats neutered at 7 weeks of age, at 7 months of age and those remaining intact documented no differences in urethral diameter.
And while large-breed dogs who are spayed or neutered at an early age can develop orthopedic problems, no studies have documented similar orthopedic issues in cats sterilized at an early age.
Sterilizing kittens early benefits feline welfare because it results in fewer kittens and cats being placed in shelters because not enough homes are available for them. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.