That jam session in pajamas -- with the music cranked full blast, a hairbrush microphone in your hand and those tricky dance moves -- might add some exercise to your daily routine, but unfortunately, it may not be quite so helpful to the cat whose home you share.
We all know that routine exposure to loud music -- especially if the mode is via headphones -- causes hearing damage in humans. Yet interestingly enough, it's the U.S. Army that provides proof that exposure to loud noises causes damage to the hearing of cats. In an effort to examine the effect of intense noise -- such as that commonly experienced at a firing range -- on human hearing, Army researchers first developed a model for cat hearing. Because the cat's ear is naturally designed to draw sound into the ear canal, enabling a cat to pick up the most sensitive of movements such as a mouse creeping across the floor, researchers opted for the cat model as a starting point. What they discovered is that the feline cochlea -- the inner ear where sound is processed -- is quickly damaged by exposure to sound ranging from 1.0 to 16.0 kHz. While the loud noise the cats were exposed to came from the firing of an M-16 rifle, its intensity falls right in line with that of loud music.
Loud music is one of the environmental stressors listed by Vetinfo as causing stress for cats. It's because turning up the tunes is a departure from their regular daily schedule. It throws them off because it isn't expected; they weren't prepared for this sudden blast of sound that they cannot escape. Cats are not only extremely aware of the activity in their environment, they are also highly habitual. Any changes -- even just a small one in human terms such as a half-hour jam session -- creates feline turmoil.
Interupts Regular Potty Activity
Cats often act out their stress by altering their potty habits. Crank the tunes and Kitty may respond by not doing his business in the litter box, but rather may urinate or leave a special deposit in the middle of the living room floor. This happens particularly when kittens -- especially intact males -- are being trained to use the litter box as per advice posted on Vetinfo. Intact males already have a tendency to mark their territory by spraying urine on anything and everything in their environment. When they feel threatened by loud music, they tend to revert to spraying as a self-defense mechanism.
What to Do
If possible, move Kitty to another room or another section of the house before you begin your jam. Perhaps close the door to the room you've moved her to in an effort to muffle the sound. This might require some planning and certainly limits the spontaneous nature usually associated with cranking the tunes; however, if you make your jam session a scheduled part of your day -- held at approximately the same time each day -- Kitty might begin to accept this a normal routine.
- Feline Advisory Bureau: The Cat Friendly Home
- Cat Behavior Associates: Stress In Cats
- Vetinfo: How To Keep A Cat From Spraying Through Training
- Reading Eagle Press: Ask The Vet's Pets: Loud Music Can Damage Cat's Hearing
- Vetinfo: The Most Frequent Causes Of Cat Anxiety
- United States Army Research Laboratory: Impulse Noise And The Cat Cochlea
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.