Sound has a profound effect on health and behaviour. It affects animals in various ways, ranging from aversive to pleasant, by:
- Causing decreases/increases in respiratory rate and heart rate
- Causing muscle relaxation (from quiet, soothing sounds) or muscle contractions (from loud, abrupt sounds)
- Being soothing or stimulating
- Slow rhythm classical music = soothing
- Approach of caretaker at dinner time = stimulating
Cats are Very Sensitive to Noise:
- Cats can hear frequencies we cannot hear
- Some sounds might be disturbing or painful to them even though they seem pleasant to us
- Noise made by caretakers and visitors may be jarring to cats, so make a conscious effort to keep noise down
How can we reduce or utilize sounds and auditory stimuli to help animals feel more calm and comfortable with us during their stay in our care?
Reduce noxious sounds:
Use a quiet voice
- There is no need to shout to others if ambient noise levels are kept low
- Unexpected sound scan easily startle or upset animals
- In general, long, slow words such as ‘staaaaaay’ have a calming effect
Replace noisy equipment:
- If possible, replace squeaky kennel doors or extremely loud devices such as fans, cleaning tools, door buzzers, etc.
Modify or renovate the physical environment:
- Sound-proofing and use of sound-absorbing material scan reduce the overall volume level in your animal centre
- House species separately out of hearing range of one another.
Noise Abatement: (see Build Your Own Sound Abatement Panels)
Acoustic treatments for direct kennel noise are generally limited to ceiling and wall materials. To avoid contact with urine and damage from excessive contact with chemical cleaners, acoustic treatments must be washable and should be located five feet or more above the floor. (Unfortunately, this limits their effectiveness because most of the noise sources are below that level)
Decrease Dog Vocalizations:
- Since barking accounts for much of the noise in animal centres, reducing it can significantly decrease the decibel level.
- Reward quiet behaviour. Only offer treats to any dogs that aren’t barking as you walk through the room.
- Introduce clicker training to reduce dog barking
Use a white noise machine:
- Use if no CD player or other music source is available
- Cancels out some of the surrounding animal centre noise
Introduce pleasant, calming sounds:
- Classical music increases the amount of time the dogs spend sleeping and resting
- Choose music that has been specifically designed for the species in mind
- In general, long, slow continuous sounds decrease activity levels, while short, rapidly repeated sounds tend to increase them
- A CD player or other music source is recommended in the cat area to provide a comforting and familiar noise to cats and to cancel out some of the surrounding animal centre noise
If any music is played in the cat housing areas it should be music composed specifically for cats. Cats prefer music with a pitch one octave higher than people, and in a tempo based on purring and suckling. Cats mostly ignore classical music and can respond dramatically to their own special tunes. Bird sound CDs can also be played as a source of enrichment and entertainment.