- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Growing up in a small New York City apartment didn’t leave much space for pets. In the background of her musical life, Janet Marlow, a fifth-generation musician in a family of composers, found plenty of room for animals.
Marlow has spent years touring the world as a jazz artist, performing her own compositions, playing her main instrument, the guitar, and studying music in Spain and France. Along the way, she learned a lot about concert halls and acoustics, and at home, she began watching her dogs and cats react to her music. They would sit by her side during practice sessions.
“I was always observant of how amazingly relaxed they were and just content to be,” Marlow remembers.
She had a cat who was severely injured and required emergency treatment. The cat spent five days in the ICU, where Marlow sang to him. She noticed the cat slow blinking his eyes at her, a sign of relaxation and comfort. Right after her cat passed, she began questioning the role sound played in his life.
“What is it about an animal’s hearing,” she wondered. “I know I couldn’t play my guitar in everyone’s home, but how could I help pet parents have this music for their own animals?”
A Hypersensitive World
Marlow became more interested in dog and cat hearing, and began to study psychoacoustics, or the perception of sound and the physiological response to sound.
Marlow discovered that dogs hear nearly twice as many frequencies as humans, and they can hear sounds from 80 feet away that human ears can only detect at 20 feet.
Cats have even more delicate hearing and can hear three times more than humans. Amazingly, a cat’s ear muscles can twist 180 degrees. The average adult human can hear up to 20,000 Hertz, whereas a dog hears up to 45,000 Hertz. A cat can hear up to an astonishing 85,000 Hertz.
Combining her unique skills observing and researching pets and her love of music, Marlow formed her species-specific music company, Pet Acoustics, in 1994.
One of Pet Acoustics products is a portable Bluetooth speaker cube that plays a continuous soundtrack of soothing music composed by Marlow and performed by the artist’s many musician friends. The speaker is pre-loaded with musicfor specific pets: dogs, cats, birds, or horses, and comes with a USB charging cord. The cubes run around $60 on petacoustics.com.
The speaker is small, but the sound is significant—and yes, depending on the species version you elect, the music, while generally calming-sounding to humans, will sound different. The music for cats, for example, is different than dogs and is on a higher register to accommodate their specific hearing range.
Marlow sent me a Pet Tunes canine speaker to try with my 5-month-old Cocker Spaniel puppy, Alvin. I was told to play it when I left the house without Alvin, or during a thunderstorm. Since storms don’t seem to bother Alvin, I put the speaker on and went for a neighborhood walk. My spouse stayed behind to observe Alvin, who would typically pace, whine, and cry for me.
After about seven minutes, Alvin curled up near my home office chair and took a nap. He woke up a few times, but the music was playing, and he drifted back to sleep. The sounds reminded me of the type of music you hear in a spa or other tranquil location—soothing, light, and peaceful.
Marlow says Pet Acoustics has helped thousands of dogs and cats over the years, and reviews indicate the system has helped pet parents with everything from separation anxiety to external noise to easing trips to the vet—you may even hear Pet Acoustics playing over the office speakers at your own vet’s office.
“Your dog (or cat) will associate the music wherever you take it, so they feel the same sense of contentment and safety,” Marlow says.
It’s not just horses and birds, cats and dogs—rabbits respond to her music, too. Marlow recalls a test of her music on Labrador Retriever puppies. She had no idea rabbits were in the facility at the time. Pet Acoustics worked on the pups, but it had the same, soothing, calming effect on the rabbits.
“I looked over to the rabbit cages, and they were all asleep as my music played,” she remembers.
“Biometrically proven” is how Marlow describes her products—what this means, essentially, is that tests and studies have been conducted on real animals that have concluded the music really does have a soothing, stress-relieving effect on pets.
Marlow’s recent study published in the peer-reviewed International Animal Health Journal determined after three months, the dogs studied had a lower pulse rate, a higher HRV (heart variability) rate, and they rested more.
Understanding how an animal listens and hears is so important to Marlow that she created a pet hearing test, which is free on the Pet Acoustics website. The test is an easy way to assess your pet’s hearing health in general.
“I wanted to invent a system so people can have a free piece of information,” she says. “You will know right away if your dog or cat reacts to the sounds.”
This is essential, Marlow says, because the more we understand how our pets experience the world, the richer and more rewarding our lives can be together.
“A really important part of Pet Acoustics is trying to educate pet parents to understand their pets for better health, because we don’t experience or hear what they do,” she says.