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Home > Cats > What Noise Levels are Healthy for Cats? Vet-Reviewed Guide (With Decibel Chart)

What Noise Levels are Healthy for Cats? Vet-Reviewed Guide (With Decibel Chart)

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats have excellent hearing—their sense of hearing is much better than ours, and they can hear sounds that we cannot. Cats use their sense of hearing to hunt, communicate with other cats, and stay safe from predators. Cats can also hear ultrasonic sounds that are used by rodents to communicate. Noise levels are important to consider when you live with a cat. Too much noise can stress them out—and even damage their hearing. On the other hand, cats also use noise to communicate. So what noise levels are healthy for cats?

Cats are able to relax and sleep when there is quiet. In a world where we are constantly surrounded by noise, it is nice to know that there is another creature who prefers peace and calm. It is important to control your cat’s exposure to constant noise as cats can suffer hearing damage if they are exposed to noise levels above 95 decibels for an extended period of time. Your cat may also suffer hearing damage from short, sharp noises of around 120 decibels.

Read on to find out the ideal soundscape for your cat and how to keep their hearing in tip-top shape.divider-cat

What is the Hearing Range of Cats?

Frequency is a measure of how fast a wave repeats itself and is measured in Hertz (Hz). The Hertz unit was named after Heinrich Hertz, who was the first person to successfully produce and detect electromagnetic waves. One Hz is equal to one cycle per second. Kilohertz (kHz) is a unit of measurement that equals 1,000 Hertz. It is commonly used to measure sound waves, particularly in relation to music.

The human ear can hear sounds between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. The domestic cat’s hearing range for sounds at a level of 70 decibels of sound pressure level extends from 48 Hz to 85 kHz, making it one of the most sensitive mammals in terms of hearing. This suggests that cats evolved enhanced high-frequency hearing without sacrificing their low-frequency hearing.

domestic cat lying on floor and looks up attentively to something it hears
Image Credit: Dima Berlin, Shutterstock

What Are Decibels?

Decibels are a unit of measurement designed to quantify the loudness of a sound. Decibels are logarithmic, so an increase of 10 decibels represents a tenfold increase in noise level. For example, a sound that is 10 decibels louder than another sound is actually 100 times as loud. To protect your cat’s hearing, it is important to be aware of the decibel levels of the noises around them and take steps to reduce your cat’s exposure to them when possible. Putting your cat in a room away from loud noise helps reduce its exposure to potentially damaging decibel levels.

What Are Some Sounds Above 95 Decibels?

A noise that is 95 decibels or higher can cause damage to your cat’s hearing. You’d be surprised how easily this level of noise may be encountered around the house. Some common everyday sources of noise at this level include power tools, lawnmowers, hair dryers, loud music, and vacuums. These are all noises your cat naturally dislikes. They will become agitated and try to run away from noises at this level. Now you know why: prolonged exposure to noise at this level can lead to hearing loss in cats. Human ears are similarly sensitive—you should really wear earplugs or noise-canceling headphones when exposed to these sounds yourself!

close up of a black and white cat
Image Credit: milivigerova, Pixabay

What Are Some Sounds That Exceed 120 Decibels?

Some sounds that are above 120 decibels include thunder, gunshots, and fireworks. These loud noises can cause damage to your cat’s hearing. Thunder is one of the loudest natural sounds that there is—it occurs when lightning strikes and can reach up to 120 decibels. That’s another reason why it’s important to be careful during thunderstorms and try to stay indoors as much as possible.

Gunshots are also incredibly loud, reaching up to 140 decibels in some cases. This kind of noise can cause permanent hearing damage to cats—and humans. Fireworks are another common source of noise that can be dangerous for your cat’s hearing. The kindest thing you can do is insulate your kitty in a quiet room away from the action if you know that thunder, gunshots, or fireworks are on the cards.

Decibel Chart

Let’s take a look at some common sounds and their output in terms of decibels. We’ve also rated them as safe—or unsafe—for your kitty’s sensitive ears.

Sound Decibels Safe for Cats?
Normal conversation 60 Safe
Washing machine 70 Safe
City traffic (from within the car) 80–85 Safe, but may cause them stress
Vacuum Cleaner 60–95 Not if prolonged
Lawnmower 85–95 Not if prolonged
Leaf blower 85–95 Not if prolonged
Motorcycle 95 Not if prolonged
Car horn at 15 feet 100 Not if prolonged
A loud radio, stereo, or television 105–110 Not if prolonged
Shouting or barking at close range 110 Not if prolonged
Sirens at close range 120 Not safe
Thunder 120 Not safe
Jackhammer 130 Not safe
Power Drill 130 Not safe
Firecrackers 140–150 Not safe

How Does a Cat’s Ear Amplify Sound?

Anatomically, the external ear (called the pinna) is the most visible part of a cat’s ear—it is large, upright, and cone-shaped, capturing and amplifying sound waves. For frequencies between 2 and 6 kHz, a cat’s ear can amplify sound waves by two to three times. The cat’s pinna can rotate up to 180 degrees to locate and identify even the faintest of noises due to the huge number of muscles involved in the control of their ears.

orange cat in close up photography
Image By: Valeria Boltneva, Pexels

Noise Levels and Stress in Cats

A cat’s blood pressure is raised by excessive noise. This is because your cat is living in a heightened state of stress in a noisy environment. Noise levels and stress in cats are often overlooked by pet owners. However, these two factors can have a significant impact on a cat’s health and behavior.

There are a few simple things that pet owners can do to reduce noise levels and stress in their cats. For example, they can provide them with a quiet place to rest, away from loud noises. They can also avoid using harsh words or tones when interacting with their cats. By taking these steps, pet owners can help their cats live happier, healthier lives.


Final Thoughts

In conclusion, noise levels that are healthy for cats are those that do not exceed 95 decibels, and exposure to noise levels above this can cause hearing loss in cats. Too much noise can be harmful to their delicate ears and cause long-term damage. To protect your cat’s hearing, keep the volume at a comfortable level and make sure that there are plenty of quiet places for them to retreat to.


Featured Image Credit: franklinveras, Shutterstock

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