Dog Whistles Won’t Hurt a Cat’s Ears if Used Correctly

Dog whistles affect cats because their hearing is better than dogs. It comes down to the way you use the whistle.

Using a silent dog whistle may make you think only dogs hear them, but if you are near a cat and blow hard or continuously, you may hurt the cat or scare it causing it to run away.

We all know, being a loving and responsible dog owner doesn’t just mean we only love dogs.  You may not be keen on other animals like cats, but we all make sure our actions of looking after and training our dog, should never harm other animals.

That’s why the question asking if a dog whistle used by dog owners and trainers will hurt a cat is often asked. The whistle won’t hurt a cat if used sensibly, but they will hear it, and that is something a responsible owner must be aware of.

The best way to explore the effect of a dog whistle on cats is to look at what sounds animals can hear. Also, we’ll look at what whistles are used for, their effect, and the best practice when using them.

Any animal or human will hear a whistle with a pea or a whistle that emits a sound, so we will concentrate on the ‘silent’dog whistle.


Cats Can Hear Dog Whistles Better Than a Dog

Cats have the broadest range of hearing than most other mammals. It may come as a surprise to you that cats actually hear both higher and lower frequencies than dogs. A lot of dog owners assume dogs have the best hearing because it is so acute, but a cat’s range is much broader.

Cat low frequency –        48 Hz

Cat high frequency –       85,000 Hz

Dog low frequency –       67 Hz

Dog high frequency –      45,000 Hz

This means cats will hear the dog whistle clearly, so of course this should be taken into account when using a dog whistle to train your dog. Ideally, you wouldn’t use a whistle standing next to a cat, you just need to be aware that the whistle will affect cats as well as dogs.


Cats May Respond to a Dog Whistle

When using a dog whistle to train your dog, and knowing cats can hear it, you must be prepared for cats to respond or act on the whistle. The sound a whistle makes is very similar to the high pitched squeal many of the prey like rodents emit.

This means cats who are curious or who like to hunt may come looking at what is making the sound. This could:

  • Affect the quality of your training with your dog if a cat comes running.
  • Cause a cat to run to the location of your whistle, putting it in danger, especially if it runs over a road or through someone else’s property.
  • Encourage cats to come to your property repeatedly if that is where you’re using the whistle as they may think there’s prey there somewhere.
  • If you have a cat, it may disturb it enough to leave the property and get lost or hurt.


Incorrect Usage of a Dog Whistle May Hurt a Cat or Your Dog

Imagine someone standing in the same room as you blowing a whistle that you can hear really loudly. Or, imagine them blowing that whistle right next to your ear. It would be extremely irritating and probably painful.

The same goes for the effect of a dog whistle on cats and dogs. Correct usage is likely to cause no harm, but using one incorrectly will hurt any animal’s ears who can hear it.

Some dog whistles won’t affect your dog at all, but maybe heard by a cat. This is because there are dog whistles that can change frequency so that you can find the one that your dog responds to. If you’re standing there blowing hard and for a long time because your dog isn’t responding, a nearby cat may hear everything and at a very loud volume.

In this scenario, a dog whistle will likely hurt a cat’s ears, or make it panic and run. It may also condition the cat to run every time it hears a whistle.


You Might Accidentally Change Your Cat’s Behavior

Cats have personalities like dogs, and a dog whistle will affect each cat differently. Just as different dogs react differently to dog whistles, so will a cat.

Cats who are timid may think they are being punished if the whistle is painful or scary to them. Just as a whistle may reinforce fear in a dog, the same could happen to a cat. There could be an unintended change in your cat’s behavior.

The same could be said for the cats in your immediate area. You never know what is happening around you with animals and their sensitive hearing.

As with all animals, you could also find the whistle doesn’t bother a cat at all. The best course of action is to use a dog whistle correctly and with other animals in mind.


How to Use a Dog Whistle Correctly

Dog whistles come in all shapes and sizes and are used for different things. A quality dog whistle is only as effective as the skill of the trainer using it.

A dog whistle is used for various training requirements, including reinforcing verbal commands and as another method for a dog that’s not responding to training. Used correctly, a whistle is a valid tool in your dog training arsenal that will have minimal effect on other animals around it. Because of the nature of a dog whistle, it can be used over short or long distances.

Although it’s often best to seek the advice of a professional dog trainer, most dog owners can start using a dog whistle themselves if they are careful and consistent.

  • Find the pitch your dog responds to and use different pitches for different commands. An example is one pitch for coming and another for retrieving.
  • Keep your commands consistent, so your dog doesn’t get confused.
  • Use treats to reinforce correct behavior.
  • Repetition is key for a dog to fully trust they’re doing what you want them to do.


What a Dog Whistle Will Not Do

This is an important point because if you are trying to use a dog whistle for something it’s not intended for, it may cause you to blow hard or constantly, affecting not only your dog, but the cats and other animals around you.

A dog whistle won’t:

  • Stop a dog from barking: A lot of people buy a dog whistle out of frustration at their dog’s barking, or their neighbor has a dog that barks a lot. Dog whistles are not designed for this.

They may make the dog stop momentarily out of curiosity or aggravation, but they will start again when the whistle stops for a period of time. If you annoy the dog with the whistle, it may cause it to bark more, not stop.

  • Repel a dog for walkers and joggers: Whistles won’t cause a dog to leave you alone or leave the area. It may have some effect on the dog’s behavior, but it’s certainly not something you can rely on.
  • Stop a dog fight: The sound may distract them momentarily, but if the dogs are aggressive, it may have no effect at all.
  • Work with deaf or hard of hearing dogs: Dogs who have some hearing loss may hear some frequencies, but not others. The whistle may become ineffective over time if the hearing loss gets worse.

Training and patience arekey. Remember, if you’ve never used a whistle before, you and your dog are learning together.


Choosing a Dog Whistle

Dog whistles vary a lot. Some make a noise, and others as in this article, are silent. Choosing one can be a bit confusing when you first start out, but there are some basic things to consider:

  • Choose a sturdy type. You will drop your whistle or bang it around.
  • Find one that you can alter the pitch, but also remain pitch consistent when you need it to.
  • A whistle needs to be replaceable. If you lose it, you need the same one because it’s what your dog has trained with. Consider buying two of the same type when you find one that works.
  • Choose a washable whistle.
  • Get a lanyard for ease.


The Bottom Line on Dog Whistles

Dog whistles can be a valuable tool in dog training, but there are lots of considerations to take into account, including other animals, especially cats. They have such good hearing, they will be affected by any activity on the whistle.

Correct use will mitigate any negative outcomes in the majority of cases. Choose the right whistle for you and your dog, and make sure that you get a whistle for the right reason and for which they will be effective.


Writer: Craig Taylor

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