Do dogs hear better than cats?

No, dogs do not hear better than cats. In fact the hearing of dogs is marginally less good than the hearing of cats. There is some variability in the information that I have gleaned from my research. The biggest difference between cat and dog hearing is that cats can pick up sounds of a higher frequency than dogs. But even at the lower frequencies the hearing of cats also appears to be slightly more sensitive. It perhaps goes without saying that the hearing of humans is worse than either the hearing of cats or dogs.

Hearing ability of cats versus dogs
Hearing ability of cats versus dogs. Cats just win. Illustration: PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The frequency range of sounds that a dog can pick up is between 67 Hz and 45 kHz (this is 45,000 Hz or cycles per second). The range that a domestic cat can pick up is between 48 Hz and 85 kHz (48 to 85,000 Hz). This information comes from a scientific study published on the Pub Med website. For the study, the intensity of the sound was 70 dB SPL (SPL stands for sound pressure level).

Other research sources tell me that the domestic cat can hear sounds in the frequency range 45 to 64,000 Hz. This comes from a well-known book by a group of veterinarians: Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.

Dr Morris in his book Illustrated Dogwatching tells us that dogs have an upper limit of 35,000 to 40,000 Hz (cycles per second). He also says that a Russian research programme indicated that they can hear as high as 100,000 cycles per second (cps).

Humans have an upper range when they are young of about 30,000 cps. This drops to 20,000 by the time people are young adults and to only 12,000 by the time retirement age is reached.

The same variability may occur in domestic cats as well. Another piece of research that I uncovered indicates that the upper hearing limit for adult cats is around 50,000 Hz whilst young cats can hear sounds up to 100,000 Hz. AS mentioned there is some variance in the information.

Although cats have slightly better hearing than dogs, dogs outdo cats when it comes to the sense of smell. This incredible sensitivity to sound is evidenced in the domestic cat’s ever moving ear flaps even when they are snoozing and which can point behind them as they are controlled by more than 30 muscles.

In both instances, the evolution of such sensitive hearing must relate to the hunting needs of the wild ancestors are both domestic dogs and cats. It enables them to detect the presence and movements of small mammals such as rats, mice and other prey animals which make high-pitched sounds.

This ability is one reason why both cats and dogs are able to detect the arrival of their human companions as they approached the house. They can differentiate between the sounds of footfall and engine noise.

FYI – Cats and dogs have similar ear anatomy but which is fundamentally the same.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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