A dog whistle is also known as a Galton's whistle after its inventor Francis Galton. Galton studied the hearing frequencies of humans and other animals in his book "Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development." In this book, Galton stated that cats had more sensitive hearing than dogs and were capable of hearing higher frequencies of sound than humans and even dogs. Dog whistles are often used to replace verbal commands, such as sit or come. The whistle has an advantage over human voices because its high frequency will more likely capture the animals attention and can be heard over longer distances.
Physics of Sound
Sound begins as a wave of pressure. When one of these waves passes through a solid object, liquid or gas, it causes it to vibrate. This vibration produces sound. Whether or not someone or something is capable of hearing the sound depends on the frequency, or how fast the waves are. Sound frequency is measured in hertz (Hz).
Cat Hearing Versus Dog Hearing
A human being can have a hearing range between 64 to 23,000 Hz, but the average hearing range is between 20 to 20,000 Hz. Dogs have a hearing range between 67 to 45,000 Hz, which means they can hear better than humans. Cats can hear even better. Their hearing range is between 45 to 64,000 Hz.
How Dog Whistles Work
Dog whistles are considered ultrasonic devices. Ultrasonic is simply a fancy word that means something that makes a sound above a human's hearing range. In this case, a dog whistle usually produces a sound that is somewhere between 16,000 to 22,000 Hz, which means both dogs and cats are capable of hearing a dog whistle when it is blown.
Can Cats Be Trained to Respond to a Whistle?
Anyone who has an electric can opener and a cat exposed to can of cat food knows that cats can be trained to come when they hear a sound. Training them to come to a whistle is no different than why they respond to the sound of the can opener--the cat has learnt that good things come when he hears that sound. Start in close proximity to your cat. Blow the whistle then give it a treat. Eventually, move a few feet away and make your cat come to you for the treat. Repeat these steps until your cat will come to you even if he can't see you. Eventually, you can phase out the treat and simply praise the cat when he responds.
Why Don't They Make Cat Whistles?
People do not usually train their cats but almost always train their dogs. As evidence of this, go to any bookstore and check out the pet section. Although there are several rows of dog training books, there are only one or two titles on cat training. So, whistle manufacturers are simply marketing the product toward the people who are purchasing.