Why Do Cats React To Combs?

Do you have a pet cat in your home? If yes, have you tried to annoy them with some cringing sounds, like running your thumb across the teeth of the comb or crinkling a foil paper? Again, if yes is your answer, have you ever wondered why your cat reacts like that? Well, let me give you an answer to why cats react to combs.

Why do cats react to combs? Cats are natural predators, and most of their prey uses ultrasonic sounds to communicate with each other. Cats respond to combs because they have sensitivity to high-pitched sounds. Their sensitivity helps them when they hunt. Aside from the sound of the comb, your cat may react to other high-pitched sounds too.

That is the concise answer I can give to you. However, there is a broader answer about why cats react to the sound of the combs.

Aside from the sound of combs, other things may irritate or make your cat gag. We are going to check that all!

Another interesting part that we will discuss inside this article is the different sounds cats like and dislike. Also, I will tell you how sensitive the hearing of cats is. Now, if you are excited to learn these things, let us keep moving! 

Reasons Why Cats Gag To The Sound Of Combs

Like I have mentioned above, cats gag to the sound of combs because they have a strong and sensitive sense of hearing. Their sensitive sense of hearing helps them when they hunt. It helps them to hear if there are prey or predators nearby. 

When a cat hears the sound of a comb, it will react. Cats will respond because the sound of the comb sounds like the teeth of a mouse. That is why cats have evolved to respond to gag when they hear this kind of noise. 

However, other sounds make cats gag aside from the sound of the combs. What are those things? Let us find out what those are!

What Are The Other Sounds That Makes Cats Gag?

The sound of the comb is one of the things that makes cats gag. However, other things can make cats gag. What are those things? Aside from the sound of the comb, the other things that make cats gag are:

  • Crinkling of foil paper
  • Sound of running water
  • Coffee grinder sound
  • Chinking or tapping of glass
  • The clinking of coins or keys
  • Hammering of nail
  • The clicking of the owner’s tongue

Some owners said that when their cats start to hear these sounds, they become aggressive. In my personal experience, I would say this is true. 

Aside from becoming more aggressive, cats may also have some seizures when they hear these sounds. Older cats are the ones that will usually have seizures when exposed to various loud noises, like the crinkling of tin foil or paper bags, clicking of computer keyboards, running water, and computer printers. 

This kind of syndrome is called Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures or FARS. Some owners have reported that these sounds make their cats go into a seizure and their only way to prevent it is to avoid such sounds. 

Aside from your lovely cat, other animals might experience seizures from particular sound triggers too. Mice, rats, hamsters, and dogs are also prone to seizures when they hear these kinds of sounds. 

Cats are predators, and their prey is mice and rats. Their prey uses ultrasonic sounds to communicate with each other. Cats have sensitivity to high-pitched sounds, and it helps them to hunt. When cats live with humans, it may lead to lots of irritation, gagging, or seizures. However, if cats are deaf or not sensitive to sounds, they will not gag or have seizures.

What Sounds Do Cats Like?

Because cats are so sensitive to sounds, we should make sure not to play various sounds that will cause them to seizure, be scared, or be anxious. 

You already know the kind of sounds that will make a cat gag and seize. So now, let us take a look at the different sounds cats love. Later on, we are going to talk about the sounds cats dislike. Let us proceed!


The first sound cats love to hear is music. Not just human music, but also their own music. There is one study made in Applied Animal Behavioral Science that concluded that cats like sounds that sound. The study said that these sounds are species-specific music that reflects cat vocalization’s tempo and frequency. 

Cats that are in the study enjoyed a song that was composed specifically for them only. So you ask, how do researchers know that cats genuinely love the music they played? Cats that love the music go toward the music, purred, and rubbed themselves on the speakers. 

Toy Sounds

Cats love toys. However, they love more toys that have sounds of their prey. 

Playing is essential for cats. Why? Because this is where they practice their hunting skills. When they play, they will have a chance to engage their instincts. 

The toys cats enjoy the most are the toys that have sounds. Sounds that will make them feel they are in a real hunting scene. Toys that squeak when rolled, chewed, or batted will make your cat think that it is a real mouse. 

Sound Of Their Food

Another sound cats like to hear is the sound of their food. Not wet food, since it has no sounds when you shake its container. When you shake the container of the dried food of your cat, your cat will surely come to you. 

In my personal experience, cats indeed love when you shake the container of their food. Whenever I need my cats to go back to their house, I just shake their food container to attract them. Good strategy, right? 

What Sounds Do Cats Dislike?

Now that you know the sounds cats love. Let us proceed to the sounds they hate the most! They hate these sounds because it scares and shocks them to death.

Electronics And Appliances

Cats can hear noises that humans can’t hear, which is why the sound of a comb is annoying for them and not for us. Cats can be annoyed by various sounds that we humans do not even know to exist! 

Most of our electronic devices and appliances produce noises that make our cats irritated. Televisions, computers, refrigerators, smoke detectors, and even remote controls have high-frequency sounds that we humans can’t hear. However, for cats, this is one of the most irritating sounds. 

We, humans, have no idea how electric and appliance sounds affect our cats’ health. There is one research made at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine that studied the non-auditory effects of noise on mice. 

The researchers concluded that the noise changes the cardiovascular and endocrine systems of mice. It affected their sleep, susceptibility to seizures, and social behavior. The sound of your electronics and appliances is not just annoying for your cats but also harmful. 

Hissing Sound Of Other Cats

Hissing is also bothersome for your cat. That is why when you try to play some hissing sounds from youtube, your cat may hide or find the cat that is making such a sound. Try it and see for yourself. 

Cat hiss when they feel threatened. They do this to scare other cats or the threat. A female cat may hiss at a cat or other animal approaching her kittens. Also, a cat that is sick or in pain may hiss to prevent another cat or animal from coming near. 

Some things may sound like a hiss of a cat and will remind your cat of a hiss. What are those things? A Baygon spray, a windbreaker, and a rustling plastic bag are the things that will remind your cat of a hiss. 

Loud Noises Like Thunder

Another sound that cats hate is loud sounds, like thunder.

Like I have mentioned, cats have sensitive hearing. They can hear sounds that we humans have no idea exist. Loud noises that both cats and humans can perceive are extremely bothersome to cats and their ears. 

Loud noises that are painful to the ears like a fire alarm, passing ambulance or fire truck, a loud motorcycle or car, running vacuum cleaner, or thunder can be painful for your cats’ ears. 

Luckily, cats have special reflexes to minimize exposure to loud sounds. The tiny muscles inside the middle ear of the cat can contract to protect their inner ear from loud noises.

However, cats will never prevent their ears from sudden loud noises, like fireworks. It happens too quickly for their reflexes to work and provide protection for their ear. 

How Sensitive Is The Hearing Of Cats?

The reason why cats hear sounds that we humans don’t hear and become irritated with sounds that we never find irritating is because their hearing is extremely sensitive. Humans can hear noises in a range of 20-20,000 hertz, while cats can hear sounds from 45 to 60,000 hertz. 

Dogs have good hearing too. However, cats have higher frequencies than dogs. Yes, there are lots of sounds that cats can hear that we can’t hear, like the snoring of your neighbor from the other house. 

Cats can hear sounds that are far better than humans. They can perceive sounds that are 4-5 times farther away than human ears can perceive. Cats can distinguish differences in sounds too, and it helps them when hunting to know the type and size of the prey animal that produces the sound. 


Cats react to combs because they have sensitive hearing. However, aside from that, cats can also react to other sounds and some cannot be perceived by a human ear. Cats hear many sounds throughout the day, and some of these sounds can irritate them and cause harmful effects on their bodies, which can kill them.

Source: icatcare.org, treehugger.com

Marian Haaz
Marian is a cat adoption expert. She has rescued and adopted several cats herself and helped find homes for dozens of stray cats and dogs.
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