Gongs for Cats, Dogs, Whales and Eagles

Yes,  I am finally doing it – writing about Gongs and pets (and actually all other beasts). After all, why should only humans get to be gonged?

In my gong training courses, I almost always get the question: “Will my cat or dog like it when I play the gong?”

And to this earth-shatteringly important inquiry, I am happy to reply: “Yes – or eventually yes.”

The sound of the Gong exists within a certain range of frequencies, and all animals, including humans, have a hearing range whereby certain frequencies can be heard and the other sounds are either too low or too high in frequency to be perceived.

In general, larger animals can hear the lower frequencies (measured in hertz Hz) and smaller animals hear in the higher frequencies.

Gongs typically produce a lower frequency sound than other musical instruments, generally in the range of 16 Hz (for my 42 inch gong) to 160 Hz (my 21 inch gong). For comparison, pianos are generally in the 30 Hz to 525 Hz. Organs can go lower than a gong (a very deep 6 Hz) while a flute can reach up to 2093 Hz!

The lowest threshold for human hearing is 16-32 Hz. Below that, the sound is felt rather than heard.

So if animals are “hearing” the gong, it needs to be within their range of hearing. We may think that dogs, for example, would be excessively sensitive to the gong because of their ability to hear frequencies twice as high as humans (cats can go almost three times as high – take that, you dog). In reality, the ability to hear the high frequencies does not affect cats and dogs “enjoyment” of the gong.

What animals can hear in the range of most gongs (16 Hz to 180 Hz)? This includes dogs, cats, cows, horses, sheep, gerbils, ferrets, raccoons, whales, porpoises, and most fish.

Gongs and dogs can go together – it’s not the lower frequencies of the gong that bothers them but the higher frequencies, those we cannot hear and that gongs cannot produce, that seem to upset them. Once they know the gong is your friend, they will make it their friend as well (being dogs), and will often come to you when the gong is played (or sleep through it, being dogs). One of our friends in Australia even insists that his dog plays the gong by barking at it!

While cats eventually become used to the sound of our music, television sets, and our incessant talking, the Gong is a different sound for them at first. It’s not so much the loudness of the sound but the newness and presence of the sound that at first may upset them, sending them away to the farthest room in the house. After a few sessions, however, they either resign themselves to that “new human noise” and stay put and may even curl up next to you as you play the gong, regardless of the volume.  (Warning: Cats may like your gong so much, they could decide to mark it as their own if at convenient spraying height. Cover those gongs!)

Birds are on the edge of hearing gongs and tend not to go below 200 Hz in their hearing. Owls and parakeets can hear the highest tuned gongs, but canaries and cockatiels cannot. The bird that can best appreciate the gong frequency is a chicken – meditate on that.

Birds, however, are more sensitive to tone and pitch than all the other animals. When I have played the gong outside, be it in Hawaii or Australia, the birds gather around to find the source of this new and amazing language. Many times they pick up their own calls and responses, and become silent as the gong decays into silence as well. Another gong player in Utah has played the gong outside on a mountain top, and has had the experience of eagles flying in and circling above the gong for several minutes as it is played.

Are they hearing the gong or does its vibration reach them in some other way?

The marine mammals respond well to the gongs – porpoises can clock in at 75 Hz and bottlenose dolphins at 150 Hz, the sound of a small to average size gong.

Tara Matthews, a yogini and gong player from California, has conducted whale watching (actually whale visiting) retreats in Mexico for several years. This year she brought two gongs with her on the boats that went out to visit the mother whales and their newborns. Before the gongs were played, the whales would visit the boats out of curiosity and the young would play and swim around.

As she played the gong, the young whales became very still, almost as if in relaxation. The mothers would surface to gaze at the boat in response to the sound, and then they would breach and turn over and over in response to the sound of the gong, interacting with a new tone they have never heard before. There was a sense of connection in the sound between human and whales that was mesmerizing for all.

Yet some animals will never get to enjoy the gong. For rabbits, you would do better with the higher pitched chimes or singing bowls than gongs. Mice, rats, sea lions, hedgehogs, bats and possums cannot appreciate the gong sound either and of course they have our sympathy.

And if you think the gong might be a good choice to scare away roaches and other insects, don’t bother. Bugs just don’t get it.

While it does seem that most animals and pets are intrigued, or at least tolerant, of the sound of the Gong, can there be any therapeutic or healing effects as has been experienced by humans?

All evidence is anecdotal of course (who would pay for research of gong animal therapy). One dog owner, however, found that playing her gong helped relieved the shock her dog received after getting slightly struck by  a car.

In Santa Monica, California recently 42 dogs and their caretakers had a sound bath (the bath that dogs like best) and seemed to be pretty chill (for dogs) afterwards.

And then there is the veterinarian in England who takes his gong and plays it for horses that have experienced sprains. He discovered that, as is also the case for humans, the sound of the gong and its vibrations can accelerate circulation and healing around inflammations.

The Gong – it’s not just for humans anymore!

Do you have Gong and Animal pictures and videos? Send us a YouTube link or the photos and we would love to share them!

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