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This Lifelong Composer Makes Music to Calm Your Pets

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  • Janet Marlow is a performer and songwriter with a unique audience: pets.
  • Marlow started making animal music 20 years ago after realizing she could calm her animals with it.
  • It helps Marlow to associate the love of animals with “all the musical knowledge that my brain is filled with”.

Music flows through the veins of fifth generation performer Janet Marlow. The classical and jazz guitarist spent the first 35 years of her career composing, recording and performing on stages around the world.

Then, two decades ago, the Marlows began to create works for a new audience: pets.

Marlow started creating animal-centric music when she noticed her animals were sitting next to her while she was training and enjoying her. Marlow began to study how sound influences animal behaviors and used her expertise as a musician to compose 150 tracks to help relieve stress in pets, which she releases through her business Pet Acoustics. .

For pet owners, dealing with the anxiety of their furry friends can be stressful and costly. About 51% of dog and cat owners use some type of calming product, according to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owner Survey 2021-2022. Calming products for pets range from medicine and toys to soothing treats, collars and shirts.

As life returns to near-normal after COVID-19 closures, owners worry about their pets’ separation anxiety after spending so much time together. This makes pet appeasement – and Marlow’s musical approach – more important than ever.

Janet Marlow, who has blonde hair and a denim jacket, smiles next to a horse in a stable.

Janet Marlow.

Courtesy of Janet Marlow


β€œMusic is a substance, and it has a profound influence on the movement of biological cells through vibrations,” she said. “What excites me is that I can use all the knowledge I have about music and segment it to be specific to the needs of biology and influence it in a positive way for health.”

In 1997, Marlow, who calls himself a β€œsound behaviorist,” began researching sound and its effects on animal behavior. More specifically, she explores the biology of the impact of sound on animals and the behavioral response to vibrations produced by sound. Its scientific studies are peer-reviewed and published in veterinary scientific publications, and the results highlight the positive effects of playing species-specific music.

Using information about the hearing range of specific animals, Marlow digitally composes and edits music in a comfortable listening area for each species’ hearing range. His latest piece, Equine Relax Trax, is specially designed for horses. Horses are incredibly sensitive to stress, which leads to costly gastrointestinal issues. This particular track is a combination of rhythms that never exceeds the comfortable decibel level for horses.

β€œOn the racetrack, 90% of the horses have ulcers, and 75% to 80% of performance horses have them too, which can cost $ 1,000 to $ 2,000 to diagnose and treat,” said veterinarian Sarah Ruess, Equine Technical Manager at Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health. “That doesn’t even account for lost performance. Stress is a big part of those numbers. Creating a more positive environment through the use of music can help minimize the impact.”

Composing for pets is very different from composing for humans. One reason is that the human brain absorbs sound and analyzes it spatially, separately recognizing the drummer and guitarist, other instruments and vocals. This does not happen with animals. Marlow said the animals hear the music in its entirety and, in a second, decide on a behavioral response.

β€œWe are analytical and animals are physical,” she said. “In horses, this is where instinctive flight or fight reactions come in.”

Janet Marlow is making a music track on her computer.

Janet Marlow.

Courtesy of Janet Marlow


Marlow said creating music is similar to baking chocolate cake. Each sound selected is within the exact hearing range for each animal. She begins to arrange it by making sure that each track does not go above or below a specific decibel level. She listens to every note of the melody to make sure it follows a pattern based on a range of modifications that follow the proprietary frequency range she has developed.

After the arrangement, she digitizes the music and confirms that it does not exceed a certain level, which would trigger pressure in this animal’s ear. For horses, she took the studies further and is currently studying which instruments, in particular the species, find calming.

β€œPeople who think classical music is boring assume it soothes their animals, and that’s not true,” she said. β€œComposing music that is within the comfort zone of each of these animals helps them feel calm and stress free. “

As a child, Marlow was not allowed to have his own pets. As an adult, she makes up for it by helping as many animals as she can.

β€œI couldn’t be around animals when I was a kid living in town and it has always been a smoldering part of my life,” she said. “It is such a passion for me to get married that with all the knowledge of music my brain is filled.”

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