This Lifelong Composer Makes Music to Calm Your Pets


  • Janet Marlow is a performer and composer with a unique audience: pets. 
  • Marlow began making music for animals 20 years ago after realizing she could calm her pets with it.
  • Doing so helps Marlow pair a love of animals with “all the music knowledge my brain is filled with.”

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

Then, two decades ago, the Marlow began creating work for a new audience: pets. 

Marlow began creating pet-centric music when she noticed that her pets sat by her side as she practiced, and that they enjoyed it. Marlow began studying how sound influences animal behaviors and used her expertise as a musician to compose 150 tracks to help alleviate stress in pets, which she releases through her business Pet Acoustics.

For pet owners, managing their fur-friends’ anxiety can be stressful and expensive. About 51% of dog and cat owners use some type of calming product, according to the 2021-2022 American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey. Pet-calming products range from medication to toys, calming treats, collars, and shirts.

As life returns to quasi-normal after COVID-19 lockdowns, owners worry about their pets’ separation anxiety after spending so much time together. That makes pet calming — and Marlow’s musical approach — more important than ever.  

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

Janet Marlow.

Courtesy of Janet Marlow


“Music is a substance, and it has a profound influence of moving biological cells through vibrations,” she said. “The excitement for me is that I can take all the knowledge I have about music and sectionalize it to be specific to the need of biology and influence it in a positive way for health.” 

In 1997, Marlow, who calls herself a “sound behaviorist,”  began researching sound and its effects on the behavior of animals. Specifically, she explores the biology of how sound impacts animals and the behavioral response to the vibrations produced by sound. Her scientific studies are peer-reviewed and published in veterinary science publications, and the findings highlight the positive effects of playing species-specific music.

Using information on the hearing range of specific animals, Marlow composes and digitally modifies music within a comfort listening zone for each species’ range of hearing. Her latest piece, Equine Relax Trax, is designed specifically for horses. Horses are incredibly susceptible to stress, which leads to costly gastrointestinal problems. This particular track is a combination of rhythms that never exceeds the decibel level comfortable to horses.

“On the racetrack, 90% of horses have ulcers, and 75% to 80% of performance horses do 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 much different than for people. One reason is that the human brain absorbs sound and analyzes it spatially, recognizing the drummer and the guitarist, other instruments, and vocals separately. That doesn’t happen for animals. Marlow said animals hear music in its entirety, and within a second, decide on a behavioral response.

“We’re analytical, and animals are physical,” she said. “In horses, this is where the instinctive flight or fight reactions come in.”

Janet Marlow making a music track on her computer.

Janet Marlow.

Courtesy of Janet Marlow


Marlow said creating music is similar to baking a chocolate layer cake. Each sound selected is within the exact hearing range of each animal. She begins arranging by making sure each track doesn’t go above or below a specific decibel level. She listens to each note of the tune to ensure it follows a pattern based on a range of modifications that follow the proprietary frequency range she developed.

After arranging, she digitizes the music and confirms that it doesn’t go above a certain level, which would trigger pressure in that animal’s ear. For horses, she’s taken studies a step further and is currently studying which instruments in particular the species finds calming.

“People who think classical music is boring assume it’s calming to their animals, and that’s not true,” she said. “Composing music that is within the comfort zone of each of these animals helps them feel calm and unstressed.”

As a child, Marlow wasn’t allowed to have pets of her own. As an adult, she’s making up for it by helping as many animals as she can.

“I couldn’t be near animals as a child living in the city and this was always a smoldering part of my life,” she said. “It’s such a passion of mine to marry that with all the knowledge of music my brain is filled with.”



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