The Vision in Sound
30 Seconds of Company Logos *Ding*
Firstly a little backstory; the narration that everyone dislikes at the beginnings of film.
Sophie is a rescue.
Found in a colony among discarded shipping crates and pallets. Under 5 months old, dangerously malnourished, weak, and struggling to even stand on her own. The wonderful cat rescue/foster program Florence Area Humane Society was contacted via the veterinary clinic where this small bundle of sadness was deposited to, and her care started immediately. Were it not for the efforts of both their clinic and foster program I would not have this amazing cat in my life.
Oh, I should also mention that Sophia is completely blind.
This story starts, as most do, with loss.
Sophie is not my first catexplorer, that honor goes to a very opinionated female brown tabby cat named (less than creatively) Tabitha.
A stray, lured out from under a dumpster with a piece of chicken. I’m... not even sure that’s hyperbole. Malnourished, chronically underweight, feral, distrustful of humans, eats everything and anything food related.
Over the few years of her in my life, I would always take advantage of her feral side and comfort in the outside world to take her on adventure after adventure. Walks, parks, kayaking, road trips, moving across the country, twice. She was old, a lot older than I thought apparently.
My time with her was cut short, I’m sure her years of living trash can to trash can didn’t help. Her loss rocked me to my core, but I vowed that whatever feline companion I had next, I would make sure had the same opportunities for exploration as she did.
I didn’t want to force it. I knew in my heart that if I went looking for a cat I wouldn’t find the one meant for me.
The next six months of my life were some of the hardest.
I realized that I was one of the lucky ones. I had the skills, equipment and forethought to have decent photographs of Tabs.
Turned that to offering those skills to others.
Pet photography kept me looking for work. Volunteering my services to local shelters as I knew better adoption photos means a better chance of shelter adoptions. At least from an online perspective. Of course this meant I needed to scour the current adoption offerings to see which shelters already had ‘professional’ photo work, and which were done on a 5mpx phone camera. Please, if there are any shelter directors reading this article, please find/hire/become a professional photographer. You are actively doing a disservice to those you are rescuing by not.
It’s during this hunt for terrible photographs I stumble upon an adoption profile for a small kitten, looks strikingly like my beloved Tabitha, just... No eyes.
Like, there aren’t eyes. She never grew eyes.
Her little eyeless gaze in that picture just swallowed my heart whole.
“Enjoy your new cat” -The Universe (probably).
Well let’s try a harness.
So I start trying to acclimate this small eyeless creature to getting dressed in her custom made harness.
It goes well.
Fun fact. Since she can’t see, the outdoors do not scare her with their open spaces and depthless sky.
What does terrify her is the overwhelming torrent of sounds from everything.
Mind you, this is a creature that when playing, pounces on the sound of a feather landing on a carpeted floor. Her ears are that sensitive.
Imagine the sensory overload of all things outdoors. She’s working on it, I’m helping the best I can by picking quiet places for our adventures. Away from the sounds of roads, other people, lawn care. This is all well and good, and I’m sure the techniques for acclimating a feline to the outdoors is well covered by people more knowledgeable than I.
What is different, significantly about Sophia, is her ability to be so in tune with sound.
Sure having her on a lead sitting on my shoulder as we wander about is one thing. I love doing this for her.
I love the looks and interactions we both receive as very confused people finally realize what is happening.
“Oh right, taking your blind cat on a walk through the forest. Perfectly normal activity.” -No One, Ever.
I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t understand her abilities to comprehend the world around her well enough to know. It just doesn’t really feel like I’m taking her to places she enjoys. It’s the “what’s the point” when she can’t see aspect of it all.
That’s a terrible thought, I know, but is it wrong?
I could imagine that taking your blind friend to an art institute to look at famous visual works would be unbearably boring for your sightless friend. Or bringing that same friend with you to a new city would just be stressfully disorienting with all the unfamiliar roads and buildings to navigate by sound and feel alone. However, what about the opera? Or an orchestral performance?
Now I’m not suggesting I take my little companion to anything of that sort, mainly because I don’t trust her to sit still for hours on end without just leaving out of kitten boredom. Also the volume, that might be an issue. So what about different music at home?
One thing that become apparent very early on was that whenever I would play music, via computer, or my old phonographs, or gramophone; Sophie would always creep closer, ears perked.
The enthusiasm of her approach seemed to be dictated by genre as well.
Well, okay then, let’s see if we can’t figure out what she likes to listen to. So this is where the exploration began.
Playing music from all sorts of eras, countries, genres. Styles, tempo, mood, key.
I myself enjoy the vast majority of all music, so this isn’t a narrow selection by any means. From classical piano, Detroit Jazz. The brass horns of the big band era, Scandinavian folk, traditional Japanese. Big hair, rock and roll, Elvis, The Beatles, disco, synthwave, retrowave, Bosa Nova.
The list goes on across time and region.
Everytime there’s something new pumping from the speaker cone her little face will inevitably creep closer, and if she likes it, into the cone itself. She washes herself with the music. Getting so encompassed as to drown out everything else around her.
So what does she like?
Of the selections I’ve had her listen to so far, Frank Sinatra seems to be the top of the list. The combination of the sweeping brass horns coupled with the light baritone voice of that man belting from the reproducer has not failed to garner her full attention.
Second on the list is what can be best described as ‘coffee cafe jazz’, or ‘Japanese cafe jazz’.
She’s not snubbed her nose at anything in that similar vein. Been recently on a kick, binge watching Mad Men. Basically their entire musical selection for the end credits sequence would at times wake her from slumber and have her creeping to the surround sound’s nearest speaker.
This is not to say that there aren’t selections that she dislikes. Russian hardbass results in her observing at a distance, ears perked. However there is a distrust.
Aggressive tones, overly heavy music, she will still listen, but keep her distance.
That’s not to say that I won’t keep exposing her to new and unique music.
Never know, maybe she’ll find a connection to Mongolian throat singing. Or fall in love with the vocals from another singer. Find her bop in a particular discipline of Jazz, or other sound.
I love adding new things to the mix, seeing if I can’t guess what her enjoyment level will be if I know the piece myself.
I have tried those high quality recordings of nature, the sea, ASMR. Yet it never has the same effect as music. It’s got to have a rhythm, a beat, a melody for her to care. At least in my mind it seems that it has to quantify as what we consider music for her to relax into.
So I know that I am going to keep exploring with Sophie.
Physically taking her to new places. Finding a chill coffee shop somewhere to relax and bribe her with creme.
Knowing that yes, she is likely gaining some new experience from being in a different place.
Exploring the other senses she has besides auditory.
Hey, what do I know, maybe different textures under her paws will intrigue her. Perhaps the local smells will draw her attention.
What I do know, however, is that to truly give her the world; it needs to be through music.
About the Author
Sophie’s cat dad is Sunset Specter
Living with my two feline companions Sophie and Pixel. Attempting to go on adventure after adventure. Supporter of the adopt don’t shop movement, rescue cats are the best cats. Supportive of Special needs felines, as, Sophie is 100% blind from birth. Enjoying watching that fact not slow her down.
Photographer, Media Designer, Graphic Design, Marketing and Advertising Copywriter.