Cat Music

August 14, 2018

“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life – music and cats.”
~ Albert Schweitzer

Did you know that living with a cat can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by more than one third?  Those of us who have cats as family members can attest to the calming and comforting nature of having a feline companion in the house, but this conclusion was the result of research presented in 2008 at a meeting of the American Stroke Association, by scientists at the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Research Center.  The study looked at 4,435 adults between ages 30 and 75, half of whom owned a cat.  Over a 20-year period, those who never owned a cat had a 40% greater risk of death by heart attack and a 30% higher risk of death by stroke.  Even when researchers accounted for other known triggers for heart disease, such as smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes, cat owners still had a greatly reduced chance of developing strokes or heart attacks.  A follow-up study in 2009 confirmed a link between cat companionship and a lower risk of death from heart disease and strokes.

These results indicated that having a cat helps to relieve stress and anxiety, which would protect against heart disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing the heart rate.  I can attest that my cats, Sofia and Folster, have been an invaluable source of comfort and joy for me, especially during stressful times.  In fact, just the simple sound of one of my cats purring can bring a smile to my face and help me to release the worries of the day.

Which is why I like to return the favor by playing music for them.  A musician friend of mine shares his piano compositions with me from time to time.  I had noticed that when played, the musical recordings often inspired my cats to relax, purr and sleep peacefully.

So, when I came upon an article about a classical cellist named David Teie, who had composed music scientifically designed to appeal to cats, I was intrigued.

Mr. Teie (who happens to be allergic to cats) is an accomplished cellist, composer and researcher, who has played with the National Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, and others.  He began writing music for animals in 2003, based on his theory that we respond to music that resembles sounds our developing brains receive in the womb.  For humans, that means that our mother’s resting pulse is a similar pace to the music we find relaxing, and that our favorite instruments, such as the violin, would have a similar range as her voice.  According to Teie’s theory, animals would have slightly different pitches and sounds that would soothe them, depending on their specific voice range and pulse.  His first test of that theory was made with the University of Wisconsin using music he wrote for a colony of monkeys.  The study confirmed his theory and was published in the scientific journal Biology Letters in 2010.

This led Teie to create music that would appeal to cats.  He studied the waveforms of cat purrs in detail and created a new instrument on his computer to mimic the opening and closing of a cat’s vocal cords.  As if working on a feline version of the experimental sounds on the Sgt. Pepper album, Mr. Teie pieced together kitten mewing sounds he duplicated on a violin and raised the pitch to a cat’s preferred listening range, two octaves higher than the average human music.  Eventually, he figured out a way to compose music that would appeal to both cats and humans and Music for Cats was the result.

I first found a YouTube example of a selection from Music for Cats, titled “Katy Moss Catwalk”.  It’s a lovely piece, gentle and calming, which I played for my cats before bed one night.  I enjoyed the piece very much, but the effect on my kitties was profound.  They had been antsy and agitated and, upon hearing the tune, with its purr-like vibration and bird-like whistles, immediately curled up and began to close their eyes and relax.  I found myself playing it regularly to help them settle down, sometimes asking “Do you wanna listen to the kitty music?” (If you are a cat person, my question to them will seem completely normal).

I decided to purchase the CD for myself and for several of my cat-people friends and family.  My cats and I listen often to the various compositions, which I find soothing and relaxing as well.  The most startling reaction was by a friend’s cat who, when we put the music in the CD player, walked slowly towards the stereo, staring intently the entire way, then stood up on his hind legs and put his nose up against the speaker, as if to greet it.  Having investigated to his satisfaction, he walked over to the couch, curled up and promptly took a snooze.

I have embedded the YouTube of “Katey Moss Catwalk” below, so you can listen for yourself.  If you would like to know more about Music for Cats, you can find more info and ways to purchase by clicking here at musicforcats.com

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No ice-cream maker? No problem!  When it comes to cool and creamy treats, Waffle Cone Semifreddo is the cat’s meow.

Waffle Cone Semifreddo
(AKA – Italian-Americone Dream Ice Cream)
If you’re a fan of Ben & Jerry’s Colbert-inspired ice cream flavor “Americone Dream”, you’ll love this creamy, Italian-style frozen treat, filled with chocolate-covered waffle cone pieces.  I used Trader Joe’s new Old Fashioned Waffle Cones for this recipe.  Best of all, no ice cream machine is needed to make this.  It’s a delicious slice of creamy, crunchy-sweet comfort food on a hot day/night, and also makes for an elegant finale to a summer meal.

2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs or 6 yolks
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup crushed waffle cone pieces
(about 2 cones, crushed)
Heaping 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chunks
Optional: caramel sauce, to serve (recipe follows)

You will need two 8″ x 4″ x 2 1/2″ loaf pans, plastic wrap and foil.

 

First, prepare chocolate-covered waffle cone pieces:
Crush waffle cones between plastic wrap or in a plastic zip bag until pieces are in approximately 1/4 inch chunks.  Set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chunks at 20 second intervals, stirring between each, just until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Add waffle cone pieces to bowl with chocolate and stir until pieces are fully coated.  Spread chocolate-covered cone pieces out in a layer on a plate.  Cover with foil and put in freezer to harden.

Make the semi-freddo:

Whisk the eggs with the sugar in a medium bowl until well-combined and lightened in color.

Over medium heat, warm the milk in a small, heavy sauce pan (do not boil).  When the milk just begins to bubble a little, pour the milk very slowly into the egg/sugar mixture, whisking constantly.  Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat slowly until thickened, stirring constantly (mixture will be the consistency of runny pudding).  Stir in the vanilla. Let cool to room temperature.  Cover and chill in fridge for a few hours.

Line loaf pans with plastic wrap.  Set aside.

Remove custard from fridge and chocolate-covered waffle cone pieces from freezer.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks.  Gently fold whipped cream and chocolate-covered waffle cone pieces into the custard until completely combined.  Pour into plastic-lined loaf pans.  Cover with plastic wrap, then foil.  Freeze at least four hours.

To serve:
Remove pans from fridge (or one, depending on how many you are serving at a time).  Remove foil and peel off plastic wrap from top.  Invert semi-freddo out of pan and onto a serving plate and peel plastic from sides.  Cut into slices and serve.

Optional: you can top each slice with purchased or homemade caramel sauce (recipe below).

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Homemade Caramel Glaze

6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the butter, sugars and cream to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Let boil 1 minute without stirring.  Turn off heat and let cool completely, if using for ice cream topping.  For cakes, you can pour it on warm, if desired.  Store in a covered container in fridge.

 

One Response to “Cat Music”

  1. Astrid

    Ahhhhhhh Gina! This was a darling and informative post to read about. What a nice tribute to those two unfailing loves in your life. I am still not a cat person, and have inner terror for most, but I get why people adore them. I do love me some Sofia and Folster though. We have a special bond that has paved the way for me to be more receptive to the cat world. Aho!

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