Gorilla Asks For A Cat Companion

Using sign language, Koko, a well known 230 pound gorilla, asked her sign language teacher, Penny Patterson, for a kitten as a companion for her birthday. The sign Koko used was drawing two of her fingers across her cheek signifying a cat’s whiskers.

The year was 1984 so this is not news by any stretch of the imagination but it is interesting. It is a story that actually touches on that sensitive topic of debate: evolution versus creationism. Darwin versus God. Because Koko really does behave like us.

Koko had indicated an interest in cats well before asking for one by preferring stories about cats that Jenny read to her.


Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Koko was given the opportunity of selecting a kitten from an abandoned litter. She selected a gray male kitten and called him “All Ball”.

Koko handled and treated her kitten as any decent human cat caretaker would and better than most! Koko was deeply saddened when All Ball was run over by a car and killed. Using sign language she told her human companions that she wanted to cry. When asked what had happened to her kitten she signed, “sleep cat” and “cry, sad, frown”.

There was only one thing to do, find another kitten for her. She adopted two, Lipstick and Smoky. One of them is in the picture above, I believe.

You can see the great delicacy with which Koko handles her kitten companions. This is a gorilla that is truly a cat lover. I don’t know how involved Koko was in looking after her kittens.  I wonder if she cleaned the litter and feed them etc.. It would be nice if that was the case.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

8 thoughts on “Gorilla Asks For A Cat Companion”

  1. What a beautiful story I hadn’t read about this before; it has really touched my heart. That gentle giant who could cause such destruction if she wished but all she wanted was a furry little friend.

  2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    Well gorillas are almost human beings, but without speech and without the evil selfish nature of many humans, so it’s not surprising that this one treated those kittens better than many human beings treat the cats in their power.
    Gorillas and other primates have emotions the same as ours and like to live by Nature as was intended.
    It’s terrible that because primates are so like us they are often used in laboratory experiments, they can’t talk of what tortures they go through.
    Which leads to using ANY species of animal for vivisection, they DO all feel pain and fear and they DO know there will be no escape for them apart from death.
    Yet scientists continue to use them and people continue donating money for this cruel research on their very own ‘brothers’ but in diferent forms.

    1. they can’t talk of what tortures they go through..

      Yes, many chimps have spent their entire lives behind bars (imprisoned but not criminals). Only recently have some of the scientists who did this become more decent and understanding. It is shocking, frankly, to think that we locked up these thinking and feeling animals that are so like us for medical research.

  3. I am with Dan – it’s nice to hear a bit of good news in amongst all the bad. It’s actually quite amazing. I’m sure she is much more able to give a cat what it wants because she is more in tune with the cat’s communication and needs anyway. I’m sure we would all profit from some of Koko’s insight and instinctive knowledge. Wouldn’t it be great if she replaced some of the awful people out there who have not concept of caretaking or the value of an animal – or even know that they are themselves animals in the sense that they were not put on this earth to take and leave whatever they so please from nature (which they no doubt believe they should and do control). Ok so I wont get grumpy today when there’s no reason 🙂

    1. I’m sure she is much more able to give a cat what it wants because she is more in tune with the cat’s communication and needs anyway

      She seems more gentle than many people, despite the huge disparity in strength between her and the kitten. And, yes, a gorilla will automatically be more in tune with nature than the blessed human.

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