Although we know that cats can be trained to do things, in this video you will see a charming cat copying their owner carrying out some relatively complex movements. The owner demonstrates the movement that she wants her cat to do and then asked her cat to do it. The cat carried out the movements correctly 81% of the time. The Japanese woman, Fumi Higaki, is a dog trainer and she turned her skills into training cats.
The method she used is called “do-as-I-do”. She says the command “Do as I do” and then performs the movement. Following that she asks her cat to copy her by saying “Do it”. As you can see, her cat does do it.
It is said that very few animals are able to perform what they describe as the “copy-cat trick”. They say that apes, killer whales, dolphins and dogs have demonstrated the ability to do this but this is the first time they say that a domestic cat has joined that group.
Scientists including animal behaviour expert Claudia Fugazza of the Eötvös Loránd University got involved and they worked with this 11 year old kitty whose name is Ebisu.
They say that this cat has the ability to map different body parts and their movements at least to some extent. They are explaining, I suppose, in a scientific way how people and animals copy the movements of others. They suggest that Ebisu’s ability may “pave the way for future studies addressing cats’ imitative skills”.
Ebisu appears to be a particularly good candidate to carry out this complex task because she loves her food. Therefore she has a high level of motivation because the reward, as you can see, in carrying out the “trick” is a treat. We are told that it took Ebisu five months of training to do what you see in the video.
They observed that Ebisu was able to carry out movements that were not particularly cat-like. I agree that. I think it is this aspect of the video which is the most remarkable. She seems to have simply copied quite accurately the movements of her human guardian. You will see at the end of the video that she carries out a two action movement. Another remarkable revelation.
Sadly, Ebisu has died. She died in early 2019 shortly after demonstrating to the researchers her skills. She died of kidney disease apparently. It is hoped that other cats might be trained in the same way in the future. The research was published in the journal Animal Cognition.
P.S. It hints that cats are more intelligent than some people give them credit for. This video will not surprise many cat lovers and guradians as they know how could cats are at learning skills such as opening doors. That is a form of imitation too. There are numerous examples of domestic cats copying their human guardians. I remember a cat watching boxing on TV. She was copying the boxers. No kidding. This happened years ago and probably predated Ebisu’s story.
Most often cats train their human companions. Think how often it happens but in a very subtle way. If informal training is happening in the home it is more often cat to human than the other way around.