I first came across the story of Sullivan and his sister Sarah, two 15-year-old formerly feral Maine Coon cats from Greenwich, NY, in the December 2011 issue of CatFancy. According to the article, these cats have learned to identify shapes, colors, and numbers. They can even grasp abstract concepts such as same or different and bigger or smaller.
Joan Kosby, Sullivan and Sarah’s human, was inspired by psychology professor and animal cognition expert Irene Pepperberg, who worked with Alex, an African Grey Parrot, and taught him many of these same skills. Kosby used repetition and rewarded the cats with food treats and praise.
I had to go see for myself, and came across a whole series of videos showing Sullivan (the more outgoing of the two cats) in action. Here are just a few:
Introduction to Sullivan:
Sullivan identifies shapes and colors:
Sullivan knows numbers and says good-bye”
For more videos of Sullivan, please visit his YouTube channel.
Have you trained your cats do to “tricks” like these? Please share your stories in a comment!