OK. I've been holding back for quite a while, but...my orange-and-white, long-haired, part-Maine-Coon Cat Copper has decided that he is part dog. He demonstrated this by offering behaviors he learned through observing
my two Bernese Mtn. Dogs.
Copper has lived here since July 2008, when I brought him home as a medical fosterling from the humane society and then adopted him. Totally sweet (and scary smart!) kitty, an incredible cuddle bug, etc.
He evidently watched carefully, over some months, as Vergil and Vesta would Sit or Down while I was making dinner and get little bits of what I was cooking: veggies, rice, whatever. He watched carefully as I made doggie breakfast (kibble + cheese, b/c Vesta was low weight) and made the dogs Sit for their bowls.
Came the day that Copper decided that it paid to be a Dog. I was ready to feed the dogs their dinner (usually partly home-cooked food and partly $$ canned dog food, but sometimes all home-cooked) and called, "Dogs, Come!" to the thunder of two Bernese Mtn. Dogs running up the stairs into the kitchen.
AND the sight of Copper running from the front of the house into the kitchen.
He had long played with Vergil, as a cat will tease a dog ("Ha, ha, I can bat at your tail and you can't do anything about it!"), and lain down on the floor next to him very buddy-like, but this was a new behavior. I was confronted with THREE quadrupeds offering me competition-quality Sits.
How to reward Copper for his voluntary Come *and* his Sit? Ah.
The canned food du jour had big chunks of chicken in it, so I fished one out and gave it to him, saying, "Good Copper! What a good Sit!" and so on, ad nauseam.
Since then, Copper has learned what the "other dogs" know: to beg for food, one must offer a perfect Sit, stay quiet, and not bat at me (well, for him, he may touch me gently with one paw). If done right, small tidbits of meat or cheese will come from above. For the "other dogs," the tidbits usually are tossed into their bowls.
For Copper, because I wanted to shape an entirely new behavior intentionally
, I held the reward in my fingers and waited for him to try and take it with his teeth. I wiggled the chicken a little and he tried to bite down. He got the chicken! I let him eat it. He can now gently and securely take cheese, chicken, or meat bits from my fingers less than half an inch away from those fingers, when in the beginning he had no idea what I wanted.
Now he's quite good at the Sit/Take It game. My sister visited in early August (the same day that Vergil went down with general paralysis....) and I demo'd Copper's Sit/Take It sequence. Copper tried to bat the cheese out of my hand before doing his Sit. I motioned and instructed him to SIT, and he backed down and did his Sit, Taking the cheese very politely. DSis was stunned to see a cat, any cat, back down from wanting to take food.
*This* is why I call him a "scary smart" cat. He acts like a cat or a dog, depending on what's more advantageous at the time. And he hasn't made a mistake yet....