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View Full Version : Thoughts on training my cat to find my keys? (via Temple Grandin)


Brian Link
January 20th 07, 01:48 AM
Temple Grandin got me thinking in her latest book "Animals in
Translation". She talks about the concept that animals are like
autistic savants - in that they can learn some human social behavior,
but retain incredible talents linked to their heightened senses and
different concoiousnesses. I think she may have said herself in that
excerpt, though I don't have the book on hand atm, that maybe animals
could help us find our car keys as a speculative notion. Certainly
dogs can sniff out cancer, and tell an epileptic when they're about to
have a seizure. Cats are no slouches, though they're not nearly as
domesticated as modern dogs.

Thinking about cats in particular - what are they really good at?
Among other things, they have a heightened sense of smell. They see in
different spectra than we do. They are hyper-sensitive about any
change in their environments. They respond more to food rewards as
opposed to dogs responding more to social rewards.

I've been working with Louis, our Bengal - though I suppose the older
moggie Tiger may be better suited for this - in associating "Keys"
with his favorite treat, Bonito flakes. Right now he at least notices
that when I jangle my keys, it's time to play the game, and
down-shifts to his "I WANT" meow when he hears them.

Louis does find my keys now, but only when I jangle them and look at
them while saying "keys" (I don't do this with anyone else home atm).
As a dilletante cat-trainer, I don't know what he's thinking during
this game - I'd like him to eventually think about the keys wherever
they are, but he may be thinking "jangle! That means FISH FLAKES!" or
"Brian's using that high-pitched voice that he uses when I get FISH
FLAKES!"

I'm sure many of you are aware of the Youtube video of a fellow
clicker-training his cat to flip a switch
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s07oq9ntqaw if you haven't - really
fun to watch). Have any of you trained cats?

Any ideas on this weird theory would be appreciated. What I think the
cats have going for them in the car-keys situation is that

a) if you put the keys down somewhere else than normal, they're more
likely to take note of that
b) keys make special tinkly sounds, associated with us leaving the
house or coming back home, part of the symphony of sounds of putting
on coat, putting on shoes, turning the lock at the front door, etc.
Nonetheless, a very important event for a cat.
c) I'm sure individual sets of car-keys have a unique smell - perhaps
not discernable to cats.

Louis finds his toys when it's time to play, wherever they are in the
house.

Personally, I think if someone could train a cat this way, and be able
to repeat the training regimen, that they'd be millionaires. Just
think of saying "Kitty, where are my KEYS?" and having little Puff
trot back with them in her mouth.

Anyway, thanks for any info.

BLink
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"The worst thing about censorship is [redacted]"

Brian Link
January 20th 07, 01:50 AM
Re the clicker trained light switch cat..

I just re-watched the video and realized that Zimba is likely a
Bengal. Sorry to diss the breed for any Bengal fans.. =)

BLink
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"The worst thing about censorship is [redacted]"