I know that when dogs or horses are needed for parts in TVs or movies, there are lots available (with trainers). Dogs and horses are highly trainable so it’s easy to elicit the desired behaviour (“performance”).
Cats are not so easily trainable. But sometimes I see them in TVs or movies, and they are behaving (performing) appropriately to the scene. Are they just a special breed of highly trainable cats? Are they computer-assisted special effects? Or is there lots of sitting around on the set waiting for the cat to randomly carry out the desired performance?
Just because you can’t grab a random cat and train it to do something on command doesn’t mean all cats are untrainable. You just have to go through a lot of cats to find the right one that will do what you want.
In a bygone era, there were cat herders. (The classic EDS “Cat Herders” ad from a few years ago.)
There are people who train cats, look at Seigfried and Roy, those were just big cats. Okay, so they don’t always do what you want but it is possible. You just have to pick your cats carefully and it’s probably best to start young. Or you can take a behavior they already do and condition them to do it on command.
I had one of our cats at work sort of trained to give a high five. After he reached up to touch the palm of my hand with his paw once, I kept working on him to get him to repeat the action. He has to be sitting on something where he is at least waist high to you and you put your hand in the air just above his head he would reach up to touch it. Other staff saw me doing it and started doing it as well. Unfortunately, we must of gotten out of the habit because he doesn’t do it as much as he used to.
It’s not that hard to train a cat, as long as it can pay attention and is motivated by treats. I trained one of our cats to sit and stay and she still does it, without even getting treats.
I once watched a cat documentary where they were training a cat to ignore a parakeet for a commercial (it must have been pre CGI). The trainer used lots of repetition and positive reinforcement with liberal treats. Every so often, the cat would snap and grab the parakeet and the trainer would patiently remove the parakeet (a real one which was kinda cruel to the parkeet) from its jaws and start again. It looked like it was not too hard to train a cat to do one thing but very difficult to get it to do a series of tricks.
I once saw a TV show about animal wrnaglers for the movies and they demonstrated a training sequence with a cat. Bright cats that like to learn are pretty good at tricks.
My late cat, Lenny, had a repertoire of tricks he’d do if there was a treat to be had as a reward. Lenny liked to learn new things and was eager to please. it depends very much on the animal’s disposition, how much they like to be engaged, and if they like intellectual stimulation.
My other cat, Squiggy, is utterly useless and it took half a year just for the moron to learn his name.
A training clicker and cheezy poofs led to Lenny’s more complicated tricks (turning on a desk lamp and walking in a figure 8).
It helps if the trick you want the cat to do is one the cat likes doing. If you have a bunch of similar-looking cats that can do a variety of things, you just have to pick the right cat for the occasion.
For some reason, (and finding nothing online to back it up) I seem to recall that Data’s pet cat on STNG was played by at least two cats, one that was active and would run around, and a more lethargic one that could be handled for many takes in a row.
Way back when, I read an article (TV Guide?) about a sequence in the old “Mission Impossible” show. What appeared to be one cat doing several things in a row was in fact several identical cats, each having a specialty. E.g., one was trained to run along the top of a pipe.
The trainer just collected a bunch of cats that looked as similar as possible. Trained each one to do one thing. Then when a call went out for trained cats, he went to the producers and ran thru a scenario of what the cats might do in the sequence.
It would seem that training cats to do something for a TV show requires too much planning ahead for production schedules, so presumably a lot of “canned” routines are adapted.
In Key West there is a guy named Dominique LeFort who has a daily show with trained housecats. He has them walking tightropes, jumping through hoops (even flaming ones!), and that sort of thing.
I believe most of the cats are pound rescue ones and are trained with a lot of love and patience. If you Google Key West Cat Chow there are YouTube videos of his cats performing.
Cats can be trained. You just have to convince them that they want to be trained.
[Yakov Smirnov] In Soviet Russia (or my house), cat trains you![/YS] I’ve been trained to open the door to the screened patio on command, and to fill the food bowls on command. And I’m really good at the Being a Cat Bed trick, too. And Petting In Just The Right Place–I’m good at that one, too.