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Cruel or smart?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I was on holiday in Florida recently, and I went to see a show which had lots of animals in it, including cats. These cats where running across the stage on que, pressing levers to open doors, one walked accross a tightrope......

I was impressed, but also wondered, is it cruel? It's not natural behaviour, but usually, if a cat doesn't want to do something, they just won't?

They said they got all their cats from shelters, and chose ones which were food motivated, which made it easier to train.

I met one of the cats afterwards, and she felt quite skinny. :-( the lady with her was rewarding her with treats all the time.

The cat was so good though she stayed right by her trainer. How is it possible to do this? A regular cat would just run right off the stage.....

Does anyone know much about this?
post #2 of 6
I was fortunate to see the Friskies cat team perform in San Diego in 2001 & was impressed with the cats. Like show cats, there are some cats with celebrity hearts
I would worry if the skinny cat was kept underfed, to give her extra incentive to perform for the treats. I can only hope & pray that it is not so.
Maybe you could check with the local humane society on their take....
post #3 of 6
hmm, it does seem unnatural for a kitty, but I think some cats might enjoy that sort of thing because it could be like a fun game for them. My cat Cloudo would probably love it He loves playing fetch with hair-ties and playing with the laser pointer.

But like catsknowme said, I hope the skinny kitty was not being underfed Hopefully all the cats are treated like kings and queens and that they enjoy doing it.
post #4 of 6
As I understand such training (and heaven knows I'm no expert), you can only train an animal to do something that it can and might do naturally, and develop that behavior into something more impressive. My mother knew an animal trainer who trained both cats and dogs, and he told her the cats were easier to train, if you could get them motivated.

I suspect being a little skinny is the natural outgrowth of the cat's background, as well as the vigorous training.
post #5 of 6
Positive association is a common training technique where a target behavior is paired with a food reward. When the animal repeats the desired behavior a treat is given. Cats are very smart animals and catch on very quickly. Do a search on YouTube for cats and clicker training. You'll see cats do some amazing things.

PS I read an article in the December issue of Cat Fancy about the Key West cats. They mentioned a cat show, where all the cats were strays running about the island.
post #6 of 6
In a healthy cat weight, you're actually supposed to be able to feel ribs. Plus some breeds of cats are just thinner... and cats that get a lot of exercise are going to be lean. If you saw the trainers giving lots of treats, then I doubt the cats were underfed. It just wouldn't be necessary for training... my cat can be full but still run across the room for a treat.
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