Ebisu is the first cat in the world that's an actual copycat. Researchers have discovered that the fluffy feline can copy the actions of her owner.
Dogs, rats and orangutans have already demonstrated their ability to replicate human behaviour, but researchers believe this is the first time for a cat. While people mainly regard cats as being antisocial and solitary, the study reveals that they are watching and learning from us all the time.
Pet see, pet do
The study came about after Claudia Fugazza spent the last ten years studying dog cognition using "do as I do" training. This is where a dog trainer tells a dog to "do as I do" by demonstrating a movement, then saying "do it" to the dog. The trainer rewards the dog for successfully replicating their actions, so eventually, the dog learns that "do it" equals "copy me".
Claudia was working with another dog trainer, Fumi Higaki, in Japan when Fumi revealed she'd used the "do as I do" method to train Ebisu, her 11-year-old moggy. Fumi showed Claudia that Ebisu was able to imitate familiar actions such as biting a rubber string and opening a plastic drawer.
She then asked her cat to copy two new behaviours. First, she demonstrated touching a box with her hand, then she bent down and rubbed her face on the box.
A further 16 experiments saw Ebisu accurately copy Fumi's actions over 81% of the time, showing that the cat was able to map her owner's body parts onto her own anatomy.
While it's hoped that there will be more studies like this with cats, sadly they won't include Ebisu, who has now passed away from kidney disease. However, the research with Ebisu is an essential step in finding new ways to understand our feline friends, who are notoriously hard to study.
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