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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pavlov's Cat

Most people are familiar with Pavlov's Dog. A million years ago, some old guy with nothing better to do teased dogs with food and non-food and then measured how much they drooled. He then realized that drooling wasn't dependent on the presence of food - the dogs were being conditioned to anticipate the food based on the appearance of the scientists. It's the whole conditioned stimulus and response thing and it somehow resulted in dogs drooling whenever they heard a metronome.

Today I am going to tell you about Pavlov's Cat.

His name is Rusty and his conditioned stimulus is the sound of our security system chiming to indicate that it is being turned on or off. And he doesn't drool - he goes running for the door that leads to the screened porch. I believe it has reached the point of being a conditioned response; I'm not even sure he realizes he's doing it.

We didn't train him this way on purpose. We all know that you can't deliberately train a cat to do anything. But most mornings, Joe wakes up, goes downstairs, turns off the alarm and lets Rusty out on the screened porch as long as it's not too cold. We haven't had much of a winter this year but it's been too cold to leave that door open or even cracked most days. And this leaves a certain Rusty-kitty literally (and you can trust me on "literally" because it's one of my pet peeves when people use it incorrectly) SCREAMING for his porch.

Joe's more generous with opening the porch door than I am. This girl gets cold too easily! So with Joe gone, Rusty is experiencing extreme withdrawls.

But it hasn't changed his response. Any time I change the alarm status, I can count on hearing "DING DING DING" followed by "Ka-THUMP (kitty jumps off bed) badump badump badump (kitty runs for the door)." If only I could condition him to something useful. Like fetch me a coffee. Or wash the dishes. I'd put up with a little cold air for that!


JosephAlsarraf said...

Lol! I just had a mental picture of a cat doing dishes. I agree having to constantly open and close the door for a cat can get annoying. : )

Melinda (Sew-Lin) said...

Poor Rusty misses his hang out. If you find a way to train him to do chores that would be awesome. I want to train the pugs to do something, but they have selective hearing and can only hear me talk when they think food might be present.

TMC said...

Cats do like their routines, don't they?

C. Beth said...

Hammer is very similar. There are multiple cues that tell him that it's bedtime (time to get in his crate.) It's always funny to us if we, for instance, turn off the TV, and he runs straight to the closet where his crate is kept.

Toriz said...

LOL! Silly Rusty!

You can teach cats some things, actually. The level of what can be taught depends on the nature of the cat, though the general rule is that where as dogs will do what they can just for praise, cats need to know for sure there will be something in it for them (food is a good kitty motivation tool). My cats, for example, could all "sit" and "beg" on command, though Sakura - who thought she was queen of the universe - would only do so if she saw something in my hand she wanted. And the cats used to go on walks with me (of their own choosing) and where as Sakura had the sense to hide in the nearest tree if a dog was coming near Megan didn't, so when I saw Sakura jump in a tree I'd say, "Megan... Come," then tap my shoulder and say, "up," and she'd come running to me and jump up on my shoulder where I could keep her safe from the approaching dogs.

vivinfrance said...

Why don't you get a catflap?

restlessjo said...

Heading for the Algarve to "warm up" today so tried to advance input 6WS- no deal!
Never mind, I'm back in time for next weeks.

Annelie said...

I understand, Rusty. I've missed my summer hang out all winter too :)

Over here, I think it's Baby Cat training me. The other day he jumped up at me from the floor, expecting me to catch him mid air. I did, & now he does this every day. Husband asked if I trained him to do this trick.
"No. He trained me to do this trick."
Sad, but true.

Knocked Up in Bama said...

Cats learn what they want to learn...that's why I think women love them. :)

Simon knows that when my alarm goes off, it's time for me to get my lazy butt out of bed and feed him. If I hit snooze, I get a paw to the face. Second snooze? That's a paw/toe/claw wiggling in my ear. Anything past that, and I think he'd assume I was dead and eat my body, so I don't chance it. ;)

Susan said...

That was so cute, I can picture a cat racing for the door! LOL.

Mim said...

This is so funny! I can just picture the cat loving his routine.

Stephanie M. Hasty said...

this story is just too hilarious...poor kitty :P

Andrea said...

I agree with one of your followers ... cats train us. I have multiple tricks I perform for my cats, like getting up at 7:00AM (I'm retired so you would think I could sleep in once and awhile), feeding at exactly 5:00PM. And the dog rings bells, not just to go out for business ... to go out and come in to her usual little treat. This is bad in the winter when it takes me 15 minutes to put on all of my layers. So your story hit home ... I loved it.
Andrea@From the Sol