Rabbit the stray seemed to know which humans would help him out.
The street-savvy cat would wait in front of a convenience store, sitting patiently on the sidewalk until he saw a person who would give him a smile or a pat on the head. Then, with Kitty Mind Control Mode enabled, he’d lead his new human minion into the store, guide them to the pet food aisle, and point to his favorite food.
Here’s video of Rabbit in action:
When I saw this, my reaction was sadness: From his familiarity with people to his preference for store-bought cat food, Rabbit was clearly someone’s pet, either lost or abandoned. He’d faced hardship. He was skinny, his snow white fur was dirty, and there was only a stump where his tail should have been.
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending.
Tania Lizbeth Santos Coy Tova, a 33-year-old teacher who lives in Mexico, had encountered Rabbit a few times before. She decided to ask about the cat.
“Every time he came to the store, we greeted each other and did the same, he guided me to the shelf and chose the food he wanted,” she said.
From a story in UK’s Metro:
The managers of the store explained to Tania that the stray always did the same thing with customers. He understood specific hours and waited until a kind passerby would take pity on him and purchase some food.
Santos Coy Tova wanted to see if Rabbit had a home, so she and a friend followed the friendly cat after encountering him one day. When Santos Coy Tova saw the little guy return to an abandoned house, she decided he’d be coming home with her.
For those of us interested in animal intelligence — and feline smarts in particular — this story is fascinating.
Rabbit knew where cat food was purchased, was good enough at reading human body and facial language to reliably find friendly people who were willing to help, and he knew which package his favorite food came in. In addition, he knew that pointing to the package would draw a person’s attention to it.
He wouldn’t have been able to pull that off without the ability to plan ahead and think in the abstract. He also understood the food had to be purchased, or at least that a human had to get it for him. In the video he doesn’t just leap up at the package and take it, he points and looks back toward his person. That also shows he possesses theory of mind, that he understands humans and other animals have a subjective point of view.
This isn’t happening in a research lab environment, true, but it never could have. These are a unique set of circumstances showing cats understand more than they let on — a lot more.