This Cat Has His Own Shtick; Sylvester Doesn't Mind Doing Tricks

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan, Staff writer

Sylvester calmly walks up to the cabinet, hooks his paw around the edge of the wooden door, pops it open and grabs for the snack inside.

A few minutes later, his owner, David Grimes, points a finger at his furry companion, snaps and says "Bang!"

On cue, Sylvester falls flat on his black-and-white back, until another snack comes his way.

Suffering succotash -- sounds like an episode of David Letterman's Stupid Pet Tricks, with a canny canine reacting to all the right cues. Except this fuzzy thespian is a cat who acts like a dog.

"No one has ever seen a cat that has done what he has done, and he is just a year old," said Grimes, who lives on County Road 13 in Basshaven, in northern St. Johns County. "So far, I haven't tried anything he hasn't picked up."

It is unusual for a cat to do dog-like tricks, said Rita Davis, executive editor of Cats & Kittens magazine in North Carolina. It all depends on their personality, she said.

"Cats are very clever. They can get out of anything or get into anything," she said. "I have received stories on cats that do clever things, not to the extent that this man has trained this cat . . . It takes a lot of focus and dedication."

Grimes says he and his wife have had a number of cats over the years, but were feline-less when they adopted a 2-month-old kitten from the St. Johns County Humane Society in June. Suffering from a cold, the kitten spent a lot of the first few weeks sprawled on a comfy rug, sneezing a bit. He didn't show any special acting talent until he was 6 months old and Grimes pulled out a new can of cat treats.

"I told him the only way you will get one of these treats is if you talk to me," he said. "He started going 'Meow,' so I gave him a treat. Everybody thought that was cute, and my wife asked what I would teach him next. I said, 'Play dead.' "

Grimes started gently pushing his cat to a supine position while snapping his fingers. Soon, he found he could snap his fingers, point at the cat and say "bang," and Sylvester would slowly roll over on his back and play dead. …