In New York City, there is an animal behaviorist named Kristiina Wilson who has been working with felines for over 2 decades. She also has nine cats herself, including Steve, who seems to have some special abilities.
Steve was a kitten of a feral cat named Wilson. Kristiina spoke with PEOPLE, saying, that he “came out exactly how he is now.” She continued, saying, “He was clearly a very special dude, very different and very awake, and he ended up staying here and ruling the house.”
Steve is now eleven and it’s apparent that it’s never too late to teach an old cat a new trick. It seems as if the feline communicates with Wilson using a soundboard of oversized buttons. The buttons play sounds of Wilson speaking words when they are pressed, such as “eat” and “outside.” Steve steps on the buttons to ask for what he wants.
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“During COVID, my master’s thesis work got shut down, and I was just sitting around bored,” Wilson said, according to PEOPLE. “I downloaded TikTok and I saw some animals using the buttons, and was like, ‘Oh, I bet Steve could do this. Let’s mess with it,'” she explained.
It typically takes animals about a month to learn how to use the buttons, but Steve was able to learn them in only 4 days. Wilson told PEOPLE that Steve is not a cat, he’s a person dressed up like a cat. It seems as if Steve knows exactly what he wants and he’s not afraid to ask for it.
So far, the other 8 cats in the household have not learned how to master the buttons. But, Wilson believes that they understand what the buttons are, and when Steve presses one, they all react accordingly.
Steve can be found on his Instagram account at @thedailysteveb and @theboredbehaviorist, as well as @StinkTok on TikTok, where his daily antics are chronicled. He communicates constantly, asking for food, catnip, snuggles, and some out time.
“I started off with the ‘outside’ button because going outside is his highest motivator,” PEOPLE reported Wilson saying. “He just loves to be outside. He sits out there and stares at birds and screams at people.”
Steve also seems to be fond of the snuggle button. According to Wilson, he is the most affectionate cat she has ever met. New buttons were also recently introduced for “lady” and “kittynip.”
Wilson learned that modeling is the process used to teach a cat how to use the buttons. According to Yahoo!, she said, “You record the button with your voice saying the thing -in this instance, let’s say catnip. You make sure they’re watching you hit the button with your foot, then you do the action it represents. So you hit ‘catnip’, take the catnip out, and give them the catnip.”
You just continue to give them what they want when they hit a button until they understand the correlation. “Whenever you’re responding to them, you also repeat the modeling. So if he asks for catnip and then I give him catnip, I hit ‘catnip’ again while I’m giving it to him to reinforce what that button is for,” Wilson explained according to Yahoo!.
Although it’s interesting, it’s not the same as talking. After all, Steve really doesn’t speak English. Wilson said to PEOPLE: “This is associative concept learning. It’s not speech. It’s basically like ringing a bell on a door to go outside.”
The buttons are not only interesting, but they also encourage people to spend more time with their pets and to think about how smart they are. As if we didn’t know already.
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