Aitchison Daily Globe, Feb 4th, 1888
The natural acrobatic power of cats is practically unlimited, and the flexibility of their limbs astounding. The playful antics of kittens are a never failing source of delight to lovers and observers of animals. They have amused men like Frederick The Great, Voltaire and Franklin, and the most serious mind may find relaxation by watching a kitten at play. Our cut demonstrates the well-known fact that with skill and patience the docility as well as agility of cats can be developed to a remarkable degree. The tight rope performance shown in the illustration took place not long ago in a Paris cat show. The cats walked across the rope, carrying their natural prey of mice and birds on their heads and backs, as well as carefully stepping over these objects on their way, not once offering to hurt or even touch them. It ought to be explained that the white mice used on this occasion, as well as the little canaries, had been previously trained to sit quite still during the performance.
The third cat in the illustration shows acquired courage in a usually timid animal The trainer holds a wire hoop with burning tow wrapped around it. At a given signal the cat, true to her training, takes a short run and jumps boldly through the blazing circle.
The domestic cat has always been credited with a large share of intelligence, but there is perhaps no animal which so soon loses its cultivation. Neglect of proper feeding or attention will often cause them to depend on their own resources, and the tasting of some wild and living food will tempt them to seek it again, to leave their civilized home and return apparently to a state completely wild.
PERFORMING CATS - THINGS THEY DO AND HOW THEY WERE TAUGHT
The twelve cats comprising the troupe which made their debut the other evening at the Canterbury and paragon Music Halls, are one more instance of the extraordinary results that may be achieved by a trainer who thoroughly understands his business; and when it is mentioned that in addition to walking along a row of champagne bottles, the corks of which are supplanted by stoppers with a flat surface somewhat larger than a crown piece, jumping through ignited hoops, ascending and descending a good-sized pole temporarily erected in the centre of the stage, walking on a tight-rope, first without any obstruction thereon and later on picking their way gingerly across the same, taking the greatest care not the ruffle the serenity or alarm the susceptibilities of certain rats, mice and canaries, place at intervals along the same, to say nothing of other minor efforts in various directions, it will be admitted that the "Professor" has something to be proud of.
I found the Professor (says a correspondent who has interviewed him) in the small yard at the rear of the hall engaged in supervising the morning toilet and general comfort of the feline members of his troupe, and at once announced my desire of learning as much of his "system" as he felt disposed to communicate. "I may tell you at once," he said, "that the idea of training cats to perform in public as mine do did not originate with myself, although I am, I believe, correct in saying that beyond these you see before you there is at present only one other similar troupe in existence, and they are just now being exhibited on the Continent by Prof. Bonnette, who came out some 12 months ago; and it was from him and some four months later that I got the idea, and set about training a similar troupe on my own account.
"These cats," I said, "do not give me the impression of being 'quite English, you know'" "No, they are not, not one of them; I was with a circus in Madrid when I formed the idea of having a troupe as an extra attraction, and I got all my cats there. Most of them are from the Angora breed, but I don't see why the British cat should not do as well as a foreigner, and I am going to experiment on one or two very shortly."
"Had you any difficulty in getting them?" "Not the slightest. I could have double the number if I wanted, and as a matter of fact I have had upward of 20 altogether; one or two have died, and the rest proved useless for training, but all these (12) are as good as i can desire."
"Most of them appear young." "Yes; the oldest is only 2 years old, or rather more, perhaps; and the youngest not above 3 months; he does not do much yet, but he will be as good as either of them in another month or two."
"What age do you prefer to have them at for training purposes?" "It really does not matter much. I have had them as young as 8 or 9 weeks, and as old as one-and-a-half years. That one there - pointing to a well-conditioned light tabby - is one of my best. Boneta, I call him, and next to Mims (a tortoiseshell.) He does the pole trick, the most difficult thing of all to teach; and yet, although Boneta was a year older than Mims when i had him, I don't know that he wasn't the easier of the two to train. Taken all round, I should say about six months old is the best time to begin training at. of course, it is a s well to have them younger, so as to get them thoroughly well-accustomed to you."
"And how do you set about training the, may I ask?" "First of all I get them used to me as fond of me are they are capable of being, (which is not saying much, for I don't believe cats have any real affection whatever,) and having done this the rest follows easily enough by degrees. You mustn't expect to do it all at once, but any cat of average intelligence can be trained to do almost anything in nine or ten weeks. Feeding and coaxing does it. If you attempt to resort to harsh measures it is all U.P. They turn sulky directly."
"What is the first trick you teach them?" "To sit up and beg, and then feed them when they do it well; then creeping through the chairs and gradually walking over the backs, and so on. When they have once begun to learn and find they get bits of meat when they do a trick neatly, they give very little trouble after."
"What about the rats, mice, &c? Do your cats appear antagonistic to them at first?" "Not a bit. I have had a cat that has been taught to walk the rope the first time the mice or rats have been put on, just to knock them off with her feet so as to get them out of her way, but not show the slightest desire to hurt them; and the same way with the birds. One of the greatest difficulties I have to encounter is to teach them (the cats) to lift their feet up so as not to upset the rats or birds."
"And the rats, birds, &c, do they mind?" "Not a bit; they don't take the slightest bit of notice of the cats so long as they don't tread on them. They are not the least afraid; in fact it is a case of neutrality on both sides."
"And the pole trick; how do you manage that?" "Well as a rule that is the most difficult thing of all. You see a cat may be made to go up a little way, say; and there she sticks, won't go up or come down; and you can't do anything in the same way as you could if they are performing on the chairs or the tight-rope, where you can reach them. of course, there is always a bit of meat at the top of the pole; otherwise they would not go up at all; and even with this inducement they usually make a great fuss, especially the coming down head-first."
"Have you ever had a cat fly at you?" "No, I can't say I have; they have given me some nasty scratches before now, as well as bites, but I don't mind that. if they turn sulky I let them alone, coercion is no good in their case, and force is not remedy. You must just let them have their sulk out, and then start again."
"Do you consider cats easy to tame or otherwise?" "Most decidedly otherwise. I have trained all sorts of animals and birds, and, next to a goat, (which is, I verily believe, the most obstinate creature in the world to instil an idea into,) cats most certainly are entitled to a second place. You can never get them to take an interest in their work; they do it, and do it well enough generally, but they do not take a pride in what they do like a horse or a dog - that's the point."
THE DIFFICULTY OF TRAINING CATS.
The Westminster Budget, March 15, 1895
Mr. Leoni Clarke, who has just finished an engagement at the Empire at Birmingham, has to carry round the country with him (says the Mail) quite a menagerie of cats and rats and birds and mice. Although thirty cats are sufficient for his entertainment, he has sixty or more with him, for cats are very skittish creatures, and when they take the whim into their heads it is useless to take them on the stage, Mr. Clarke has trained all sorts of animals, from lions downwards, and he says the most difficult of them all is the cat. He has to treat them with extraordi¬nary care. A dog is sensible, a monkey accom¬modating, and a rat either forgives or forgets — but a cat ! She is a hopeless bundle of sensibilities. Strike her once, if only by accident, and she will never perform again.
Kindness is not only politic, it is absolutely neces¬sary, in the train¬ing of cats. When Mr. Clarke enters the stable the mewing is pro¬digious, and he is instantly buried in a moving mantle of cats. It took him four years to train some of his animals before he could put them upon the stage. The parachute cat, which climbs up a rope to the roof of the theatre and flies down by parachute, is the second which has done the trick. The first became too fat, and fell into bad ways. It is now Jim Corbett, and boxes Mitchell nightly. A curious feature of the show is the way in which the cats walk over a rope of rats and mice and canaries, stepping gingerly between the little fluttering bodies. This mighty forbearance is brought about by training up the cats from kittens in the same cage as the rats and birds. There are only six of his cats that Mr. Clarke dare trust among the rats. The rats and mice come from Java. There are some beautiful little animals among them — not only albinos, pure white with pink eyes, but fawns and blacks, and yellows and browns, and mixtures of all the lot.
TECHOW’S PERFORMING CATS - AN INTERVIEW WITH THEIR MASTER.
The Westminster Budget, April 26, 1895
Flakes of silver and gold were fluttering down from the regions above the Alhambra stage. You might have been a fairy in the “Ali Baba” ballet, in such rich plenty did they settle upon your garments. Yet it was early morning, .and the stage looked murky and prosaic enough. It would have looked entirely so, save for the presence upon it of one lively customer, a very pigmy of a dog, but all the same a most important one, for in the life of a theatre-dog brain counts for more than brawn. “ Tommy ! ” calls out Herr Techow, whose company of truly wonderful cats are now the chief delight of the Alhambra audience. And Tommy, her black eyes fixed on the master, her stump of a tail wagging, and the tiny bell on her collar tinkling excitedly, comes and makes her bow. She is a tiny fox-terrier, English by name, Italian by birth, and German by education.
“ Would he go for a rat ? ” the bloodthirsty workman asks, pausing between his task of sweeping gold and silver from the giddy heights upon your head and his own. Herr Techow shakes his head ; English is not his forte. “ The rat’s in a corner in the cellar,” John Bull goes on, “he can’t get away.” No, Tommy does not care for rats. Tommy’s owner shudders, as a wire-haired terrier is presently led ratwards across the stage. “Why can’t they kill the creature without torture?” he asks and turns away politely to spit upon the ground, for sheer disgust ; then turns back, and Tommy, delighted, jumps up at the trainer, and begs for a bit of something nice.
“ This is not the day for practising with the cats on the stage,” Herr Techow says, “ but I must have Muller, the clone, down. He wouldn’t work last night, so he has to go through his paces. The rascal, he has to sit in a basket with a clone’s hat and a Judy collar on, at night. Sometimes, when he was in a very bad working humour, I have been weak enough to throw a bit of liver — cats dote on liver — into the basket in order to make him go in.
And now the fellow has a way of first looking into the basket, to find out whether the tit-bit is there. If not, he does not think he’ll go in. That trick won’t do, so Muller has to practise alone this morning. Would you just bring down the clone ?” the trainer asks his wife.
And down comes little Muller, the clown, with a leather collar round his neck, and a long string tied to the collar. He sits in one of the twelve small stalls on a table. At 9.30 p.m. when the cats are “ on ” at the Alhambra, twelve of them sit in a row in these stalls, waiting to show off. It is almost uncannily clever, this cat performance. There is Fuchs, the ginger fellow from Switzerland, boxing the master, or turning a spinning-wheel with the alacrity begotten of much practice. When Fuchs thinks he has spun enough he turns on his master and gives a scratch by way of saying “ I’ve had enough of it,” and once, behind the scenes, Fuchs fell out with a feline brother artist, and the two fought like furies. Herr Techow interfering, Fuchs fastened his formidable teeth into the hand of the former, and the more they tried to get him away, the more he bit, till his teeth met. “ Give tym a hiding that he won’t forget,” the foolish counselled. But, “ Not a bit of it,” Herr Techow answered, wrapping a cloth round the wounded hand. “ Fuchs did not intend to bite me he thought he was still fighting the other fellow ; he would not know what he was punished for.”.
Then, there are the trapeze dancers, Peter and Paul, natives of Saxony, and Angot (from Paris), and Boossy (which is Anglo- German for Pussy), and one called Max, an angry customer, but clever withal ; and Mietze, and Muller’s son, and many others, all diabolically clever, and proud of their cleverness. “ I thought cats could not be trained ?” — “ Can’t they just ! A cat, if it were only not the most obstinate and self-willed creature under the sun, would be the easiest animal to train, and the most satisfactory. Nature has given it everything required. It is graceful, strong, intelligent, made to, spring, to grasp, to dance, and do all manner of tricks. But the trouble is that it has a very thick head, and before you can convince it that you mean it to do as you teach it, you may have to spend more time and patience than you care. I don’t consider a cat can be perfectly trained in less than a year, and even then you must be at it day after day, as regularly as clockwork. Once it knows its work well you can rely on it. Sometimes, when we’re travelling, my cats don’t practise for a week, but the moment they come on the stage they are all right. They know as well as you or I do when they ought to be on their best behaviour. Before an audience
they never fail me ; when practising in the morning they some-times try to shirk work. Look at Muller.”
Muller sat in his place, on the red-velvet table, vigorously licking a certain place between his shoulder blades. He was told to jump into the basket, but he only sniffed and sat in front of it. The liver was not forthcoming, so the clone was lazy. “ Platz !” cried the master, and Muller was back in his place on the table. The basket practice was repeated ; this time the little beauty went in meekly, and followed her trainer round the room with that strangely human look in its big clear eyes, that sometimes rushes, for a moment, into the eyes of an intelligent cat. A dozen times the trick was practised ; Muller’s spirits rose as, bit by bit, awards of liver followed each exhibition. Then our whole party went up to see the rest, Tommy as forerunner, and the clone lovingly embraced by the trainer's wife.
The Cats at Home.
Each one sat in its little cage, alone, on a deep cushion of sweet hay and sawdust, and each one looked a beauty. Next they were transported into an enormous wicker basket with eight compartments. Muller and Son sat in one of these, two lovely specimens of pearly-grey “ cat’s meat.” Angot, with neck and arms as white as milk, shared a compartment with another French lady ; next to them sat a lily-white cat, with one blue and one yellow eye; a delicate person whom Herr Techow would give away if he could find a good home for her. Then, two black ones, with amber eyes and scarlet collar, make a picture more charming, far, than those you have ever seen on the Academy walls, even in the years when cats were the fashion. And so on, all round the wicker cage. Away from them, tied to the leg of a table, but each one at a respectable distance from his neighbour, sit various tom-cats, of fierce and independent spirit ; a plenitude of liver, cut into dainty morsels, arrives, and puts the company into fine spirits ; ten arms, black or white or grey or gingery, are put through the bar, begging for more and more ; the mewing in various keys makes a strange concert. Only one little wild, dusky Tom sits proudly, silently, alone ; he longs and yearns for liver, but he won’t ask nicely - not he ! He dislikes work, though he is cleverest at it. So he sulks and starves rather than that he stoops to conquer. Round about lie paste-board lions gnawed by the tooth of time ; enormous tubs and fruits and banners and a hundred other stage accessories are deposited, and among them, in its tiny cage, sleeps a lonely little squirrel (for more news of which see the Children’s Page). It was bought some time ago for some stage purpose, but it was never used, and now it lies and sleeps, all alone, upstairs in the property room.
The Most Difficult Trick.
“ What is the most difficult trick to teach a cat ?”—“ The most difficult thing by a long way is to get the fact into its obstinate brains that you are the* master. It takes a cat a remarkable time to understand this. But once she knows it she’s splendid, and you can depend upon her.”
“ Don’t they fight when a new member joins the company?”— “ They try at first, but I make them all drink together out of an enormous dish of warm milk, and once they’ve partaken of a meal, their envy, hatred, and malice abate. Besides, they know they may not fight, and they are clever enough to understand what they may and may not do. Punishment ? I punish them as I reward them, through their stomachs. If they’re very obstinate, short commons for a day ; if they’re good, liver. That is the only way to do. You may get impatient with them occasionally, but if you show it you're lost. Cow them into nervousness, and they are unfit for any work ; treat them well, give them confidence in you, and they can be trained to do almost anything. Isn’t that so, my little clone, my naughty little Muller ?
PROFESSOR LEONIDAS ARNIOTIS AND HIS PERFORMING CATS AND DOGS
Prof. Leonidas Arniotis' show with his troupe of trained cats and dogs was an internationally famous vaudeville acts. From 1897 onwards, Arniotis appeared at numerous venues including the Berlin Wintergarden and the Chicago Opera House.
Helen Winslow, in Corning Cats, wrote: [A] European trainer who has accomplished wonders in this direction is a young Greek, Leonidas Arniotis, and he has accomplished the difficult feat of teaching dogs and cats to work together in harmony. His dog, Cerberus, is a great diver, and to this fact is owing all his success as a showman. When Arniotis was a student in Paris, he took the dog out one day for a walk. He had already taught Cerberus several tricks for pastime, and on this occasion, as they stood on a bridge across the Seine, they saw a man throw a cat into the river. A wink from the master, and the dog was in the water, struggling to get near the cat. He was soon able to seize the cat by the nape of the neck, and swim back to his master, and deposit the poor half-dead creature at his feet. Then and there a deep affection sprang up between the two animals. (Who says cats are incapable of gratitude?) The two became inseparable, and when the master put the dog through his tricks, the cat sat by and watched intently for a time; but after a while he joined in the exercises, and their performances, undertaken as a mere pastime for the master, were the nucleus of a now celebrated company. Mr. Arniotis now has five dogs and two cats, who not only live together in perfect peace, but whose performances are quite unique. The cats ride on the dogs' backs, and are not unseated when the latter jump over chairs or through hoops. One of their best tricks is done by a cat who climbs up a rope to a considerable height and jumps on a little platform, suspended from a parachute, on which he sails comfortably around the stage as if he enjoyed the experience.
The Scientific American Supplement of March 6th, 1897, had a description of Leonidas Arniotis’ exhibition at the Berlin Winter Garden: “A comic scene which follows is a triumph in animal training. “Cerberus” is chained at the left side of the stage. “Pippina” takes her place on a chair at the right, and Mr. Arniotis is seated at a well covered table in the center, ready to eat his supper. He has nothing to drink, and, as there is no one to wait on him, he is obliged to go for it himself. After he has left the stage “Cerberus” slips his collar off, climbs up on the table and eats the entire meal. As he is swallowing the last mouthful a thought comes to him of the punishment that must follow, and he looks to his friend to help him out of his difficulty. “Pippina” is then taken by the collar and set on the table, where she remains looking sad, while “Cerberus” resumes his collar. Mr. Arniotis returns, is suspicious of the unhappy victim sitting among the empty dishes, and is about to punish her, when she climbs on her master and whispers in his ear that “Cerberus” is the real culprit. “Pippina’s” innocence is established, and the audience thanks the performers with a round of applause.”
FOR LITTLE FOLKS. DOGS AND CATS Are Not Always Antagonistic, as This Little Story Will Show (The Cambridge City Tribune from Cambridge City, Indiana, April 29, 1897)
FRIENDLY DOGS AND CATS. (Fayetteville Observer from Fayetteville, North Carolina, June 3, 1897)
A FRIENDLY WALTZ. DANCED BY A LADY KITTEN AND HER CANINE ADMIRER . (The Coffeyville Daily Journal from Coffeyville, Kansas, June 12, 1897)
(And numerous other regional newspapers)
Dogs are usually regarded as the bitterest enemies of cats, but a famous German animal trainer ha recently introduced some clever tricks in which both cats and dogs play a part. In one of the acts Miss Mimisse, the cat, goes to a ball and takes her place in a chair, as becomes a modest young lady kitten. In comes Mr. Follette, the dog, and with many bows and smiles invites her to dance a polka. Miss Mimisse bows bashfully and takes Mr. Follette's arm, and they dance off together across the stage on their hind legs. Of course every one cheers. Another scene is a triumph in animal training. A big English dog named Cerberus is chained on the left side of the stage, while Pippina, the cat, takes her place on a chair to the right. The trainer is seated at a well-covered table at the center, ready to eat his supper. He has nothing to drink, and, as there is no one to wait on him, he is obliged to go for it himself. After he has gone Cerberus slips his collar off climbs up on the table and eats the entire meal. A he is swallowing the last mouthful a thought comes to him of the punishment that must follow, and he looks to his friend to help him out of his difficulty. Pippina is then taken by the collar and set on the table, where she remains looking sad, while Cerberus resumes his collar. The trainer returns, is suspicion of the unhappy victim witting among the empty dishes, and is about to punish her when she climbs up on her master's shoulder and whispers in his ear that Cerberus is the real thief. Pippina’s innocence is established, and the amusing little play is over.
THEY ARE DUMB ACTORS. TRICK DOGS AND CATS AND MANY WAYS OF TEACHING THEM.
Chicago Tribune, May 2, 1897
Successful Trainer of Animals Explains the Many Ways of Developing Their Sagacity - Flattery and Courtesy Necessary In Dealing with Cats - and Hunger Should Never Be Used - Patience Is the Main Feature.
A MAN with a keener sense of rhyme than of grammar once wrote:
“A and a dog and a hickory tree, The more you beat ‘em the better they be.” Now, the man who wrote these lines
may have known all about forestry and femininity, but he certainly did not know all about dogs. If he had seen a performance now being given in New York by ten dogs assisted by four cats the rhyme never would have been written. These dogs are the most highly educated ever seen in this country, and they were taught to be good and obedient pupils through kindness, not beatings. The same is true of the cats.
The Tschernkoff dogs were the original interpreters of realistic canine drama. Two winters ago they were talked of in several countries, but their performance seems quite amateurish in comparison with that of the new canine stars whose trainer Is Leonidas. Leonidas is a Greek wanderer upon the face of the earth. He does not speak any English except “Up” and "Bravo" and “Thank you," but that does not matter, for all his cats and dogs understand his French perfectly. The company was rehearsing the other morning when a New York Sun reporter obtained entrance to ask Leonidas how he trained his animals. They were doing circus tricks with evident zest, when he told them to sit down in their chairs and remain there until he called them. Their prompt and cheerful obedience would have gladdened any heart.
Kindness the Incentive.
"I train my dogs and cats," explained the master, in response to a question, " by kindness and patience - O, so much patience! The main thing is to get them to understand what you want them to do, and then they do it quickly enough. I am sure dogs and cats reason up to a certain point. They can reason sufficiently to understand what I want them to do. It isn't imitations, because I never show them what I want done, but explain what I wish and tell them to do it. Dogs have more reason than cats, and are easier to train. Cats are, like women, capricious. One must coax them all the time. If you let a cat know that you are trying to make it do a thing, it won’t do it. One must be always kind to them.
"I'd rather train fifty dogs than one cat. If I didn't have that black spaniel Cerberus, I would never undertake to train a cat. Cerberus was the first dog I ever trained, and he saved one of these cats from drowning, and she follows him, and all the other cats follow her. But about the training. An old dog or cat can be taught to do all sorts of things, but it is much easier to teach young ones. You have some imbecile people. Well, we have imbecile cats and dogs, too, so it is well to select cats for training with a view to their intelligence. The wolf dogs learn more than others. Different kinds of dogs excel in different kinds of stage work. Any dog that looks like a fox is excitable and does quick work that other dogs, say a poodle, couldn't do at all. Some dogs do their work with a perfect understanding, while others do theirs mechanically. This is usually the fault of the trainer, and results from beating the animals.
Cats Hard to Train.
“One must have animals and understand them in order to train them. I've been in this business all my life. I trained horses to do all kinds of tricks, and had never thought about training dogs and cats until I ran across that black water spaniel one day when I was exhibiting my trained horses. I was standing on Westminster bridge and saw a child fall into the water. That spaniel, Cerberus, jumped in and rescued the little one, and I said I would own that dog. I soon taught it to dive for my purse when I dropped It Into fifteen feet of water. Not long after that Cerberus saved the cat from drowning. I thought it would be a good idea to teach the cat some tricks, too. It takes two years to train a cat well, but much less time is required to educate a smart dog. I worked with Cerberus and the cat he saved three years, and then I began to enlarge my company.
“To teach them new tricks I tell them what I want done and flatter them into doing it. For instance, when I wanted to teach Mimisse, the cat, to climb up a rope the full height of the stage, open and enter a basket attached to a parachute, which I let loose, I held her on the rope and said up! up! up! and petted her all the while. Soon, she knew that it would please me if she went up and up she started. When she got to the top I told her to open the basket and get in. She understood that, because she opens and enters a basket which my Great Dane holds in its mouth. I let the parachute down very gently at first, but after she had done the trick several times I could bring it down as suddenly as I pleased. The time required for learning a new trick depends on the trick and upon the individual intelligence of each one of the pupils.
Easy Tricks Seem Hard.
"The things that look hardest to an audience are often the simplest of the whole performance. There's the farcical pantomime in which two dogs and a cat engage. Cerberus is tied to a wing and I sit at a table to lunch. A cat, with a handkerchief tied around her, occupies a chair on the opposite side of the stage. I'm called away from my lunch. Cerberus slips his head from his collar, jumps on the table, and eats my luncheon. He knows this will get him in trouble, and he stops and thinks quite seriously. Suddenly he spies the cat, and, as if by inspiration, he lifts her by the handkerchief to the table, leaves her there by the empty plate, and slips his head into his collar just as I appear. As I reprimand pussy she puts her paws on my shoulders and her mouth to my ear. That her plea of Innocence is accepted is shown by the appearance of the Great Dane, dressed as a French guard, to make the guilty dog a prisoner. This act always amuses an audience because it has an idea in it to be worked out, but the whole thing is simple. It took only two Weeks to teach the performers that. The cat has nothing to do; she is passive, and, as for Cerberus I can make him understand anything,
Never Train by Hunger.
Some men train animals by hunger. I don't believe in that , for you can’t rely on them, particularly not on cats. A cat will prowl around and get something to eat somehow, and then when the time comes for it to act it won’t act so as to be fed for it is already satisfied. I feed my dogs and cats at 4 o’clock every afternoon, for I'm convinced that they do better Work when not hungry.
" It Is not necessary to rehearse trained animals every day. They are so familiar with what they do, they learn their lesson so well that they do not forget. In fact, they often perform better If they don't practice much after they’ve learned a thing, for they don't get so tired of it."
"Do you ever punish your dogs and cats?" asked the reporter.
"He'll say ' No,' " said the Interpreter in an "aside" before putting the question to the Greek, "but he does all the same. He beats the dogs like fury occasionally, but not often."
" O, it's very seldom I have to whip one of the dogs,' answered Leonidas, " and I wouldn't dare punish the cats at all. They are too contrary. Why, I believe if I struck one of those cats she would never act again.
"It takes a long time to get an idea into a cat’s head. When I was teaching my company the circus act I almost gave up in despair. The dogs act as horses and the cats as riders. A dog trots around the ring, passing under a chair on which sits a cat. As the dog comes out from under the chair the cat springs on his back and jumps on the chair again when the circuit is completed. It is hard for the cats to get a good grip, especially on the short-haired dogs, and they used their claws at first to keep them from falling off. This hurt the dogs and they would shake the cats off. It took me months to teach the cats that they must hold on by the pressure Of their legs and not use their claws eat all. Those things take and patience. That's all.
"Trained animals are much flattered by applause They don't give a snap about the applause of the audience, however. All they want is the approval of their master. They don't know what it means when the audience claps and shouts. You do not do it here, but In Paris! Now I will go on with my rehearsal."
The trainer called for the circus act, and the Great Dane, the property man of the company, came trotting out with the chairs for the cats. Mimisse, the aeronaut, went through her part, but not without many heartrending meows. The master petted her, but she refused to be comforted.
" She doesn't feel like rehearsing this morning," he explained. " She'll go through her part all right, because obedience is second nature to animals that have, been trained, but she doesn't want to. After all, it is the work of the trainer’s brain," tapping himself on the forehead with evident self-satisfaction. " No matter how smart the animals are, they do not learn much unless the trainer has a great brain."
Then the master called his company around him and gave each a parting. caress before dismissing them.
A CAT AND DOG LIFE - LEONIDAS, AND HIS VIEWS UPON THE MEMBERS OF HIS TROUPE
The Wave, 16 (7 August 1897), 6.
(The Apprenticeship Writings of Frank Norris, 1896-1898, Volume 1)
A man with a wife has his trials no doubt, and he who must depend upon the caprices of five cats for his bread and butter will find life full of variety, especially if he has some dozen dogs under foot at the same time. What, then, in Heaven’s name shall we say of a man who mixes five cats with twelve dogs, has ’em all about his ears as one might say, day and night, and at the same time is married, and that to the strongest woman in the world? Also, he has a family, but this is a detail.
In the light of all this it is no wonder the individual in question has elected to call himself Leonidas. He must have foreseen that if he did not choose this name for himself someone else would. One could have wished, however, that he had omitted the "professor" before his stage name. "Pro¬fessor" Leonidas suggests ideas that fight with one another, to say the least.
Do you know, can you guess, what was the hardest piece of work that Leoni¬das ever set himself to accomplish? Perhaps you have seen his dogs and cats do their turn at the Orpheum this week, and if you have you have no doubt marveled to see Max jump on Sultan’s back, and Mimisse upon him, and Scott get between Sultan’s forelegs and the whole quartet go waltzing off the stage. Maybe you think it was hard to teach them all this and other equally hard tricks. So it was, but the one thing that kept the Professor a-wake o’ nights, the thing that brought the silver in his hair and the sweat to his temples, that caused him to weep tears of pure nervousness and exasper-ation, that drove him to repressed paroxysms of impatience and profanity was to get a cat to stay quiet upon a chair for an indefinite length of time.
"I could make a dog do it in a couple of days. Mimisse" (this was the cat) "finally made up her mind to do it towards the end of the fifth month."
I asked him if it was because of the greater intelligence of the dog.
"Contrariwise,” says the Professor. "Believe me, of the two, the cat is by far the more intelligent."
"A cat has her nerves, and, besides, she is independent and, above all, ca¬pricious. The dog understands what you want after some little time and hu¬mors you good naturedly as if he should say, This poor devil has set his mind upon my jumping through this fool basket, so if it makes him any hap¬pier I’ll do it just because I like him. And I may get smacked if I don't.'"
"And the cat?"
"The cat knows almost instantly what I want, and for just that one very particular reason makes up her mind that if she died for it she will not do that one very particular thing. ‘And let him whack me,’ says the cat, ‘till he’s black in the face and I’ll only be so much more stubborn.”
The dog is the man, then," I suggested.
"And the cat the woman," filled in the Professor. "Precisely. You can rea¬son with a dog, show him the plausibility of wicker cylinders, the logic of chair-backs, and the fine reasonableness of walking upon the hind legs, and you can give him a good cut with the whip to assist his intelligence; but a cat knows more about the cylinders and chair-backs and hind legs than you or I can ever teach her, and the knowledge makes her feel superior and digni¬fied. So you must cajole and coax her into a condescending mood and in-duce her for a few moments to forget her self-respect."
"So you never whack the cats?"
"Never, never," said the Professor. "It’s an insult they never forgive or forget. Ah, these cats, these cats," he continued, wagging his head at the happy family of felines nuzzling about a plate of meat. "They are quite the most interesting animal that lives. I know my dogs as well as my family. They have their characters, their little traits, their good points and their failings. You know just how they will act under certain circumstances. But the cat! There are depths in a cat’s nature that a man never can reach. She is mysterious, self-contained, secretive, attending strictly to her own affairs and asking nothing more of me than to do the same. Have you ever noticed how a cat meditates? Give her food and a warm place to sleep in, and her own thoughts are all the company she needs. But the dog, now, he must have change, variety, excitement, lots of company; he is emotional, impul-sive, fond of amusement, and. besides, is grateful for favors, where the cat merely tolerates your kindnesses, takes them as a matter of course; in fact, would prefer you to keep your distance."
"Speaking of gratitude, wasn’t there some little story, some little legend connected with the cat Mimisse?"
The Professor told me the story — the legend — the romance. "At Paris it was, at the Pont de Jena there," and Mimisse, who belonged to a charcuterie, had tumbled into the Seine. Consternation! A crowd gathers. Nagerat-elle, nagerat-elle pas? Oh la, la! The charcutiere weeps in the background, rais-ing her hands to Heaven. Tremendous excitement! Strong men weep and women faint. No one volunteers. Yes, there is someone. Cerberus will go, Cerberus the black dog of the boulanger, Cerberus will dare the foaming tide, throws off his coat, good-bye, good-bye, if I never come back, priez pour moi, dites a maman —, he chokes a sob — cheers, ho up-la, vive la Republique!
Allons enfants de la Patrie.
Le jour de gioire est arrivi.
He leaps — splash — he is gone. Silence! The suspense becomes terrible. Then more cheers and more. Cerberus gains upon Mimisse, reaches her, grasps her by the scruff of the neck, turns shoreward, "battles with the tide," desperate struggle, strength failing — almost there, sinks — rises, one more ef¬fort, men run waist deep in the water to reach the hero, do reach him and Mimisse. Safe at last! Hourra! Men and women weep on one another’s shoulders, Cerberus carried about in triumph, picture in Le Petit Journal next morning, silver collar, interviewed by reporters, hero of the hour. He and Mimisse go on the stage just like any prize-fighters or bridge-jumpers, for Leonidas hears the story, buys the pair and incorporates them in his troop. Virtue is rewarded with deathless fame.
"And, of course, ever afterward the pair were inseparable friends — a ca¬nine Damon and a feminine Pythias. Beautiful legend.”
"Not so," said the Professor, shattering an idol. "Mimisse never paid the least attention to him from that time to this."
THE NATURALIST. Trick Dogs and Cats.
Otago Witness , 23 September 1897
A TRAINER EXPLAINS HIS VIEWS AND METHODS.
Some of the secrets of the cat and dog trainer have been revealed (says the first number of the Live Stock Hobbies, a new paper which appeals directly to amateurs as distinguished from breeders and fanciers) to a newspaper man by Leonidas, the proprietor of a company of 10 dogs and four cats, whose performances have caused quite a sensation in New York. Leonidas is a Greek, but he speaks to his cats and dogs in French. His theory and practice of training flatly contradicts the old English saw that — A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, The more you beat 'em the better they be,” so far, at least, as it relates to dogs. "
CATS ARE CAPRICIOUS, AKD MUST BE COAXED
" I train- my dogs and cats," explained .Leonidas in response to a question, "by kindness and patience — oh, co much patience ! The main thing is to get them to understand what you want them to do, and then they do it quickly enough. L am sure dogs and cats reason up to a certain point. They can reason sufficiently to understand what I want them to do. It isn't imitation, because I never show them what I want done, but explain what I wish and tell them to do it. Dogs have far more reason than cats, and are far easier to train. Cats are like women, capricious. One must coax them all the time. If you let a cat know that you are trying to make it do a thing it; won't do it. One must always be kind to them. One must love animals and understand them in order to train them. I've been in this business all my life. I trained horses to do all kinds of tricks, and had never thought about training dogs and cats until I ran across that black water spaniel one day when I was exhibiting my trained horses. I was standing on Westminster bridge, and saw a child fall into the water. That spaniel, Cerberus, jumped in and rescued the little one, and I said I would own that dog. I soon taught it to dive for my purse when I dropped it into 15ft of water. Not long after that Cerberus saved the cat from drowning. I thought it would be a good idea to teach the cat some tricks too. It takes two years to train a cat well, but much less time is required to educate a smart dog. I worked with Cerberus and the cat he saved three years, and then I began to enlarge my company.
A CAT PARACHUTIST
"To teach them new tricks, I tell them what I want done, and flatter them into doing it. For instance, when I wanted to teach Mimisse, the cat, to climb up a rope the full height of the stage, open and enter a basket attached to a parachute, which I let loose, I held her on the rope and said, ' Up ! up ! up ! ' and petted her all the while. Soon she knew that it would please me if she would go up, and up she started. When she got to the top I told her to open the basket and get in. She understood that, because she opens and enters a basket which my Great Dane holds in his mouth. I let the parachute down very gently at first, but after she had done the trick several times I could bring it down as suddenly as I pleased. The time required for learning a new trick depends on the trick and upon the individual intelligence of each one of the pupils. The things that look hardest to an audience are often the simplest o£ the whole performance.
NO STARVING- -AND VERY LITTLE PUNISHMENT.
" Some men train- animals by hunger. I don't believe in that method, for you can't rely on them, particularly not on cats. A cat will prowl around and get something to eat somehow, and, then, when the time comes for it to act, it won't act so as to be fed afterwards, for it is already satisfied. I feed my dogs and cats at 4 o'clock every afternoon, for I am convinced that they do better work when not hungry. It is not necessary to rehearse trained animals every day. They are so familiar with what they do, they learn their lessons so well that they do not forget."
"Do you ever punish your dogs and cats ? "
" Oh, it's very seldom I have to whip one of the dogs," answered Leonidas, " and I wouldn't dare punish the oats at all. They are too contrary. Why, I believe if I struck one of those cats she would never act again.
THE DIFFICULTIES OF CAT CIRCUS RIDERS.
"It takes a long time to get an idea into a cat's head. When I was teaching my company the circus act I almost gave up in despair. The dogs act as horses end the cats as riders. A dog trots around the ring, passing under a chair on which sits a cat. As the dog comes from under the chair the cat springs on his back, and jumps on the chair again when the circuit is completed. It is very, hard' for the cats to get a good -grip, 'especially on the short-haired dogs, and they used. their claw at first to keep them from falling off. This hurts the dogs, and they would shake the cats off. It took me months' to teach the cats that they must hold on by the pressure of their legs and not use their' claws at all. Those things take flattery and patience. That's all."
ANIMAL ACROBATS, WITH PARTICULARS ABOUT THEIR TRAINING
By J Malcolm Fraser
Pearson’s Magazine, Vol V, Jan 1898-June 1898
The man who in a moment of untoward enthusiasm perpetrated the couplet:
“ A woman, a dog, and a hickory tree
The more you beat them the better they be.”
had a keener sense of grammar than of rhyme. Moreover he showed unpardonable ignorance of all subjects relating to the dog tribe — and the cat tribe too for a matter of that — for “the more you beat them” the worse they be. At least so says Professor Leonidas, who has trained ten dogs and four cats to act together ; no mean feat when one remembers the racial hatred which exists between these two tribes. Leonidas is a Greek wanderer on the face of the earth, whose English consists of “Up," “ Bravo ” and “ Thank you,” which in his droll French he tells you suffices, “ for has not the human will won mastery over the minds of animals ? ”
Apparently so, else how is it that when the curtain rises and the band plays the Blue Danube, a couple of cats appear upon the scene and waltz —yes, waltz — gravely round the stage with two dogs as partners ; or how is it that the whole quartet perform the minuet with as much stateliness as did our sires ? And then the circus. The great Danish hound — the property man of the company - brings forward, with importance born of pride, the hurdles and the hoops, the barrels and the rest of the paraphernalia which may be found in every well-appointed circus. Gathered together are the ten dogs — the horses and ring-masters in other words — with their riders, the cats.
A bugle sounds to the dashing music of a gallop, and off goes the entire company. Around the impromptu ring race three or four dogs upon whose backs the cats pose in a style worthy of a premiere danseuse. Again the blare of a penny trumpet sounds, as the ring¬masters take up their various positions with hoop or banner in mouth. Up go the banners and hoops, round come the dogs and, as they pass beneath the jumps, the cats spring lightly over and drop into their seats again. ‘Tis a pretty sight to see the almost human intelligence with which these animals go through their business — apparently with the excitement of pleasure — and, having finished, to see them quietly take up their stand in the rear of the stage.
You are interested in watching the big Dane bring on a chair here, a barrel there, or, in fact, take upon himself the many duties of stage manager, porter, and property man combined. You are as astonished at the extreme drollery of the poodle that acts to perfection the part of the clown in a circus. To see the erstwhile dog imitate the waddling gait, the ludicrous attitudes, the foolish blunders of his human prototype will bring tears of laughter even to the eyes of the most solemn onlooker. But your interest turns in blank wonder when, of her own accord, a cat climbs up a single rope to the roof of the theatre, steps gingerly into the car of a parachute hanging a hundred feet from the ground, and with a look of supreme indifference at the audience below, frees the parachute from its fastening and sails majestically towards the stage. This is the moment when stalls and gallery combine in a round of enthusiasm and the cat mademoiselle hand in hand with a black dog in evening dress —sweeps boldly to the foot¬lights upon her hind legs, and bows, conscious of the justice of the homage done to her.
I call her “ mademoiselle ” advisedly. She is French. And there is a little romance attached to the lives of the black dog and herself. The episode took place in Paris, at the foot of the Pont de Jena. Mimisse, the cat, belonged to a charcutiere, and had fallen into the Seine. A crowd gathers. “ Nagera-i-elle, nagera- t-elle pas ?” they cry. The charcutiere wrings her hands, and calls for somebody to save her pet. “ Oh, la, la, will no one go ? ” Yes, there is someone. Cerberus will go, Cerberus, the black dog of the boulanger. Cerberus springs forward. “Au revoir, au revoir! Priez pour moi, dites a maman — ” He chokes a sob (all this metaphori¬cally speaking), and with a splash — a leap — he is gone. The next day Le Petit Journal gave the hero and heroine a full-page illustration and a column interview, while Leonidas bought both cat and dog. And the pair, were they ever afterwards inseparable —a canine Damon and a feline Pythias ?
“ Mon Dieu ! no,” says the Professor, shattering an idol. “ Mimisse is a coquette, and has never paid the slightest attention to Cerberus from that day to this.”
The little romance has had one good effect upon its two chief actors, however; it has made them more tractable and good-natured. For instance after the parachute act they perform a little comedy which other animals would have taken months to learn. These two took exactly a fortnight. Cerberus tied to a ring in the stage watches Leonidas eat his lunch at a table nearby. Mimisse, with handkerchief tied around her is sleeping on a chair at the opposite end of the stage. The Professor is suddenly called away and Cerberus, having seen his master safely out of the room, slips his collar, jumps on the table and finishes the half-eaten meal.
With leisure comes repentance; the knowledge of the wrong-doing gives the dog trouble. Descending from the table he quietly rises on his hind legs against the chair upon which the cat still lies, and thinks. His wandering eye eventually settles upon the cat. An idea! And, acting on the inspiration, he lifts the cat by the handkerchief and deposits her gently by the empty plate, and pushes his head through the collar as Leonidas again appears. Circumstantial evidence proves the cat to be guilty and she is severely reprimanded. But, with a plaintive miaow, she places her paw on Leonidas’ shoulder and appears to whisper something in his ear. That her plea of innocence is accepted is shown by the appearance of the Great Dane, dressed as a gendarme, who immediately arrest the cowering Cerberus.
And so this animal troupe goes through its tricks, each more wonderful than the last. The few which I have described, however, will, with the help of the illustrations, give one a fair idea of the general work undertaken. But now comes the even more interesting description of how these animals are trained.
“I train my cats and dogs,” explains the master, “by kindness and patience – oh so much patience! Kindness –“
But all that is so old and threadbare ; every trainer will tell you the same story in exactly the same voice, so you endeavour to change the conversation for a few minutes then veer round and start afresh. It appears that cats and dogs reason up to a certain point, or, at any rate, they can reason sufficiently to understand what their trainer wishes them to do. They never imitate because Leonidas never shows them what is to be done, but explains the tricks viva voce, and orders them to do it. Dogs, by the way, have a greater reasoning power than have cats and are far easier to train. This is a sore point with the Professor. “C’est une bètise,” he exclaims, “ cats are intelligent enough — too much so, in fact they have nerves, and they are capricious comme les femmes! The dog, after a little while, understands what you want, and, in all good nature, humours you by doing it. With the cat it is different ; she knows Instantly what you wish her to do, and for that reason alone makes up her mind that, if she has to die, she will not do it.”
The dog is the man, then ? ” you query with the smug complacency of a male.”
“And the cat the woman.” fills in the Professor,” precisely. You can reason with a dog; show him the plausibility of jumping through a wicker cylinder, the logic of chair-backs, the undoubted magnificence of walking on hind legs, and,” with a, covert smile, “you can argue and assist his intelligence with the lash of a whip. But the cat knows more about cylinders and hind legs than you do yourself, and, therefore, rises superior to your teaching. You must coax and caress her, induce her to forget for a few minutes that awful coyness of which her whole being is composed.”
“ Then you never hit your cats ?”
Leonidas was too surprised to answer. To hit a cat means to destroy for ever the prospect of its again, performing. How then can it be taught ? How, for example, was the parachute act taught ? The answer is femi¬nine enough - flattery ! “ To leach the cats new tricks I tell them what I want done, as is the case with the dogs,- and flatter them into doing it,” Leonidas continued. “ When I wanted to teach Mimisse to get into the parachute, I held her on the rope, and said “ Up ! Up ! Up !” and petted her all the time. Soon she decided that it would please me if she were to mount, and that it would not inconvenience her at all, and so up she started. As soon as she reached the top I told her to get into the basket. Again she concluded that by doing so it would save an argument, and be less trouble to herself; then I let the parachute down, gently at first, though afterwards, as she grew used to the motion, I could let it down as -fast as I liked. In this manner I taught her to let herself go, which she now does with great glee.
“ And thus: it is with all cats ; cajole and flatter, flatter and cajole; and the possibility is that you may them to do what you want. The probability is that you will not."
Some men, apparently, train their animals by hunger, but the Professor is emphatically opposed to such a method ; for, as he says, the cats prowl about, and find something to eat, and when the time comes for them to act for food, they are satisfied, and refuse. Out of curiosity, I asked Leonidas what was the hardest thing he had ever had to teach his animals.
“ It was when I was teaching my company the circus act, that I almost gave up in despair. It was so hard for the cats to get a good grip — especially on those short haired dogs — and they used to dig their claws into the fleshy part of the shoulder. No self-respecting dogs would stand this, and so the cats were not only shaken off, but were also ‘ worried.’ Months and months did it take me to teach the cats that they must hold on by the pressure of their legs, and never to use their claws.”
In view of this, maybe some enterprising man will start an animal riding-school, which will even be funnier to watch than a military riding-school.
MUTOSCOPE “FILMS” OF LEONIDAS IN 1899
Cameraman G. W. "Billy" Bitzer filmed Professor Leonidas and his troupe of dogs and cats in the film short Stealing a Dinner on April 28, 1899. Because the Mutoscope needed a lot of light, the film was shot on the rooftop of the American Biograph Studio at 841 Broadway in New York City and not inside the theatre. In this version, the diner attempts to shoot the cat “thief” but is stopped by the guilty dog. He then “shoots” the dog and is arrested by the gendarme dog. The whole troupe exits the stage. The Mutoscope was American Biograph's penny peepshow machine. Instead of projected film, it ran a series of flip cards. A Mutoscope film also exists of “Hurdle Jumping: An exhibition of Professor Leonidas's trained animals. A cat is stretched across two chairs, and a number of dogs of different breeds jump over her like a hurdle."
Both of these can be found online in various formats.
FIRE IN A ROOF GARDEN; Morning Blaze, Night Concert at Koster & Bial's. TRAINED CATS AND DOGS SAVED Manager Aarons, Undismayed by a Loss of $10,000, Rebuilds in a Single Day.
The New York Times , June 19, 1899
The stage, scenery, tables and chairs, and all other paraphernalia of Koster Bial's roof garden were destroyed by fire yesterday morning. The fire started at 8:30 o'clock, and for three hours the firemen worked to extinguish it. When the last ember was put out, Manager Aarons set at work a large force of men. The debris was cleared away, a temporary stage was erected, new seats were secured, and the sacred concert announced for last night was given without any interruption. The flames were discovered by Charles Randolph, one of the porters of the theatre. Randolph, with several others, was putting the garden in order for the concert, when he noticed that the flies over the stage were on fire. The garden is equipped with two large water tanks and a. standpipe, and with streams from these the men did their best to extinguish the flames, which soon, however, got beyond their control.
Randolph then ran down to the street and sent in an alarm. Engine Company No. 1, from West Twenty-ninth Street, responded, and a second alarm was sent in, to which Acting Chief Croker and Deputy Chief Gicquel responded. The Acting Chief ordered a third alarm, for the fire was burning fiercely and it looked as if the whole structure were doomed. Manager Aarons, who lives three doors from the building, was awakened by a watchman. When he reached the building his first thought was for the thirty dogs and twenty cats belonging to Prof. Leon Leonidas. They were locked in cages in the rear of the stage in the main auditorium of the building. Mr. Aarons hurriedly opened a cage occupied by two Great Danes. Just as he did so the dogs leaped out, and one of them knocked Mr. Aarons down. He then opened the other cages, and soon the building was filled with dogs running over the seats and into the boxes, and finally; into the street. The cages containing the cats were opened, but the animals refused to leave. Prof. Leonldas at this moment appeared on the scene, and, blowing a whistle, called his dogs and cats together. Not one was lost.
CATS IN ACROBATIC ACTS
Woodland Daily Democrat, June 28th, 1902
Every dog has its day. Perhaps that’s why the cats take in the nights so readily. Anyhow, there is a little woman with the name Sam G. Mott Vaudeville Company that appears here on next Wednesday evening, July 2d, who has a bunch of cats that can furnish all kinds of amusement for a half hour any night. These cats are trained, not trained in the ordinary sense of the word, but trained to do many acts that any ordinary cat would not think of doing. They jump through hoops, balance on a seesaw, push a diminutive baby carriage, walk a tight rope, and do a dozen other acts interesting and novel to behold.
Fifteen of the cats are Angora, Persian and Russian, and the others are common cats. The blooded animals, particularly the Persians, are beautiful animals. Some of them won prizes in the New York cat show before Miss Montague conceived the idea of training them for the stage. Among animal trainers it has been considered impossible to train cats to do more than lie down or make an occasional jump. As performers the felines have been passed up as an unprofitable attempt. But Miss Montague persevered until she now has a full acting troupe of tabbies.
The crowning feature of her exhibition is the tight rope act, in which a big gray cat calmly walks across a tight rope, deliberately stepping over a pair of white mice, whose pink noses gaze up in curiosity at the gray form looming over them. Miss Montague takes much pride in this feature, which is always received with wonder and enthusiasm by the audience.
See the cats in Leithold's windows between the hours of 12 and 7 upon the day of the arrival of the company.