According to contemporary newspaper reports, in 1908, dentist Dr. Thea Sutoris found a 3-year-old tomcat in front of a pack of dogs in her hometown of Hamburg. Named Peter Alupka (Alupka being a city in the Crimea), this alley cat became devoted to her and she noticed that he produced sounds similar to her own speech. According to her, by removing multiple teeth it was become possible to make the cat's speech understandable, since a cat’s jaws are very different from human jaws and not naturally shaped for speaking. Her interest in the possibilities of animal speech stemmed from her work with people who stammer (stutter) or lisp (“Der Tag”, June 21, 1927, p. 3.). Dr. Sutoris tried to find an effective therapy for her patients by means of voice exercises and dental corrections, and her method apparently worked with her cat. After three years of endless patient practice even strangers could understand him. His first word was apparently "Anna" and later “well, well, well, well!” He could also “Hurrah!” and shouted "Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!" When his owner said: "Long live the emperor!"

Peter Alupka made his first public appearance in front of a large audience at Dresden Zoological Garden on August 17th, 1912; this was applauded in the press and a book was written about the event. He went on to appear in Leipzig, Berlin, and in the Circus Busch in 1912; the Vienna Colosseum in 1914; in Petersburg, and in Budapest. ("Vorarlberger Volksfreund" [The Voralberg People’s Friend], 30th September, 1913, p. 5, quoting from "Neue Züricher Zeitung" [The New Zurich Times], 1913.).

An account appeared in the German-language Mississippi Blatter (St Louis, Missouri, USA) on 1st September 1912.

The Speaking Tomcat. In the "Dresden Unz." we read: "So it turned out to be an event: The talking dog has found a successor in the cat family: Peter Alupta held his first “consultation” yesterday in the densely packed large hall of the zoological garden. He passed with honour! At the request of his kind mistress, Dr. Sutoris, of Hamburg, he repeated the words: “Anna, Helene, nein, nein, na, na” very clearly. When “singing” one had to give the intelligent animal, a splendid tomcat father with beautiful black-and-white fur, some credit; like every artist, he did not seem to be free from stage fright in a new, unfamiliar environment. About he articulated two song melodies from the “Autoliebchen” [a stage musical] quite correctly. Peter Alupta is definitely not lacking in good will or real talent! His mistress said in the introductory account that she had achieved this speaking success by pulling out some of Peter's teeth, because the cat's jaw is shaped differently than that of the speaking man. In addition, like all those of his kind, Peter was difficult to handle and could only be brought up through love and kindness. Such successes can only be made possible by going into the pinche of the animal in full detail. After the great crowd got lost, dear Peter appeared again in front of a smaller group of admirers. This time he also showed what he did not want to do in the previous performance, how nicely he diluted his milk with his paw. "No, no, no!" He said at the end - which is certainly a sign of character: he is not a blind Yes-man!

Peter toured Europe with Circus Busch and his performance was seen by the circus historian Alfred Lehmann. Lehmann was amazed how clearly Peter could say “nein,” “Anna,” and “Helene” and cry “Hurrah!” when Kaiser Wilhelm’s name was mentioned. He saw Peter sing “O Tannenbaum” in a high mewing voice, but remarked that it needed a great deal of imagination to hear Peter’s caterwauling as that song. Lehmann noted a crucial fact – Dr Sutoris lovingly held Peter’s neck as he performed and it was her fingers that modulated the cat’s voice.

talking cat peter alupka

The story was picked up in North America (which had its own “talking cat” called Billikin, see footnote) and reported in various forms.

New York Times, 23rd June, 1912: According to the Dresdner Nachrichten a Hamburg owns a cat that talks. It is further stated that the animal is attracting considerable attention in scientific circles, and that experts from the Zoo are about to test its linguistic gifts. Some time ago. The cat’s mistress was very much surprised when, instead of the expected “miaou,” which answers a call, the cat distinctly pronounced the word “nein.” This was wonderful enough, but what is still more so is that the cat was taught other simple words, which it learned quickly. “Milch,” (milk), “Anna” (this being the name of its mistress), and others were soon used easily by the cat. When it refused to say the word it was asked to utter it was left in a room and deprived of food. This never failed, and the cat pronounced the word required.

The Leader (Saskatchewan), 20th December, 1912 (and others): A woman dentist named Sutoris of Hamburg, is exhibiting a talking cat named Peter, which is creating as great a sensation among scientists and the public generally as the famous horse, Hans. Peter yells “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!” with unmistakable distinctness, repears the names “Anna” and “Helene” and screams “Nein! Nein! Nein!” He finishes by springing [singing] a few words from a popular song. Frau Sutoris says she discovered the cat’s talent when she trod on its tail and Peter yelled “Nein!”

Daily Star (Saskatoon), 25th January, 1913; Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 26th January, 1913 (and others): Hamburg, Jan, 24 Peter, a tom cat, who is said to talk and sing, is the latest sensation in Hamburg. The cat is the property of Doctor Sutoris, a woman dentist, who found it when quite young starving on one of the docks. She has trained it in such a remarkable degree that the animal shows almost human intelligence. A number of witnesses confirm Doctor Sutoris’s statements that Peter distinctly utters the German words for Anna, hurrah, more, Helen, no, enough. As a crowning wonder, it is declared that the cat, employing the monosyllable “lah,” sings in tune the melodies of three German popular songs, and that the words he utters are spoken with marvellous appropriateness to the occasion.

The Brooklyn Citizen, 12th January, 1913 (and others): Hamburg, Jan. 11. German scientists have a new problem in Peter, a singing and talking tomcat. Today several of the leading wise men of Germany called on the cat’s owner to observe a demonstration of the feline’s undoubtedly remarkable talents. Peter’s owner is Dr Sutoris, a woman dentist, and many witnesses confirm her statements that Peter talks and sings. “More, hurrah, no, enough, Anna and Helen,” at present form Peter’s vocabulary, spoken in the best high German dialect. Employing the syllable “lah” after the practice of all the really great prima donnas, peter sings in perfect tone and harmony the music of three German popular songs of the day. Peter has no pedigree. As a stray kitten, lean and hungry, he was picked up on one of the docks.

A scientific paper was published by the Zoological Society in Hamburg regarding the talking tomcat in the form of an expert report.

Aleksandr N. Aksakov wrote this in “Psychological Studies: monthly journal, especially for the investigation of little-known phenomena of inner life; 39th year, 1912; Page: 626” (Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Hygiene), which I have translated from German:

From the Inner Life of Animals: the talking cat Peter Alupka. The cultural advances of our decade - so writes “The Woman’s Realm” [Das Reich der Frau], almost border on the unbelievable. And not just with regard to humans, no, animals also prove to us that they are more capable of development than we ever thought possible. "Horses think, dogs and cats speak!" The language skills of "Puss in Boots" in fairy tales are familiar to us, and we also know the cat "Hiddigeigei” in the opera “The Trumpeter of Saekkingen” to be a logically thinking, linguistically gifted animal. But the idea that these fairy tales, which sprang from the minds of poets, would one day be put into practice seems to some a heavenly miracle! Yet it is true; Peter Alupka really can speak, although “No, Anna, have, Helene, my, well, well, well, well, well, la, la, la”, is the repertoire of this rare animal to date. But the beautiful, black gentleman with his silver collar and the monocle, which he gracefully removes with his paw, is also musically educated. He sings the melody “Ich hattf einen Kameradena” [I had a comrade], “Der Mai ist gekommen” [May has come], "Das haben die Mädchen so gerne‘ [This is what the girls love], and some songs from "Around the AIster” [Around the Alster]. This is a quite respectable starting repertoire for a tomcat!

In general, he has completely shed some unaesthetic cat habits. At mealtimes he dines in a well-mannered way, taking food gracefully with his paw to his mouth. He doesn't even lap liquids like his cat brothers and sisters, no, he neatly dips his paw in the cup and carries milk in that way to his mouth. Peter has completely forgotten the terrible meowing with which other cats drive us to despair, especially when they choose to hold their concerts on the roofs of our houses. If he wants to express his displeasure or his joy, it is done with "nein nein nein” [no, no, no]. He also does not say meow when it is said to him, but insists on saying “nein.” At an American tea, which was given in Hamburg’s elegant Esplanade Hotel for the benefit of the local animal welfare association, Peter proved himself brilliantly. The beautiful animal justifiably aroused the admiration of all animal lovers, and even the most pessimistic people had to acknowledge the fact that they really had "seen or heard nothing like it". Yes, some people were led to believe in a miracle by the behaviour of a well-mannered, speaking cat! But anyone who has dealt with the inner life of animals will know that everything happened through natural means and methods.

But now I hear in my mind some of my dear readers shaking their heads: “What does this animal have to do with our 'Woman’s Realm', in which only women’s interests are supposed to be represented?” Pardon me, dear ones, this is not only about the animal, but is above all about those who took the trouble to scientifically awaken and develop this cat’s dormant abilities and to ensure, by correct manipulation of the jaw and pulling some teeth, sure that it could clearly and distinctly repeat the sounds spoken to it. In addition, it took an admirable patience to do daily speech exercises with a tomcat without resorting to the blows that are otherwise common in animal training. On the contrary, it is only thanks to the constant loving treatment of his mistress, a Hamburg dentist, that a starved, ugly, shy kitten, whose teacher plucked him from the street and saved him from certain starvation, developed into such a splendid, strikingly beautiful specimen of the feline species (as the illustration attached to the original article shows) who knows how to speak in human tongues and who shows a keen interest in music.

In addition, the researcher Dr. Oskar Prochnow, in Volume 12 of his “Annals of Natural and Cultural Philosophy”, discusses the scientific phenomenon of Peter Alupka on pages 50 to 61. After personally inspecting (interviewing!) the cat, Prochnow wrote:

“He undoubtedly goes to great lengths to please his mistress. He distorts his mouth much more than other cats, articulates with jerky movements of the head in addition to his voice, mostly when he is supposed to sing along . . . he is also learning to sing. He sings several songs, for example ‘Der Mai ist gekommen’ [May has come], ‘Komm in meine Liebeslaube’ [Come into my love nest], and ‘Das haben die Mädchen so gerne‘ [This is what the girls love]. The tomcat makes all these efforts just to please his carer and never receives any reward. In addition, Dr. Sutoris does not benefit from the performances. She donates the entire fee to local animal welfare associations.”

Dr Sutoris had grander plans and hoped to join the talking dog, Don, for a duet at the New York music hall. Unfortunately, her aspirations were scuppered by the Great War in 1914. In 1916, Dr. Sutoris made recordings of Peter Alupka. On July 24, 1918, Peter Alupka fell victim to what was described at the time as the Spanish flu, though it was most likely one of Europe’s periodic outbreaks of feline distemper (a term covering both cat flu and infectious enteritis at that time). Thanks to the Edison gramophone, Peter’s voice lived on. At the 1927 International Cat Show in Berlin, and at the 4th Vienna Cat Show in 1928, his singing astonished many listeners. In January 1929, the recording of Peter Alupka was an attraction at the Croydon Cat Show in England.


Most of the American “talking cats” were cats that understood or respond to words, but Billikin was supposedly able to utter words. Billikin became famous in 1910, two years before Peter Alupka became famous.

The Evening Sun (Baltimore), 29th December, 1910: CAT THAT TALKS. Cats of high degree with proud and haughty manners were benched at the ninth championship cat show of the Atlantic City Cat Club, in the Concert Hall of Madison Square Garden, yesterday in conjunction with the Poultry Show which occupies the Garden arena during this week. The only talking cat in the world is on view. Billikin is his name and is owned by Mrs. Julia H. Chadwick, of East Hampton, L. I. Billikin is a waif cat and no one knows his pedigree. Billikin makes a noise which sounds suspiciously like “milk” and he can also say “mamma.”

Another American talking cat was Timothy Young, reported in The Washington Post, 28th February, 1910. CAT TAUGHT TO TALK. Cyrus Young, of this village, claims to own the only talking cat in America, Timothy Young, the cat in question, can certainly make his master understand him. He can say “Hello!” can tell his mistress when he wants to “eat,” and can “coop” when playing hide and seek as well as any child of his age. This remarkable cat is now 8 years old, and he has been in Mr. Young’s possession for over seven years. It was when Mr. Young lived on the county road that puss appeared to him in the shape of a tiny coon kitten. Later it was found that the kitten was the property of some people who were moving from New Portland to Brunswick. The owner, some years later, called on Mr. Young and told him how much he valued the cat, but, nevertheless, gave him to Mr. Young . . .

Although Tim has been trained to do many tricks, his ability to make his master understand him is by far his most wonderful attribute. He is always the first to wake up in the house. His master generally rises at 6 o'clock. If Mr. Young does not appear soon after the clock strikes, the cat will go into his room, climb up onto the bed, and say, “Up, Cy!" He will keep this going until he has roused his master. When Mrs. Young: appears, he runs to her and rolls over on the floor in front of her, then says “Eat,” in an almost human tone. When Mr. Young's daughter Is at home she plays “hide and coop’ with the cat. The cat blinds at the corner and waits until the girl has shouted ‘“coop” and then invariably finds her. But the cat can hide and cry “coop” just as well as the girl. Recently, he has taken to cheating at the game, following the girl and watching where she hides, then running back to the goal to wait for the signal.

Another feat that the cat does nearly every day is to lead Mr. Young to Mrs Young, if the latter happens to be out of the house. The cat always meets Mr. Young when the latter comes home with the mail. If Mrs. Young is not at home the cat will roll over in front of his master and then he will say, “Come,” and will lead him to the house where Mrs. Young is calling. Whenever the cat wants attention he rolls over in front of his master or mistress. It is a peculiar fact that all of the sounds the cat makes to express its wants are never misplaced. He never says “come” when he wants to eat. He generally sleeps all day and goes out at night. He asks to go out by saying “out,” as plainly as a person can.


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