Billi, the talking cat from Florida, is a 14-year-old domestic shorthair who started pushing talking buttons corresponding to words three weeks after her mom presented them on the floor. First, she learned what “Food” meant, and then “Pets.” However, the word “Mad” eventually became her favorite. Now, she’s known as Her Madjesty.
It’s a case of, “Do you really want to know what your cat is thinking?” Well, Billi loves to repeatedly step on the Mad button when she isn’t getting what she wants, and she also gives the side-eye and laid-back ears to go with it.
Cuddle Honey Trap
But, wouldn’t you love to know when your cat loves to cuddle? What if they pushed the “Cuddle” button only to trap you into playing with their favorite “Fan Toy,” or demanded payment for the cuddle with “Food?”
Yes, that’s what Billi does. She’s clever and really seems to know exactly what the words mean, all anthropomorphizing aside. According to her mom Kendra Baker, she has learned the art of bartering with a cuddle honey trap! If momma wants a cuddle, then Billi wants to be compensated, whether that is food or pushing the “Catnip” button. Wait, the Catnip button isn’t her favorite?
Other times, Billi pushes the “Love you” button, and who wouldn’t want their cat to be able to express that?
Video via Instagram/billispeaks
Billi’s Ultimate Desire -the Coveted Fan Toy
As one would expect, sometimes Billi isn’t sure what she wants, but surprisingly, she can communicate that too. For example, in the BilliSpeaks video below, she pushes the “hmm?” button to say she’s not sure. Eventually, she decides to go with the Fan Toy, because nothing beats the toy that sometimes spins from the ceiling fan on a string.
Other times, Billi has gone so far as to request modifications to her beloved Fan Toy. Instead of the usual carrot, she wants her bunny on the string instead. It’s so specific and fascinating to see how much this cat apparently comprehends. Of course, it’s not surprising for cat lovers to see how clever this cat is. We just intuitively know that our furbabies understand some words, but scientists aren’t sure if this is truly a way of talking. By the time the research is done, the cats will probably be our overlords, and we are ok with that.
Billi Pushes 64 Buttons Now
When it started, Billi had only a few buttons on the floor, but now, she has 64 of them! After 10 months, her mom says that Billi definitely uses all 64 buttons, but her favorites remain Mad, Fan Toy, and Pets. So, it’s interesting that she goes back to these three out of all the options.
The house cat is part of a research project at TheyCanTalk.org, with a scientific mission to find out “whether, and if so, how and how much non-humans are able to express themselves in language-like ways.” Although cognitive scientist founder Leo Trottier was skeptical of whether cats would use the buttons, he was “pleasantly surprised.” Now, he’s seeing how cats communicate differently from dogs, finding their favorites and pushing them on repeat. For cats, it’s the simple things in life.
“What’s interesting is that they [cats] tend to not do that much in the way of multi-button presses, but there’s like a lot of single-button presses,” Trottier told Salon. “With cats, you kind of have to find things they really want, and there are just fewer of those than with dogs.”
Billi Talks About Her Upset Tummy
If Billi can understand words (we certainly think so), then would she talk about how she feels? Turns out this senior kitty does communicate about having an upset tummy as part of a chronic condition. One morning, her mom discovered she had thrown up. Billi began pushing “Ouch” repeatedly, followed by “Before.”
Later, after treatment at the vet, she felt better and pushed “Happy” and “All done,” meaning her tummy ache was all better. Amazing!
Steve B the Talking Cat
Kendra Baker was inspired to try using the talking buttons (technically an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device) after finding out about talking dogs named Stella and Bunny.
There’s another talking cat named Steve B, famous on TikTok. The cat began using the soundboard at age 11, thanks to his animal behaviorist mom Kristiina Wilson. This black and white kitty has a favorite word like Billi, but his word is “outside.”
Steve B lives in a household with nine other cats, and he is the Top Cat. Thanks to his mastery of the AAC, he has used it to do what all cat lovers will find unsurprising; he now commands Wilson to do his bidding.
Still not sure cats understand language? If your cat had an AAC, what would their favorite word be?
Video via Steve B’s channel called Cattitude Adjustment: