Meet Flounder, a trick-performing Bengal cat

The Little Purrmaid

Story by Sheila Paz + Photography by Rick Leipold and Jordan Matthis

Watch this! 

Purrmaid [pur-meyd] Noun
A cat that enjoys playing and swimming in water and moves through the water like a mermaid. Click here to watch a video of Flounder enjoying a swim. 

Hilton Head Island resident Nina Leipold (aka The Mermaid of Hilton Head) has taught her Bengal cat, Flounder, 15 tricks. The cat’s favorite trick is kitty ballet in her pink tutu. ©Jordan Matthis

“Sit! Stay! Speak!”

These are typical commands taught to dogs, but cats — their mortal enemies — have defied expectations by demonstrating their ability to learn tricks as well. Nina Leipold, the owner of Mermaid of Hilton Head, has trained her feline companion to perform a variety of tricks, challenging the notion that cats cannot be trained.

Meet Flounder the Purrmaid, an almost 2-year-old Bengal cat determined to break the stereotype surrounding feline training. Leipold recognized the high energy levels of Bengals and their need for constant mental stimulation, which she observed in Flounder from an early age. Wanting to enhance both of their lives, Leipold decided to channel Flounder’s energy into training.

Leveraging her dolphin- and dog-training background, Leipold applied her expertise to train Flounder. She began by teaching Flounder how to high-five, testing her interest in learning. Once Flounder grasped the concept of obeying commands for treats, teaching her new tricks became easier.

Since starting the training in September 2022, Flounder has learned over 15 tricks. Currently she is mastering using talking buttons (soundboard Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices) to express her needs and desires. Among her favorite buttons is “kitty ballet,” a sequence of ballet moves including sous-sus, passé, échappé, saut de chat, tendu and changement.

Recently Flounder joined the research group, which collects data to educate others on communicating with various species, including dogs, cats, and more, using talking buttons. Flounder represents the wild cat community, sharing insights on enriching the lives of feline companions with similar behavioral traits.

While learning to use talking buttons is one goal for Flounder, others include visits to hospitals to bring happiness to elderly or ill patients.

If you’re fortunate, you may catch Flounder and her mom on the beach in the early morning. If not, make sure to check out their TikTok account @floundercat and YouTube channel @Floundercat, where Leipold teaches how to train your cat to perform tricks.

©Jordan Matthis
©Jordan Matthis

Nina’s cat training tips

Patience. Unlike dogs which aim to please, cats do not, which makes training a little harder and takes longer. 

Persistence. Cats work on their own schedule. Do not be easily distraught when your feline friend does not pick up on tricks right away. 

Do your research. Familiarize yourself with the energy levels of the breed you are considering adopting, and understand its need for mental stimulation.

©Rick Leipold

Flounder fun facts

Full name: Flounder Meatloaf Leipold 

Favorite movie: Pocahontas

Favorite movie character: Meeko the Racoon

Favorite trick: Kitty ballet

Favorite food: Chicken

Favorite outfit: Tutu

©Jordan Matthis

Related reading

Flounder Cat By Nina Leipold

Flounder the purrmaid loves to swim in the ocean and play on the beaches, until one day she meets a friend who needs her help. Follow her on her journey to help her friend and others as she comes up with a plan so all of her friends in the ocean will have a safe future. Flounder Cat highlights the very real issue of plastic pollution in our oceans and introduces a way we can all help.

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