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I was watching Aliens and noticed that Jones the cat seemed to be genuinely unhappy and hissing during Ripley's dream sequence at Gateway Station.

Jonesy hissing

How do animal handlers get cats to hiss?

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Great question about animals in movies in genral –  DustinDavis Jul 18 at 0:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

In regards to the cat in Alien,

  • 32 Things We Learned From the ‘Alien’ Commentary

    Director Ridley Scott got the hissing reaction from Jones the Cat by flashing a German Shepherd into the cat’s sight

  • This is also mentioned on IMDb,

    To get Jones the cat to react fearfully to the descending Alien, a German Shepherd was placed in front of him with a screen between the two, so the cat wouldn't see it at first, and came over. The screen was then suddenly removed to make Jones stop, and start hissing.

  • and on Cinema Cats

    In the DVD commentary, director Ridley Scott explained that he had a German Shepherd on the set (securely fastened with a leash, of course) behind a board which they lifted to get the reaction of Jones hissing.

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I think your question is primarily opinion based, it'll be hard to answer without using opinion. But I like it, so here's my .02.

Anything with a brain stem can be trained to perform any of their natural behaviors. I'm not sure there's one true answer to you question, because a variety of training methods exist.

Clicker training works great, and fast! It's based on positive reinforcement, so animals dig the training sessions. Basically you wait for an animal to do the behavior you want them to do. When they do it, you click the clicker, and give them a treat. Pretty soon, they catch on and start engaging the behavior that earns them a treat. every time they do it, click - treat. Click - treat. You keep doing this until you know the animal is going to engage in the behavior, then you add in hand gestures. After that you stop using the clicker, and just use the hand signals. I can almost guarantee with 100% certainty that when you see an animal like Jonsey hissing, they're looking at their trainer just off camera, and the trainer is giving them a hand signal.

We trained out dog to "come" in 20 minutes one afternoon using this method.

Here's a video interview of the guy that trained Mr. Poppers penguins.

Here's an interview with a movie animal trainer...and a different interview.

This particular trainer trains her animals for specific scenes, they extensively rehearse the shots before the actual filming.

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..and there I was, thinking they'd just closed the 'free catnip' bar. ;) –  Andrew Thompson Jul 18 at 3:24
    
I would bet the trainers will have animals which easily perform a behavior. Hissing comes naturally to some cats under certain circumstances and most cars are very hard to train as opposed to dogs. Get a cat which hisses when you put a certain person in front of them and there you go. Use their natural instinct to your advantage. –  Paulster2 Jul 18 at 11:46
    
@BenPlont Up-vote from me! Great answer! I'll add that for the movie Cujo, they used a lot of different dogs to play Cujo. They looked similar but had different temperaments and were good at different tricks. I also heard somewhere about different bears being used in a movie: one to roar, one to run, etc. –  BrettFromLA Jul 18 at 17:52

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