TikTok Mermaid Shares Life Working With a Playful Octopus in Viral Video

A professional mermaid has given an insight into what it is like to work with an octopus in a viral video viewed over 1.2 million times on TikTok. Madison Cashio, who works at the Blue Zoo Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shared the video of herself cleaning the tank while the octopus, Octavia, interacts with her.

The 33-second video shows Cashio scrubbing the artificial coral in the aquarium with the captions: "Working with an octopus is like... hey ... hey ... play with me." Octavia is seen reaching out to Cashio with her tentacles and holding her shoulder before trying to "hold hands."

Cashio, who describes herself as a saltwater aquarist, scuba diver and professional mermaid, says Octavia came to the aquarium with two missing tentacles. She said that at first, the octopus was nervous of her, but they built trust after about a month.

In a message to Newsweek, Cahsio said that over the last 11 years of working with aquatic creatures, she has had many relationships with different animals—but Octavia is definitely one of the closest.

"[Octavia] is special because of their intelligence makes them a fascinating animal to study because they are unpredictable and to many people assume without knowing," she said. "I was expecting to be her provider and care giver and it brought me so much joy when she started to come out and trust me."

Octopuses are regarded as highly intelligent animals. In April, scientists announced research suggesting they experience dreams. Researchers discovered this behavior was linked to differing sleep states after an octopus called Heidi was observed changing color while she slept.

They found a "quiet sleep" state was associated with pale skin and closed pupils, while the "active sleep" state resulted in changes in skin color and texture, as well as rapid eye movement. In humans this active state is known as REM (rapid eye movement) and is associated with the phase of sleep where we dream.

Octopuses are able to solve mazes and tasks to gain rewards. They can use tools to hunt and defend themselves, while each tentacle appears to move independently from the creature's central brain.

It is also thought they are able to recognize individual humans.

"Octavia has bonded to me and I really enjoy our time together now that she doesn't see me as food but a provider and trusts me," Cashio said in a comment on the TikTok post. "She is very sweet."

In a comment on the post, TikTok user Sarah McCluskey asks Cahsio how she feels about octopuses being kept in captivity, knowing how intelligent they are. Cashio said Octavia was missing the tips of two of her tentacles. "So I take it this way that if we didn't get her and provide her a happy life somebody else could get her and eat her or provide her a bad life," Cashio said in response.

Octopus intelligence and their relationship with humans gained huge recognition following the release of the 2020 Netflix film My Octopus Teacher. Craig Foster filmed himself and his developing friendship with a wild common octopus off the coast of South Africa over the course of a year. The film won Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards.

This article has been updated to include comments from Madison Cashio.

stock octopus
Stock image: An octopus swimming. TikTok user Madison Cashio posted a video of a captive octopus called Octavia playing with her as she tried to clean the creature's tank. Getty Images