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The moment viral deaf cat brings joy to deaf children

Words by Abi Scaife

When you think of deafness, you don’t usually think of animals. Unless, of course, you follow Sigrid the cat on TikTok.

Wildly popular on social media, Sigrid is a white Norwegian Forest Cat owned by Travis, who rides around London with Sigrid in a basket on his bike. Hailing from San Francisco, California, the pair are watched by people all over the globe and are even recognised by people on the streets of London for their TikTok videos.

When Travis bought Sigrid five and a half years ago from across the pond in America, he knew there was a chance she might be deaf. For these cats, with white fur and blue eyes, there is around an 80% chance they may be born deaf - it’s genetic.

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When Smiley Movement met Sigrid

We met Travis and Sigrid while filming our #StreetTalk series and knew straight away how great the pair of them were – so when Travis mentioned wanting to take Sigrid to a deaf school, we had to get involved.

Smiley Movement accompanied Travis and Sigrid to visit the Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children in London, to introduce the children to an animal who experiences the world just like they do.

And what a heartwarming experience it was.

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"Did you know she was deaf when you got her?"

“It’s not every day you have a deaf cat in school,” Dani Sive, the headteacher at the Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children, told us. “It’s unique to them … it’s nice to have their world opened up, to have different learning experiences.”

The children’s faces lit up as they entered the room where Sigrid sat, full of excitement when they realised the cat was deaf and had something in common with them. They all watched one of Travis and Sigrid’s YouTube videos to get a feel for what they do, before getting a chance to ask questions about Sigrid themselves.

Most of the questions were typical of kids. How old is she? Where did you get her? Do you have to brush her a lot?

And yet, there were also questions that showed just how significant it was for these children to meet Sigrid. Did you know she was deaf when you got her? Why is she deaf?

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'Deafness doesn't stop her enjoying the world'

Sigrid’s deafness doesn’t stop her from enjoying the world, we noticed, as she tried to stick her head inside our camera bag. Just as it doesn’t stop any of the children we met from enjoying the world - or enjoying Sigrid’s visit.

Our brilliant British Sign Language (BSL) translator, Shula, taught us the sign for ‘cute/sweet’ (putting the index finger to your cheek and twisting back and forth) – and we saw each child do it when they stroked Sigrid.

Being able to understand even just a little BSL made the experience of being in the school so much more interesting – and really gave us insight into how the children communicate with each other.

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The Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children isn’t a sign language school, though they do teach British Sign Language. Instead, it's a bilingual school - teaching children English and British Sign Language side by side, preparing them as best they can to enter a world where British Sign Language isn’t commonly known.

The idea to include British Sign Language in the national curriculum has been a topic of debate for some time – we teach foreign languages in our schools, so why aren’t we teaching the other language that is spoken in our own country?

If you want to see more of our trip with Sigrid and Travis, there will soon be a video up on our YouTube showing a little more about what we got up to!

If you’re interested in supporting the petition to have British Sign Language introduced into the national curriculum, you can find information here.

The Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children is supported by the Friends of Frank Barnes charity, helping to develop the minds of young deaf children and teach BSL to non-deaf members of family.

You can watch the full video of the visit below.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs