When Kim Silva retired from teaching at the American School for the Deaf, she decided to start teaching her cats sign language. "Guess I missed the kiddies so I began teaching the kitties," she says.
It all started in 2009, after losing another beloved pet, Silva and her husband, John — who are both deaf — were ready for a new feline companion. They adopted a deaf cat named Bambi through Petfinder.
Silva's previous teaching experience was pretty much limited to humans, but she was optimistic that American Sign Language would help Bambi live most fully — and that the cat would be a perfectly good student. Bambi was at a rescue shelter in Texas, though, and it would take a while before she could be brought to Connecticut, where Silva lives. In the meantime, she figured, she might as well get started with the cats she already had, even though both of them could hear.
All three cats picked the language fast as they were mimicking each other
"Bobcat immediately understood," she says. "My other cat, Bear, was very old and was not interested." Bobcat learned one sign after another "until he learned the new vocabulary," Silva says. "Bobcat was a sponge for sign language! He showed off. He was fabulous." Bambi picked up the signs even more easily, since, Silva explains, she had "peer reinforcement and copied Bobcat."
Thomasina, who then joined the family in 2013, after Bear died, learned even faster.
Here's Kim with her cats
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