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Sit, Stay, Sign Language! The Newest Tricks for Pets

by April Maguire

For hundreds of years, sign language has served as a vital means of communication. Not only does it allow people who are hard of hearing to communicate more easily with others, but different cultures also use nonverbal gestures to overcome language barriers. However, could sign language also allow us to communicate effectively with our household pets?

Animal Instinct

When it comes to animals, the majority of communication is nonverbal. Just think about what happens when two dogs meet. First, they’ll communicate with one another through body language, then by exchanging scents. Only if these methods of communication fail or prove upsetting will they resort to barking or growing. Cats operate in a similar way.

Because our pets are accustomed to communicating nonverbally, teaching them sign language isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

Sign Language with Cats

Recently, a video appeared on YouTube showing a woman communicating with her cats via sign language. The woman, Kim Silva, is a former teacher at the American School for the Deaf, and after spending years interacting with people using sign language, she decided to start teaching sign language to her cats.

Currently, Silva has three cats – Bobcat, Bambi and Thomasina – and their vocabulary is quite extensive. Along with basic commands like “come” and “sit,” the cats also know signs for “high five,” “play,” “shrimp,” “dance” and “canned food.” And Silva claims she’s not done working with them. Ideally, her goal is to get her cats to initiate conversation, such as asking for food, rather than just responding to her commands.

Communicating with Deaf Pets

Seeing cats respond to sign language may seem like little more than a cute parlor trick, but pet sign language actually fulfills a vital need. In fact, Silva decided to teach her cats to sign after adopting Bambi, who is deaf.

Like humans who are hard of hearing, deaf pets need special considerations. Because they can’t hear, you can’t just call out for them when it’s time to be fed or to go for a walk. Teaching them sign language, however, provides deaf pets with a means of understanding you, fostering efficient communication just as it does with people who are hard of hearing.

Whether you’re talking about humans or pets, the ability to communicate is vital. Some pet experts believe that teaching deaf animals to sign can help to alleviate feelings of isolation and give them happier, fuller lives.

If you or someone you know would like more information about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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