Signs for CAT

This word entry contains ASL signs for 'cat', baby signing 'cat', related words or word associations, and Handspeak's cats you can meet!

ASL sign for CAT

ASL signs for CAT

"How do you sign 'cat' in American Sign Language?" Here is a few variations.

Definition: a small domesticated carnivorous mammal with soft fur, a short snout, and retractile claws.

Pronunciation/articulation: Tips of thumb and forefinger (index finger) which forms the "F" handshape (palm facing left if right-handed) strokes twice along the cheek away from the side of the face.

Pronunciation (sign description): Dominant hand with the "G->20" handshapes (palm facing left if right-handed) strokes along the cheek away from the cheek twice.

The etymology of the sign, as you can guess, is derived from the cat's whiskers.

That's Kibe the cat in the video; she has been my blogging buddy.

Kid signing 'cat'

This time-lapse video shows how a bilingual ASL-speaking kid acquired the ASL word 'cat' from baby to preschool age as a case study. Every child develops at their own pace.

At age 0;9, this clip shows a natural phenomenon of how babies may over-categorize things (e.g. mama for 'father' and 'mother', dog for 'cat', 'dog', other similar looks, and so on) before they are able to distinguish one from another.

At 1;2, a lucky moment captured the baby's cognitive process when she self-corrected the location error of the signed word. Notice the handshape which is the earliest, unmarked handshape before baby can form other more complex handshapes.

At age 2;4, notice the emerging handshape. She used the "6" or "W" handshape which is closer to the "F" or "9" handshape. At age 2;7, she began to be able to form the "F" handshape. She even knew the handshape for "FOX" that she could apply to. At age 2;9, she was aware but the plasticity in her brain took time to build. At 3;0, she signed with the correct handshape.

Related signs

CLOWDER is a group of cats; TABBY, adorable KITTEN.


Word associations: ANIMAL, MEOW, PET, CATNIP.

Parts of the cat: TAIL, WHISKERS, PAW -- beware of some hidden sharp CLAWS.

Enmity of c.. err, antonym of cats: DOG.

Deaf cats

It's not common to have deaf pets; although, they do exist. I know a Deaf signer who has a Deaf cat. She says that the deaf cat's behavior of eye contact and alertness is similar to that of Deaf human. Like deaf humans, deaf animals sense vibration rather than sound. Deafhood.

Some people use "hand signals". Some Deaf parents use regular ASL with their loved pets, in the same way hearing people speak normal English with their pets.

For your catty smile

Meet Handspeak's furry companions, Kibe and Fritzy. They have been my constant blogging companions (and tons of distractions).

Kibe and Fritzy
Kibe (left) and Fritzy (right), 2021

Kibe (2015-) is a mouse catcher and a bit of warrior. She often brings a mouse, sometimes dead and sometimes alive. These carrions are usually given to neighborly magpies. Kibe is brave and kind.

Kibe often sits on my desks. Whenever she walked across the desk, she stretched out her forelimb and hindlimb between the monitor and me (or behind my laptop). She understands that she is not to touch the keyboard, often jumping over the keyboard or walking around it.

Fritzy (2020-), on the other hand, is a brush bandit with her furry bandit racoon-mask, looting and hiding my art brushes in her wool cave. She also took an adorable tiny stuffed alpaca to her cave. Fritzy is so sweet and she purrs often.

If you cannot find Kibe in the backyard, she is somewhere far beyond the backyard. If you cannot find Fritzy in the backyard, she is usually somewhere far up in the sky (trees) within the backyard. Sorry, I digress.


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Some word entries have one of some tidbits in this section, such as minimal pairs of sign words, rhymes, etc. usually related to or associated with its word entry.

Written ASL

[Note: ASL writing is not an official standard. This sign language writing remains in a state of open space to allow room for experiment, evolution, and improvement.]

ASL writing for CAT

ASL written digits (two versions/handshapes) for CAT. Contributed by Adrean Clark, 2015. Later added the little circle inside the handshape.

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ASL has its own grammar and structure in sentences that works differently from English. For plurals, verb inflections, word order, etc., learn grammar in the "ASL Learn" section. For search in the dictionary, use the present-time verbs and base words. If you look for "said", look up the word "say". Likewise, if you look for an adjective word, try the noun or vice versa. E.g. The ASL signs for French and France are the same. If you look for a plural word, use a singular word.