Best friends: Meet the man and his cat exploring London on a bike

Instagram cat duo Travis and Sigrid

Travis Nelson and his cat Sigrid on Hampstead Heath - Credit: Polly Hancock

There are different ways people explore London – and cycling around with your cat now appears to be one of them.

A year ago Travis Nelson, 45, was made redundant. Looking for a new sense of direction he started taking his cat Sigrid on his bike, the four-year-old Norwegian forest feline sitting in a basket on the front surveying the sights as the pair sauntered through the capital.

Travis and Sigrid have since built a cult following on Instagram, broadcasting their daily travels through the likes of England’s Lane, Hampstead Heath and Hyde Park.

Through his rides with his “best friend”, the Belsize owner has brought together two worlds not commonly associated – cycling and cats. The pair have even attended protests and parties together, including the Pride Ride. 

Travis, who spends up to four hours per day putting together the videos and managing social media, told the Ham&High: “Everyone is always quite surprised and happy to see Sigrid on the bike and it’s just a non-stop trail of people waving, smiling and shouting ‘hey there’s a cat’.  

“It sounds a little strange but it's as if you're spreading joy, like a trail of happy people everywhere we go. It’s quite fun.”

Instagram cat duo Travis and Sigrid

- Credit: Polly Hancock

Travis continued: “It’s been a stressful year, being out of work is no fun so it's nice to meet happy people every day, and Sigrid likes it a lot.

“She always seems to love going outside. She'll stand at the door and whine. She sees me messing with my bike and she starts running around getting excited, it’s her favourite thing to do.” 

Instagram cat duo Travis and Sigrid

- Credit: Polly Hancock

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Travis, whose background is in software engineering, says his partnership with Sigrid, who is deaf, has helped build a sense of purpose and routine while out of work, much of it during lockdown.  

The 45-year-old has leash-trained Sigrid, and the pair often walk through England’s Lane – Barrett's butchers and Chamomile Cafe among the local fans.

Instagram cat duo Travis and Sigrid

- Credit: Polly Hancock

“I usually describe us as best friends,” Travis said. “We're together all the time. Sigrid does mean a lot to me. It's been a tough year and she's been a big comfort. 

“It’s a little odd now, almost every time we go riding we get recognised by someone. It feels like we have friends everywhere.” 

The duo’s travels have even made it onto the global stage including screens on the Moscow Metro.

“We’ve gone all over the place," Travis said. "It's crazy.”  

Jeremy Clarkson, however, may still need some convincing. Travis and Sigrid rode past the former Top Gear presenter on one of their journeys and the 61-year-old seemed somewhat bemused.

The cycling enthusiast says he is acutely aware of some people perhaps thinking it inappropriate to take a domesticated cat out on the bike around London.  

But he says his travels with Sigrid – who is securely attached to the basket with a harness – are actually an attempt to improve road safety, boost the number of people on the bike, and make people more understanding of cyclists.  

“Not everyone is the Lycra-clad stereotype and not everyone is riding on a sidewalk and being crazy,” Travis said. 

“There's regular people out there, there's cats out there. We’re just trying to get people to think about it a little differently.”

Instagram cat duo Travis and Sigrid

- Credit: Polly Hancock

Originally from San Francisco, Travis lives at home with his wife, whom he met while working for the video game company SEGA. The family are hoping to stay in Belsize, with their visa set to expire.  

The couple have a second cat called Ylva, a nine-year-old Bengal who interrupts our interview with a loud "meow".

“She’s a noisy one,” Travis laughs.   

So, looking ahead, having built up a loyal Instagram fan base of 19,400 followers and counting, what does the future hold for Travis and Sigrid? 

“Once I get a job again I’ll have to scale things back a bit,” Travis said. 

“But for now I'm enjoying it, she's enjoying it, everyone else is enjoying it, so I’m just kind of keeping at it until things change for us – and I’m quite happy to do it.”

Follow Travis and Sigrid on Instagram @skintension

Instagram cat duo Travis and Sigrid

- Credit: Polly Hancock