Coping with a Deaf Cat

The five senses are extremely important to a cat. In the wild, they rely on a combination of sight and hearing to locate prey. As such, should a cat lose their hearing for any reason, they would be very unlikely to survive in the wild.

Our domestic counterparts are luckier, and it is not uncommon that when cats age, their senses gradually decline and they can become partially or totally deaf. Hearing loss can also occur as a result of trauma to the ear, a severe infection or a birth defect. But this does not mean you have to say goodbye to your cat, as with careful thought and adjustment, your deaf cat can live a happy life for years to come.


How Do You Know If They Can Hear?


Some cats are born with hereditary deafness, while others lose their hearing later in life. White cats are at increased risk of being born deaf, but this is not guaranteed. If you notice your cat does not respond to you calling them, does not jump at loud noises and doesn’t appear concerned by loud noises around them, this could be cause for concern.

deaf cat
Coping with a Deaf  Cat

If you watch your cat closely, they should turn towards a sound and their ears should point to the exact position of the sound. If they do not, it's likely they have a problem with their hearing and it’s recommended you discuss this with your veterinarian.

It is normally thought that when one sense is impaired, the others become more acute and adept in helping the cat find their way around to do the things they need to do. It is important to consider that in case of an emergency, you cannot warn your cat through your voice as you would with a normal, hearing cat that is facing danger. With practice and training, the cat will become familiar with vibration as a form of communication, and as such, you can stamp on the ground or keep a water spray handy as a quick way to make them move if needed.


How to Help Your Cat Cope

  • Avoid putting your cat into a situation where they are in danger. It is advisable to keep them indoors or to only allow them in a securely fenced outdoor area so they cannot roam and get lost.
  • Teach your cat to respond to vibrations. This can be a sharp clap of the hands or stamp of the feet. Rewarding the cat when she responds to the vibration will reinforce that this is a good way to communicate.
  • Replace voice commands with hand signals. Teach the cat a signal for each word, such as a flat palm for stop. She will soon learn to recognize them and associate each hand gesture with its respective command.
  • Keep your cat away from other cats. They cannot hear the warning signs emitted by other cats, such as a hiss, and can potentially be placed in a dangerous position.
  • Make sure your cat wears a collar stating "I am deaf," as well as your contact details. It is really important that they are easily identified when lost.
  • Attend regular check-ups at your veterinarian. When one sense is damaged, it is important to make sure that the rest of their senses are working correctly. A sudden decline in eyesight, for example, can lead to serious problems for a cat. With regular check-ups, your vet should notice any problems at an early stage.
  • Make sure you keep all your cat’s essentials — their litter box, food bowl and bed — in the same place to prevent confusion and ensure the cat can easily access their requirements with minimal fuss.

 

Losing one of the senses does not mean a limited life for a cat. With careful adaptation, they can live happily for many years to come.