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Living with a deaf cat

Living with a deaf cat

When we first found our cat Sultan on the street and took him in, we did not realize he was deaf. Although we did notice some strange behavior on his part, we could not tell the cause at first. It was only after a little time and research that we started to connect the dots. We took him to the vet and within minutes he confirmed our theory. By then, I had learned quite a lot about deaf

cats. I learned that 3/5 of white cats with blue eyes, like our Sultan, are deaf. Hearing loss in cats, similar to human beings, can occur for a number of reasons. Some cats are born deaf and suffer from what is called congenital deafness, while others lose their hearing as a result of illness, injury, or old age. There are also two different types of deafness, permanent deafness and temporary deafness. Temporary deafness may happen as a result of tumors, infections or wax build-up which cause sound not to pass through the ear. This type can be reversed through treatment. While permanent deafness occurs when the nerves of the ear are affected or damaged. Reasons for nervous system disorders include genetic problems, old age, drug toxicity or trauma.  

  1. Signs to look out for when in doubt Cats who suffer from hearing loss exhibit several symptoms that can allow you to detect their condition early on. For instance, many deaf cats either stop meowing all together or make a strong and loud meow noise. This is because deaf cats cannot hear themselves and thus are unable to regulate their volume. Another sign that your cat has a hearing problem is when she does not respond to close sounds or noise, for example that of a vacuum cleaner. Another thing to watch for is if your cat is easily startled. Also keep in mind that they usually pick up on vibrations rather than sounds, for example vibrations form opening doors or walking on hardwood. Once you have strong suspicions, you must take your cat to the vet so a proper testing can be done.  

  2. How to keep your deaf cat safe A deaf cat's life is always at risk outdoors where they would be unable to detect any danger coming their way such as moving vehicles or wild animals. In the outdoors, anything from a falling leaf to an angry bird can startle your cat and lead to unpredictable reactions. Although they can�t hear them, deaf cats can be easily frightened by thunderstorms or fireworks because of the strong vibrations they produce. So be sure to keep windows and balcony doors closed during wintertime. I learned that the hard way when Sultan fell off from third floor after a big scare during a stormy night.
  3. Deaf cats at home Cats, like humans often compensate for the loss of one sense by heightening the others. As a result, your deaf cat will be more sensitive to vibrations and they will be aware of your presence from your movements around the house. For example, they will catch the vibration of opening and closing doors, flushing toilets and heavy footsteps. In the silence of their world, deaf cats also enjoy the vibrations of their own meowing so prepare yourself for louder and more insistent meows! You might also notice that your deaf cat will often close off herself in a tight space such as a bathroom where the vibrations from her meows will reverberate against the walls and floors. Bear in mind that deaf cats will often jump up to the highest points in their home, to avoid being startled. Your cat might use the top of the fridge or high cabinet as lookout places. Be sure that your deaf cat will love you all the more for creating such high hang out places for them. Another way to help alert your cat is to stomp harder when you're moving back and forth.

  4. Communicating with your deaf cat Believe it or not but cats, like humans, can adapt to their hearing loss by learning sign language! Your deaf cat will not hear when you call out her name but you can teach it to respond to hand signals instead. For example you can kneel and clap your hands or even tap your fingers on the floor. Most importantly you can show your cat love and affection through gestures rather than words. Did you know that when a cat slowly blinks at you it is communicating its affection? It is equivalent to a human "I love you" and is called a "cat kiss". So when you're holding or petting your deaf cat, just remember to blink back slowly and say "I love you" back!

    Sounds familiar? Share your experience in the comments below!

by Razan Zaatari

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