HEALTH & CARE

How to Tell If Your Cat is Deaf: Understanding Your Kitty’s Silent World

deaf cat
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Suspecting that your cat could be deaf can be a source of immense anxiety for you. Relax a little; cats are intelligent animals and have the ability to compensate hearing loss by better use of their other very effective senses, but regardless, you should still be in the know. Your best bet on how to tell if your cat is deaf lies with observing his response to audio stimuli.

Deafness in cats manifests as loss of hearing in one or both ears. This can be temporary or permanent. If you suspect that your cat is deaf, we understand your situation. That is why we have written this article that will dispel your doubts and help you make the necessary decisions. Suppose you find out he is deaf, that doesn’t have to spell doom; there is always a way out or around it.

Before we get into identifying deafness in your cat, it would be a good idea to take you through its common causes. Once you identify them and establish that he is indeed deaf, is it possible to treat him? Whether he can be treated or is permanently deaf, he still has a shot at a good life. Keep reading for more details on all this.

Causes of Deafness in Cats

cat without ears

All kittens are born deaf and stay that way for up to around two weeks of age. Unfortunately, not all of them get to graduate to the world of hearing. Some of those that hear may end up losing their hearing ability at any stage in their lives due to several factors.

Here are the main causes of deafness in cats.

  • Certain cats inherit a dominant gene responsible for white coat, blue eyes and deafness. Statistics show that a cat with two blue eyes has 3 to 5 times the chances of being deaf as compared to non-blue eyed cats. Also, a cat with one blue eye has two times the likelihood of being deaf. The deafness can be in one or both ears

  • Illnesses and infections which may result from yeast, bacteria, or ear mites. This can include otitis externa

  • Obstruction of the ear canal which can be caused by excess wax, debris, growths, and other forms of dirt

  • Poisoning or the use of drugs like antibiotics, heart medications, or chemotherapy. Your vet is able to weigh the benefits of such medications over the potential dangers

  • As cats age, they gradually lose their hearing ability due to the thickening of the eardrum

  • Deformed structures of the outer, middle, or inner ear, e.g. atresia of the ear canal

  • Defects or damage to sound-transmitting nerves

  • Trauma or injuries to the head which may affect the brain

  • Exposure to extreme noise especially over a long period of time

  • Feline ear disorders like polyps, tumors, and cancerous growths

Signs of Deafness

Felines have a keen sense of hearing which is considerably better than that of humans. However they are quite the independent creatures and may shrug off any noisy disruptions that you may use to test their hearing.

With this in mind, it’s best to use a combination of the methods below to correctly determine if your furry friend is deaf.

#1: Failure to Respond to Everyday Noises

cat not afraid of vacuum cleaner

The curious nature of felines makes them pay heed to most everyday noises in their surroundings. If you live in an apartment near a busy street, his ears will normally twitch at the sound of loud honking or other noises from the road. A deaf cat, on the other hand, will stay calm even on the most annoying and persistent honking.

Most cats are easily startled by noisy electrical appliances like vacuum cleaners. The noise from the appliance makes them edgy; they will run and hide from it. The moment you turn it on your cat will stand alert, even if he is in another room, ready to flee or crouch in a frightful manner.

Felines with hearing loss will, however, be calm or sleep through the noise. Such cats may even approach the cleaner and chase the cord around as you vacuum your house. The sound is especially loud considering his height and lack of fear could signal complete deafness.

#2: Failure to React to Favorable Noises

cat not paying attention to his favourite sounds

The noise made when opening a can of food is enough to make even the most laidback cat hysterical. The same reaction is expected when tearing or shaking a bag of treats. A deaf cat will be oblivious of these noises. He will act excited only when he lays his eyes on the can or the bag.

A response based on shaking the bag will be more conclusive on his hearing abilities since it is possible for him to respond to the smell of food or treats the same way he responds to the noise.

Cats are affectionate and as such readily get attached to owners, especially if you’ve had them since they were kittens. Your furry friend eagerly awaits your arrival from work for the much-needed play session, food, and even petting. Even if he is sleeping or in an inner room in your house, the noise made when opening the front door may send him running to welcome you in.

This behavior is more noticeable in kittens who are always more willing to impress. Mature and older cats may not respond with the same enthusiasm but will still display some form of acknowledgment. This can be by meowing or waking from their sleep to observe your entry.

Deaf cats will not react to any noises you make on your arrival unless you are within their visual range.

Here, Kitty, Kitty!” is a sound that most if not all cats respond to. They will meow or approach you at the sound or when you call out their name. Deaf cats, on the other hand, will not seek you or even answer with a meow.

You can best test his response by putting him in a quiet room where he can’t see you. Then make some loud noise or use a squeaky toy. You can also make some meowing sounds and listen for any responding meows from him which would indicate he is reacting to the sounds.

See Also: How to Talk to Your Cat

#3: Heavy Sleeping

cat sleeping heavily

Heavy sleeping can also be an indicator of hearing loss. Cats evolved as pretty reclusive creatures; this allows them to have exceptional predatory instincts. They have a sharp hearing which enables them to detect the lowest of sounds even when they are asleep.

Cats without hearing impairment will have naps that can be interrupted by noise. They will spring awake at loud noises or at least open their eyes and sleepily gaze around. Deaf felines will, however, sleep heavily through loud commotions in the house and only wake up when touched.

#4: Loud Meowing

cat meowing loudly

If your cat is deaf, he will meow louder than others. You must know how a person listening to loud music on headphones speaks; they tend to shout. The same phenomenon is observed in cats by loud meowing as they cannot hear themselves and as such are unable to determine how loud they are.

Treatment for Deafness in Cats

vet checking cat's ears

Treatment for hearing loss highly depends on the cause. When it comes from inner ear damage and genetic or age factors, it is not reversible. On the other hand, Identifying and dealing with certain causes can help your cat regain all or at least a part of his hearing.

Here are some ways to do this.

  • Treatment of treatable ear infections

  • Gentle removal of over-accumulated ear wax

  • Surgical removal of tumors and growths

  • Some irreversible conditions may necessitate the use of hearing aids but only if your cat allows it

  • Stopping the use of or replacing any drugs that may be causing hearing problems

How to Care for a Deaf Cat

taking care of a deaf cat

Being deaf does not mean that your cat can’t live a happy and fulfilled life. Nature has a way of compensating the loss of one sense by heightening the others. A deaf feline will have increased sensitivity to smell and temperatures. His sense of sight and touch will also be more intense and improved.

If your cat’s deafness is congenital, he may grow accustomed to the quietness and be able to get around and interpret his surroundings with ease. However, those who experience gradual hearing loss or sudden deafness due to trauma or disease may face difficulty coping with a world without sound.

The following measures can make life easier for you and your cat.

#1: Keep Your Cat Indoors

keeping cat indoors

Deaf cats run the risk of reacting slowly to dangers that they may encounter outdoors. Your cat may get run over by cars that he can’t hear approaching or honking.

The outdoors also put him at a great disadvantage when it comes to dealing with rival cats or vicious dogs. He cannot hear their approach, barks, meows, or hisses, and as such can’t anticipate impending fights.

Being always cooped up in the house may, however, not be so agreeable to your cat. You can remedy this by building an enclosure or a run where he can have his outdoor fun and sun.

See Also: Cat Window Box DIY

#2: Have your Cat Implanted with a Microchip

Cats can easily get lost when they venture outside. You can also lose hold of their leash in the park or during a visit to a friend’s house. These scenarios become more complicated if your feline cannot hear you calling them.

Implanting him with a microchip is one of the easiest ways of tracking a deaf cat. This is a one-time procedure that takes a few minutes to complete. A quick prick on the loose skin behind his neck and you can tell where he is any time of the day or night.

Apart from the microchip, you can add a tag on his collar that identifies him as a deaf pet. This alerts anyone who interacts with him to do so appropriately.

#3: Learn Other Ways of Communicating with Your Cat

touching a cat's paw

Teach your feline simple hand signals. It may take time for him to understand the gestures but with patience on your part and positive reinforcement with treats, it can be done. Such signals can include beckoning for ‘come,’ waving for ‘stop,’ and pointing to your mouth for ‘food.’

You can also communicate with him by way of touch. When you need to wake or feed him, approach him from a direction where he can see you and pat him softly. With time, try different ‘pats’ on the head or the back to communicate different things.

Remove carpets and mats from his favorite spots in the house. This will enable him to feel and get used to vibrations running throughout your home. It will also make it easier for him to feel the vibrations your stomping feet make as you approach.

#4: Get your Cat a Hearing Mate

Felines who are deaf can live more comfortably by having a playmate who takes the lead. Their curious nature will make them mimic everything the playmate does.

Although cats are not pack animals, with time, he will notice the importance of following the cat who can ‘tell’ (hear) when it’s time for food, baths, and treats.

See Also: How to Introduce a Kitten to a Cat

Wrap Up

touching cat's ears

Cats can inherit deafness or acquire it at any stage in their lives. Apart from genetics, other causes of deafness revolve around health, physical trauma, ear canal obstruction, defects, and the use of strong drugs or chemicals.

Some of these may lead to permanent deafness while others can be corrected with treatment, surgery, or elimination of the problem.

Keen observation is paramount in helping you to tell if your cat is deaf. Combining activities that test his response to audio stimuli can help you confirm or dispel your doubts. If it turns out that he is deaf, it is your responsibility to ensure that he gets around more easily, enjoys his life and above all, his safety is guaranteed.

Is your cat deaf? What are some of the challenges that you have encountered taking care of him? What tricks have worked for both of you? Your feedback is important to us. Share this and any other feedback with us below. For more cat health facts, check out our other article how many bones do cats have.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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