Have there been some unexplained changes in your cat’s behaviour recently? Are they clumsier than usual? Maybe they’re sleeping for longer or meowing more and louder? If so, they could be experiencing some hearing loss. Which, may make you ask yourself is my cat deaf?
This article should have everything you need to spot symptoms of deafness in your cat and how to adjust to life with new deafness.
- How to spot deafness in cats
- What causes deafness?
- Adjusting to life with a deaf cat
How to spot deafness in cats
Cats are masters at hiding ailments, but there are some telltale signs to look out for. Here are our top tips.
They stop responding to your voice.
Cat owners are used to their fur baby’s aloof behaviour, but ignoring and not hearing are different. If your cat can hear your voice, they will display some sort of reaction. It can be as subtle as an ear turn, a tail flick or even a blink; if you notice this isn’t happening on a number of different occasions, you might want to look into it. A good way to test this is with a whistle or clapping while being out of their sight line.
Are they hearing you approach them? A cat’s hearing is far better than our own, so they should hear you approaching them.
Tilting their head
Titling of their head could mean deafness in one ear or an ear infection, which can cause temporary deafness. Depending on the severity of the case, it could also lead to permanent deafness. If a cat can’t hear from one ear, they may tilt their head to direct more sound to their hearing ear.
Is your cat meowing more frequently, and is it louder than usual? When deaf cats do this, they’re trying to get a sense of their surroundings (beyond their sight).
If you spot any of these symptoms, please book an appointment with your vet. Occasionally, deafness can be a sign of something else, so the earlier they’re seen, the sooner things can be ruled out.
What causes deafness in cats?
Like with humans, cats can be born deaf or experience hearing loss at any point in their lives. Sometimes, hearing loss can be temporary, while in some cases, it is a permanent life change. Here’s a list of common causes of deafness in cats:
Ear infections can cause fluid to build up in the ear, and that buildup will cause hearing loss. This is often temporary, but untreated, it could cause permanent damage. Unfortunately, ear infections don’t go away on their own, so we advise booking an appointment as soon as symptoms arise.
Cats can experience ruptured eardrums and other conditions from head trauma. Sometimes they heal by themselves, but it is a case-by-case basis as to whether a cat’s deafness is reversible.
Genetic issues are determined before birth. A kitten could be born with minimal or no hearing or a gene that pre-determines future hearing loss. All-white cats with blue eyes have a risk of being born or becoming deaf. Researchers have found that for all-white cats with two blue eyes, the percentage of deaf cats ranges from 65 to 85%; though some of these cats might only be deaf in only one ear. However, if the cat has one blue eye, the likelihood of deafness drops to 40%. White cats with non-blue eyes, have a relatively low chance of being born deaf, with only 17 to 22% being affected.
Like humans, as cats get older, their hearing deteriorates, some more than others. It’s a natural condition with nothing to worry about; it’s just a sign of a life well lived.
How can I help my deaf cat?
A deaf cat can pretty much live a normal life, though we do recommend that they stay indoors. If your cat is used to being outside, this could be a stressful transition, but eventually, they will adjust to being indoors. Alternatively, you could invest in a catio or pen. Catios are enclosed outdoor pens that usually connected to the house while covering a window or door. This usually means an owner can leave the window open and the cat still gets to experience going outside safely.
Change as little as possible
Other than being indoors, their life doesn’t need to change at all. Continue playing and talking to them and keep to your usual routine. Big changes can sometimes be stressful for a cat, especially a deaf cat, so it’s best not to change too much.
Talk to your cat.
Why talk to your cat? Because when humans speak, we create micro-expressions; this is what your cat reads when you talk to them. By continuing to speak to them, you’re still communicating!
Train them with specific hand signals.
A healthy cat’s eyesight is amazing. So, take advantage of it by teaching them hand signals! Simple hand signals that tell them to “come here”, “stay” or “sit”. Cats are very capable of being trained if you consistently put in the time.
Be mindful when you approach your cat, make sure they can see you. Surprising your cat may result in some unwanted scratches.
Get creative with toys
Invest in some brain-stimulating toys for them around the house. You can purchase some treat-based toys and puzzles or make why not make some of your own.
If you have any questions on how to support your deaf cat, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your vet.