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Considering adopting a deaf cat or wondering how to tell if your cat is deaf? Here is our guide to caring for them.

Whether you’ve decided to adopt a deaf cat from a rescue centre or are learning to cope with your cat’s diagnosis, there are plenty of ways to help make your feline friend’s life easier. While rehoming a special needs cat can be daunting at first, it is incredibly rewarding and many deaf cats can be very affectionate.

Are cats born deaf?

Some cats are born deaf, while others gradually lose their hearing as they age. For most cats, sudden loss of hearing is normally the result of illness or injury.

Thankfully, deaf cats adapt to their surroundings surprisingly well and easily compensate for their lack of hearing by using their other senses more. In fact, in many cases, it can be difficult for owners to even tell whether their cat is deaf. You can find out more about how to tell if your cat is deaf below.

For cats, there are varying degrees of deafness and a range of different causes, which may or may not be treatable. There are two types of deafness – reversible and permanent.

Reversible deafness in cats

Some types of deafness in cats are reversible by treating the underlying cause. For example, where the sound cannot pass into the ear. This could be due to:

  • polyps
  • tumours
  • outer and middle-ear infections
  • wax build-up
  • ear mites

Permanent deafness in cats

Permanent deafness is usually when the nerves associated with the ear do not function properly, and is usually due to:

  • genetic issues
  • inner ear infections
  • drug toxicity
  • noise trauma
  • age-related degeneration

To find out whether your cat‘s deafness can be treated, it is best to speak to your vet. Like humans, each cat is an individual and has individual needs.

Find out more about finding a vet

Symptoms of deafness in cats include:

  1. a failure to respond when spoken to or called
  2. being easily startled
  3. signs of dizziness or disorientation
  4. no longer being afraid of the vacuum cleaner or other loud appliances
  5. shaking their head or clawing at their ear
  6. pus or other discharge coming from the ear, or an unpleasant odour coming from the ear

Is my cat deaf or ignoring me?

For most owners, it can be tricky to tell whether your cat is deaf or just has selective hearing. For example, they may ignore you when called but react quickly at the sound of the biscuit box being rattled! One of the biggest indications that your cat may be deaf is to listen to their meows. Some deaf cats call out more often and more loudly as they struggle to regulate their own volume. Other deaf cats will become completely mute.

Caring for a deaf cat

Rehoming a special needs cat, such as a deaf cat, requires a little extra care and patience but most deaf cats are adaptable and can maintain a great quality of life. There are a few things, however, that you can do to help your cat adapt to their environment. When caring for your deaf cat, keep the following tips in mind.

  • Approach your cat with heavy footsteps to make sure they are aware of you approaching. A deaf cat can be easily startled. If you are close to the cat, a sharp hand clap or stamping on the floor might be enough to get their attention
  • Keeping your deaf cat inside is advisable as they are unable to hear danger signals such as cars and other animals. Ensure they are microchipped to identify them in case they escape and if needed, set up a secure section of the garden or outside run for them to safely play in. For cats living indoors, it is vital you keep them stimulated with interactive toys and puzzle feeders to avoid boredom.
  • Deaf cats can learn to recognise hand signals or the flashing of a torch if they can’t hear you calling them. Make sure the signal you choose to call your cat is distinct and consistent so they don’t get confused
  • To wake a sleeping deaf cat, touch the area around them rather than the cat itself. This is less likely to startle them
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Are all white cats deaf?

Interestingly, deaf cats who are white and have blue eyes make up around just 1-1.5% of the total cat population. Due to their genetic make-up, a white cat with blue eyes is 3-5 times more likely to be deaf than a cat with different coloured eyes. While there is no treatment for hereditary deafness in cats, most cats adapt well to their condition.

Do deaf cats meow?

Some deaf cats can be overly noisy, with many crying out in the night when everyone is asleep. Others are quieter, making little to no noise at all. Both are completely normal. For noisy cats, some use their yowling as a way to detect what is going on around them. By making a loud noise, the sound waves travel and are reflected back at them, picked up through their whiskers like a clever cat radar.

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