The lovely Marilyn Monroe is a spayed and housetrained domestic short hair with a beautiful white coat and blue eyes, and she’s among the many cats at CATS Cradle Shelter seeking a home. She’s shy, so it may take some time and patience to bond with her; but she’s gentle, quiet, and well-behaved, and would make a wonderful pet.
Unfortunately, Marilyn is deaf, and having a handicap decreases a shelter animal’s chances of being adopted. While it’s common for white cats with blue eyes to have congenital hearing problems, Marilyn’s deafness may have been caused by the ear mites and ear infections she’s battled since arriving at CATS Cradle.
Deaf cats are far from being unadoptable. They may require some special accommodation, but there’s no reason they can’t make good pets and have a high quality of life.
How to Accommodate a Deaf Cat
Keep deaf cats indoors. They can’t hear traffic or other dangers lurking outside, so keeping them inside is safest. If you want to keep track of them, a collar with a bell on it could come in handy. Another option is a “pet locator,” which sets off a transmitter-controlled signal. Some deaf cats might feel the sound vibration, which could help in training.
Deaf cats often compensate by focusing on their other senses. They meow louder, since they can’t hear themselves, and are very observant, as they learn behavioral cues and pick up on vibrations and air currents, such as the breeze made by an open door. And of course, a cat doesn’t need to hear a can opener to know that it’s dinnertime.
To communicate with your deaf cat, use visual signals rather than your voice. Although cats are notoriously hard to train, they can respond to hand gestures or a flashlight beam. Also, let them know when you leave or enter a room. You can do this by touching them gently, tossing a toy in their line of sight, or stomping your foot on the floor so they can feel the vibration.
Bear in mind that deaf animals are easily startled. Never sneak up on them, even during playtime. Make sure to approach them so they see you coming, especially if you’re going to pet them. A startled cat may scratch, bite, or hiss at unwanted petting. (For this reason you should supervise small children around deaf cats.)
Causes and Symptoms
Though your cat may be healthy and have all their senses intact now, cats can lose their hearing due to old age, ear infections, ear mites, or damage from loud noises. Symptoms of hearing loss include lack of response to noises, disorientation, difficulty waking up, and walking with an unbalanced gait.
A cat’s ear canals should be pink and clean. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect a possible ear infection or hearing loss. Do not use over-the-counter medications or apply any medicine to your cat’s ear unless your veterinarian has shown you how to do it safely.
– Särah Nour