Cats may start to lose their hearing for a variety of reasons, including old age. Inherited causes of deafness are less common in cats compared to dogs but are seen in some purebred cats. For example deafness in white cats with blue eyes. Medical causes for loss of hearing in adult and older animals are more common including trauma, neurological problems and ear infections. In older cats the loss of senses is often so gradual that many owners don't notice anything unusual, until the loss becomes total. Cats generally cope well with hearing loss.
How can I tell if my cat is deaf?
This can be difficult to assess as cats use their other senses very well, including touch via their whiskers. Deaf cats may not hear you approach, and may not move their ears, or turn to look at where a sound is coming from. Ask your vet to assess your cat’s hearing if you are concerned.
To make life easier for your deaf cat:
- The most important factor is your pet's safety. Try to avoid letting your cat get into situation where it’s lack of, or limited, hearing could endanger it. So, for example, don't let your cat out to roam in areas with lots of traffic, near lawnmowers or barking dogs. Keeping indoors or in a secure garden may be the safest option.
- Replace voice commands with hand signals that are distinct, easy to see and consistent. Or use a torch to call your cat in for meals at night.
- Try using vibrations, such as a foot stomped on the ground, or sharp clap of the hands, at close range. When your cat turns around (either in response to your hand signal or vibration), offer a reward.
- Encourage eye contact but remember that staring directly at your cat is confrontational so blink obviously and frequently and occasionally turn your head away.
- Remember that deaf cats won't hear the hisses or threats from approaching animals, so keep them away from conflicts with other cats or dogs.
- If your cat wears a collar, ensure it is a quick release one showing your address, your vet's phone number and a note which says, 'I am deaf' and they must be microchipped.