Cats can lose their hearing for many reasons, just like humans do. Deafness can be caused by inflammation or infection, degenerative nerve changes, traumatic injury or certain drugs. Some cats are born deaf. It appears that white cats with blue eyes are particularly prone to congenital deafness. There is also a breed connection; some of the breeds that are at higher risk are white Persians, Ragdolls, Cornish and Devon Rex, Oriental Shorthairs, Manx and Turkish Angora.
Deafness that occurs as a result of old age will be a gradual process. The eardrums become less flexible, and sound is not transmitted as effectively.
Signs of deafness
Gradual deafness can be difficult to notice. It can be harder to tell whether a cat is deaf than whether a dog is deaf, especially when there are multiple cats in the household. Deaf cats tend to take their clues from their companions.
Your cat may not come when you call her, or may not greet you at the door like she used to. She may sleep more soundly and startle when you wake her up. She may not notice when you enter a room.
Some deaf cats may appear disoriented or walk with an unsteady gait.
How to diagnose deafness
You can do a simple at home test by standing behind your cat and clapping your hands loudly. Make sure your cat can’t see you or sense your movement. You may have to repeat this test several times to get an accurate reading.
Your veterinarian will be able to further diagnose the cause of your cat’s deafness, and recommend appropriate treatment.
How to live and communicate with a deaf cat
It should go without saying that deaf cats should not be allowed outside. They won’t be able to hear traffic or predators.
Cats are creatures of routine, and maintaining a consistent indoor environment will help them adapt to being deaf. Keep meal times and feeding locations consistent.
It’s important to not startle cats as you walk up behind them. Deaf cats respond to vibration; a gently tapping your foot can alert your cat to your presence. You can also flash the overhead lights on and off as you enter a room. Using a small flashlight or laser pointer can also get your cat’s attention. You can use the beam or laser to guide your cat to you, instead of using your voice.
Stroking, brushing and combing your cat can be a comforting experience for her.
Play is a wonderful way to communicate with your deaf cat. Use interactive fishing pole type toys to keep your cat active and engaged. This is also a wonderful way to bond with your deaf cat.
If you have small children, make sure you teach them to respect and treat deaf cats appropriately.