Help your Deaf Cat Thrive

Communicating and interacting effectively with your deaf cat.

The good news is deaf cats can have the same quality of life as their fully functioning feline counterparts. Here's what you need to know...

White cat with one blue and one green eye

Whether you have just found out your cat has hearing problems or you are considering adopting a deaf cat, there are things you can do to make their life easier. Deaf cats can enjoy life just as much as any other feline, and it’s extremely rewarding to share your life with a disabled cat.

Why are some cats deaf?

Just like humans, some cats lose their hearing as they get older. Some are born without the ability to hear - this is called congenital deafness. Many cases of congenital deafness occur in white, or mostly white cats, although it is a myth that all white cats are deaf. The likelihood of a white cat being deaf increases if one or both of the cat's eyes are blue.

Deafness in cats can also be caused by injury or illness, and this hearing loss can be reversible or permanent. Causes of deafness in cats include polyps, tumours, ear infections, ear wax build up, ear mites and trauma.

Deaf cats rely on their remaining senses which become heightened. He or she will use vibration, touch and smell instead of sound to know what is going on around them.

How to tell if your cat is deaf

cat scratching earCats are so good at adapting that it can be quite difficult to tell if they are deaf, plus we all know how selective their hearing can be at times!

You may notice slight changes in the behaviour of your cat that could be an indication of hearing loss, such as sleeping very soundly, being easily startled or not noticing when you enter a room. They may stop reacting to sounds such as treats or food packaging, and no longer be afraid of loud noises such as the vacuum cleaner. If you have other pets in the house, a deaf cat may follow their behaviours, making it even harder to tell.

Keep an eye out for unusual discharge from your cat's ears, or for signs such as shaking their head and/or scratching at their ears. Their miaow may also become louder. If you think your cat is having trouble hearing you should take them to your vet to get checked out as soon as possible.

How you can help a deaf cat

There are plenty of things you can do to adapt your home and routine to make life easier for your deaf cat. Here are some of our top tips:

Outdoor safety
Keep your cat indoors, or provide them with a safe outdoor enclosure as they will not be able to hear dangers, such as cars or other animals approaching.

Get them chipped
Make sure they are microchipped in case they manage to escape and become lost, and can't hear you calling them home.

White cat on climbing treeProvide activities
As your deaf cat will be spending a lot of time indoors, make sure they have plenty of interactive toys, climbing trees, puzzle feeders etc, to keep them occupied and provide exercise. See 'Keeping your cat entertained indoors'.

Plenty of fuss
Make time every day to fuss, brush, and play with your deaf cat. Your touch and interaction will reassure him and strengthen your bond.

Approach gently
Try not to startle your cat when you approach them. Vibration is a good way to get their attention, so tapping on the floor or walking with heavy footsteps will make the cat aware of you. Approach from the front or side where possible.

Waking your cat
If you need to wake a deaf cat, gently pat the ground or the surface they are laying on, rather than touching them.

Visual signals
You can train your cat to recognise and respond to hand signals, or a flashing light. These visual signals need to be consistent to avoid confusion.

Use a laser pointer
Shining a laser pointer on the floor in front of your cat is a great way to get their attention, especially if you would like them to follow it.

Keep a routine
Stick to a routine when it comes to mealtimes so your cat gets used to when and where their dinner will be. Remember they won’t hear the sound of the tin or packet opening.

With a little understanding, and a few simple adjustments to your environment and communication methods, you can help your deaf cat to live a happy and fulfilled life.

 This video from Cats Protection has some more great advice about living with a deaf cat.

Contributor: Ella Street, Cat Chat Blogger
Published: April 2022