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Hearing problems and deafness in cats

Updated on May 15, 2008

Is your cat just ignoring you or does he have a hearing problem?


You start calling your cat as usual to announce mealtime. Suddenly, you notice he is totally ignoring you. You try to attract his attention this time by loudly shaking the cat food box.

No response... You start wondering if your cat is just acting out its best set of quirks or if he has developed some form of hear loss overnight.

In reality, this is a pretty common scenario that takes place when a cat develops total hear loss. The owner may believe this hear loss has come quite suddenly, while in reality the hear loss has been gradual and very subtle due to the feline's ability to compensate with the other ear.

This occurs when hear loss starts as unilateral, thus the catloses hearing from one ear but can hear with the other ear. The owner will not notice anything out of the ordinary until it becomes bilateral, thus affecting both ears.

Owners at times, may suspect the cat may have some sort of hear loss but then may rethink the pet is o.k. because it turns its head when the owner walks toward him or greets the owner when he enters a door.

Do not rely on these responses from your cat.

The cat is simply turning its head because it is actually feeling the vibrations produced by such movements.

The most common cause of hear loss in cats appears to be age related. Senior cats just as in humans experience loss of hearing. The cat may exhibit some subtle symptoms such as sleeping more than usual and turning its head in the wrong direction when called. The cat may as well paw at its ear or shake its head to manifest discomfort.

If you have a pretty young cat there may be a wax build up in its ear that is causing him to not hear well. You can have your vet clean the ears with a good ear product. You want a vet to do this first time because if not done properly you can accidentally rupture the eardrum andcause permanent hear loss.

Otitis (ear infection) may be another culprit, the pet may be exhibiting some hear loss, scratching its ears and shaking its head in discomfort. A course of antibiotics should generally bring kitty's ears back to normal.

If your cat has been exposed to a loud noise such as a firecracker it may exhibit a temporary hear loss. This is similar to what humans develop when exposed to very loud music for some time. In severe cases, the hear loss has also been reported permanent.

Some drugs have been linked to hear loss as a side effect. In particular,a group of antibiotics known as the aminoglycoside have caused cats to develop hear loss. Such drugs should be administered carefully and only when strictly necessary.

If your cat has developed sudden hear loss after its latest surgery, the anesthesia may have caused this permanent form of hear loss. Even though this is not so common it has occurred.

Some cats are just born deaf. This is linked to genes and is common in cats that are white with blue eyes. These pets should be spayed and neutered to halt them from passing this trait.

There is no actual cure for this inherited cause of deafness.

Regardless of its cause deaf cat can lead almost normal lives. There are however a couple of simple considerations to keep in mind.

-Your cat may be more prone to accidents, thus a deaf cat should be kept strictly indoors.

-If you have a yard keep the cat there only if it is fenced with no escape routes.

-You may want to keep a tiny bell on the cat's collar so you can easily locate him.

-Attach to the collar a tag that says "deaf'. So if cat escapes people will be informed.

-Do not startle your cat by petting him suddenly while sleeping.

-Alert your pet of your presence by sitting on the bed next to her or on the couch before petting.

Keeping these simple considerations in mind will allow your cat to lead a normal life and allow yourself priceless piece of mind.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My 15 year old male cat has showed no sign of hearing loss, but shortly after we gave him some new moist cat food, he won't even respond to shaking the cat treat can. Does anyone think it has to do with the cat food.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My female cat is 17 years old and has steadily become deaf over the past year. She is particularly vocal when rising from sleep to announce her presence or when she wants feeding. This "endearing" habit is not appreciated in the middle of the night when I am trying to sleep however. Apart from the deafness she is a very happy cat and loves company.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      We have a new kitten (about 12 weeks old) that seems to be hearing impaired. She does not respond to calls or feeding cues and when we make loud snaps or calls she will look up but not recognize it's source. It's peculiar because she seems to slightly hear. Even whe i am right beside her. She also make weird squawks and squeals when she is playing and at sunrise.

    • thehands profile image

      Jorge Vamos 

      8 years ago

      Never had a deaf cat (so far), but this is nice to know.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      8 years ago from USA

      Many cats are alarm clock cats that simply want to wake owners up because they are hungry or want attention. If you tend to feed your cat first thing in the morning, your cat may have learned to manipulate you (yes, smart little fellows). If you pet him as soon as you see him after meowing, you may also be encouraging him to meow in order to get attention. I really do not think this may be related to his deafness as there are a countless amount of cats enduring in this behavior that are not deaf. Here is a helpful article:

      Thwarting he alarm clock cat:

    • profile image

      Sue Flowers 

      8 years ago


    • Research Analyst profile image

      Research Analyst 

      9 years ago

      So sad that this happens to cats as they age having hearing problems and deafness is a good hub on how to detect if this is the symptoms our cat maybe having, and the part about them being prone to accidents is such scary thing, especially if they are left home alone.


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