How to adapt to having a deaf cat
Deafness in cats can happen at any age. Some kittens are born deaf, or deafness can come on to cats of any age. Deafness is not necessarily a sign of a major illness, but it is good to have a vet check your cat to make sure there's no other health issues.
If a cat goes deaf gradually, it can take time for them (and us) to adapt. They may hide more often or be more cautious. In time, your deaf act may be exploring and open in ways they weren't before - the vacuum cleaner or a loud visitor might make them curious (versus running under the bed). When there's no sound, there can be a lot less to be afraid of!
Once a cat loses its sense of hearing, it may compensate with other senses. Your cat may become more sensitive and aware of touch, sight, smell, or taste.
- Sight: a deaf cat will only notice what they can see. One technique for getting their attention is to turn the lights off and on.
- Touch: your cat will become much more sensitive to vibration. They feel when you come in the room or nearby. However, there will be times when your cat won't hear you, so pay attention to whether he/she notices you or not. If your cat is asleep, it's better to wake him/her up through vibration (walking heavy, tapping or lightly moving the object they are laying on) as opposed to touching them directly.
- Smell: some deaf cats sniff very loudly and may sneeze more often. If you can appeal to their sense of smell, you certainly will get their attention (like using a can of wet food near their nose to wake them up).
Hearing cats are very aware of their surroundings - they may hear when you walk up to them, especially when waking from sleep. Because of this, you have to think of other ways to attract your deaf cat's attention. A deaf cat that is awaken by touch can become very startled or scared.
Playing with a deaf cat
Deaf cats need stimulation and play just as much as any other cat! Deaf cats should be kept indoors, however, because they can't fully protect themselves outside. Here are some tips:
- Look for light-weight toys. Your cat may not be able to localize (meaning, identify where the toy is at in relation to them) so they can get hit or caught off-guard by a toy.
- Deaf cats can get dizzy faster than a hearing cat. Your cat may be more conservative how he/she plays or jumps after toys.
- If you have multiple cats, have toys and play time just for your deaf cat. A deaf cat can become cautious (especially when other animals are running around)
- Your cat may like laser pointers and feathers - two items which cats like that don't make a sound.
It is possible to train you cat to respond to hand signals. Your cat may start coming to you if you wave, "come here!" to him or her. Some deaf cats (and hearing cats) do very well with training, like the cat seen below.