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Living With a Deaf Cat: Causes and Treatments

How to Cope With Having a Deaf Cat

By Maureen Ryan. January 24, 2014 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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A Grey Cat Laying On The Floor

Cats can suffer hearing loss for a wide range of reasons. Find out how to protect and support a cat who is born deaf or who loses their hearing.

Cats may be born deaf, suffer an illness that causes permanent or temporary hearing loss, or lose their sense of hearing gradually as they age. Whatever the cause, deaf cats need special care and attention. Of course, they can still enjoy a full and happy life, especially if your feline’s sense of smell and sight are still strong. Cat parents of deaf cats should get an accurate diagnosis and then take steps to accommodate your pet’s disability.

Causes and Risks for Deafness in Cats

Some cats are genetically predisposed to deafness. Specifically, white breeds of cats with blue eyes are often born deaf in one or both ears.Besides congenital conditions, cats’ hearing can be damaged by illness or external factors. Ear mites and ear infections are common causes of temporary hearing loss. Tumors, polyps, and exposure to loud noises can also result in temporary or permanent damage to hearing.

Aminoglycoside antibiotics may cause hearing loss, but these drugs are usually only used for serious infections treated at a hospital. You don’t have to worry about routine antibiotics prescribed for at-home care.

Finally, senior cats can lose some range of hearing as they age, but most continue to be able to hear high-range sounds.

Signs of Deafness

A cat with severe hearing loss doesn’t show that normal “cat reflex” when there’s a loud noise. That’s likely to be your first sign that there’s a problem. Your pet may also seem disoriented or walk unsteadily. If you suspect hearing loss, try an at-home test: stand behind your cat (be sure your pet doesn’t see you at all) and try clapping your hands or ringing a bell. If there’s no reaction from your cat, it’s likely there’s a problem.

If your cat previously seemed to be hearing fine, take a look inside the ear canals. If you notice brown coffee-like particles, discharge, and an odor, the problem may be mites. Check the ear canal and the ear flaps for redness and inflammation, which indicate your kitty may have an infection.  

Treatment

Both ear mites and ear infections should be taken care of by a veterinarian. Depending on the severity of the problem and your cat’s needs, your vet might treat your cat with drops, topical insecticides, or oral medication. There are some homeopathic approaches to care that can also be effective such as flushing your pet’s ear with a mixture of distilled water and apple cider vinegar to kill mites. Changing your pet’s diet could also relieve allergies that might cause an infection.

If the problem is tumors, your vet will need to surgically remove them and then treat any related problems such as inflammation.

In instances of congenital deafness, irreparable damage to the ear, or age-related issues, your vet cannot do anything to restore your cat’s hearing. In those instances, you need to focus on providing support and making modifications in your home and routine to help your cat thrive despite the disability.

Caring for a Deaf Cat

As a cat parent you may be used to giving your feline lots of independence. Once a pet is diagnosed with deafness, though, you need to keep a more watchful eye on them. For starters, deaf cats should remain indoors whenever possible, even if previously they were great roamers of the neighborhood. Without all their senses intact, they could be at risk for getting hit by a car or unable to protect themselves against other animals in the area.

Also consider how you can be sure you won’t startle your cat. Doing so could lead to a nervous temperament. Never shake or touch sleeping cats who are hard of hearing. Instead, stomp the floor nearby so the vibrations will alert and rouse them. Don’t suddenly pick up a cat who wasn’t aware you were nearby. Instead, use methods such as flashing the lights in the room or waving to get your deaf kitty’s attention. Since your cat won’t be able to come when you call, you might want to place a bell on your cat’s collar so you can find your pet easily.

More on Ear Care

The Symptoms of Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats
The Top 15 Cat and Dog Ear Care Products
Reading Cat Body Language

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Deafness In Cats at a glance

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  • 1Cats, especially white cats, may be born deaf.
  • 2Some felines lose their hearing as a result of illness, infection, or age-related health problems.
  • 3Ear mites and ear infections are common causes of temporary hearing loss that can usually be reversed.
  • 4Deaf cats need extra attention to ensure their safety and health, but they can lead full and happy lives.