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
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
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.
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
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 of 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.
How to Prevent or Treat Cat Ear Problems
Sleek faces, luxurious fur, and almond-shaped eyes are among
the features that draw us to cats. Last but not least, their
lovely ears complete the picture. But did you know those
charming triangles can get all sorts of problems?
Learn how to avoid, detect, and treat cat ear problems by
understanding what can happen to your cat’s ears, what problems
look like, and how to help your cat recover.
PROBLEMS INSIDE THE EAR
1. Common Infections
Cat ear infections can occur for almost any reason you can
think of -- from parasites to bacteria to allergies. Most
commonly, a cat will experience an itch, scratch it, and create
an abrasion where bacteria can get in. Viola, an infection is
born. Learn about:
Mites and other parasites can cause ear infections. Keeping
your pet pest-free in the first place will help deter all sorts
of problems later, including ear infections.
Learn more about ear mites:
Causes of mites: Why
mites love cat ears.
mites: Lots of head shaking, and a brown sludgy
matter in the ears are some of the indications that your cat
may have mites.
Mite treatment: Mites are fairly
easily eradicated with drops or pills.
Squamous cell carcinoma or epidermoid carcinoma are two cancers
that may be found on a cat’s ears. They both look a bit like
cauliflower. Learn more about cat tumors.
4. Foreign Objects in Your
Bugs, grass, rocks, and the like can end up in anyone’s ear,
including a cat’s. Although this is more common among dogs (and
small children) than cats, don’t rule it out. Veterinary
intervention and anesthesia might be required to remove debris.
PROBLEMS AROUND THE EAR
1. Solar Dermatitis (aka
Kitty's ears are delightful to touch because they’re soft and
delicate. These characteristics also make them especially
sensitive to the sun. Consider applying a pet sunscreen if your
kitty insists on sleeping in the sunniest spot (most do). If
their ears do get burned, apply a soothing ointment to help
make them comfortable and to discourage scratching, which can
lead to infection.
The presence of mites, left untreated, can cause mange on the
outside of the ears. Treating the mites will usually resolve
3. Wounds or Other
As humans often injure their hands or noses first (catching
themselves in a fall, or failing to catch themselves!), cats
often get scratched or abraded on their ears. They’re the parts
that stick out the most! Treat ear lacerations and abrasions at
home to avoid infection and other complications.
Prevention of Ear Problems in Cats
You can safely and fairly regularly use ear cleaning products to keep
your pet’s ears clean of bacteria-attracting debris. Consistent
ear hygiene, like dental care and grooming, is an important
part of having a healthy pet.
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.