Living With a Deaf Cat: Causes and Treatments How to Cope With Having a Deaf Cat

BY | January 24 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
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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 felineโ€™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 petโ€™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, catsโ€™ 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 donโ€™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 doesnโ€™t show that normal โ€œcat reflexโ€ when thereโ€™s a loud noise. Thatโ€™s likely to be your first sign that thereโ€™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 doesnโ€™t see you at all) and try clapping your hands or ringing a bell. If thereโ€™s no reaction from your cat, itโ€™s likely thereโ€™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 catโ€™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 petโ€™s ear with a mixture of distilled water and apple cider vinegar to kill mites. Changing your petโ€™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 catโ€™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 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 wonโ€™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. Donโ€™t suddenly pick up a cat who wasnโ€™t aware you were nearby. Instead, use methods such as flashing the lights in the room or waving to get your deaf kittyโ€™s attention. Since your cat wonโ€™t be able to come when you call, you might want to place a bell on your catโ€™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 catโ€™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:

2. Parasites

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.
  • Symptoms of 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.

3. Tumors

Squamous cell carcinoma or epidermoid carcinoma are two cancers that may be found on a catโ€™s ears. They both look a bit like cauliflower. Learn more about cat tumors.

4. Foreign Objects in Your Catโ€™s Ear

Bugs, grass, rocks, and the like can end up in anyoneโ€™s ear, including a catโ€™s. Although this is more common among dogs (and small children) than cats, donโ€™t rule it out. Veterinary intervention and anesthesia might be required to remove debris.

PROBLEMS AROUND THE EAR

1. Solar Dermatitis (aka Sunburn)

Kitty's ears are delightful to touch because theyโ€™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.

2. Mange

The presence of mites, left untreated, can cause mange on the outside of the ears. Treating the mites will usually resolve the mange.

3. Wounds or Other Trauma

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. Theyโ€™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 petโ€™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.

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