Deaf Pet Awareness Week is a time to learn about cats with hearing issues. Felines usually have very proficient hearing, especially when a can opener goes off in the kitchen. They are known for being able to hear frequencies three times higher than humans.
And deafness in cats isn't common - unless they are white and have two blue eyes. Kitties with those traits have an 80% chance of being born deaf. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual," the odds drop for a white cat with just one blue eye, for whom there's a 30â€“40% chance of deafness. For a white cat with no blue eyes, the chance of deafness falls to as low as 10%." Scientists compared these statistics to cats with other coat colors and found that deafness in non-white cats, no matter their eye color, is extremely rare.
Hearing disabilities in cats may be congenital (present at birth.) They may also be environmental when deafness occurs due to infection, trauma, toxins (including certain drugs), or degeneration of the ear. If deafness is present, it may be either unilateral or bilateral.
Why deafness is seen mostly in white cats isn't a mystery. Scientists have determined that one dominant gene, W (for White), creates the snow-white coat coloration and is responsible for creating blue eyes and deafness. However, pet parents of non-white cats should know that eardrums thicken with age, no matter the coat color.
James Flanders, DVM, associate professor of surgery at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, states, "About 80 percent of white cats with two blue eyes will start to show signs of deafness when about four days old as the result of cochlear degeneration." Another "primarily inheritable abnormality" that may cause deafness said Dr. Flanders, is "atresia â€” a defect in the development of the ear canal." That can result in partial or total obstruction of the canal.
Making life easier for a cat with hearing issues involves caring for his emotional and physical needs. For starters, snap a colorful "I am deaf" tag on his collar and impress on everyone who comes into your home NOT to let your cat out - ever! A kitty with hearing issues would be at a severe disadvantage out in the wild world, so it's best to keep him inside and safe and sound.
My friends recently adopted a cat and were told by the rescue that he was hard of hearing and had spent most of his life outside. To help their new family member get used to living indoors, my friends equipped her with a cute harness and immediately began training her on a leash. That way, their new cat will get to be outside - but will remain safe.
Cats sleep on average of 15 hours a day, but you'll still have time to find ways for yours to have fun. People experienced with deaf cats suggest you always approach your cat from the front, so he doesn't freak out and become more anxious. Using touch and vibration to communicate is widely promoted by veterinarians. Try stomping your feet when in his space and stroke him while speaking softly close to his face. Your touch and the vibration of your voice will become familiar and soothing.
Quote to remember: "Time spent with cats is never wasted." - Sigmund Freud
Merck Veterinary Manual
"Deafness in Cats"
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Feline
Fear Free Happy Homes
"Sound Matters: Tips on Living With a Deaf Cat"