Ear problems in cats can have a profound effect on your relationship with your pet, and just like any other sense is vital to helping your cat make sense of the world. Fortunately, cats are very adaptable creatures and often are just fine without hearing, but that is no excuse to be lax when caring for your pet.
Causes of deafness
There are a number of causes for a loss in hearing in cats, and although old age is the most common reason there are a number of other causes which cat owners should be aware of. Temporary hearing loss can be the result of mild bacterial, fungal or parasitic (ear mite) infections or a side effect of certain drugs. Permanent hearing loss can be caused injury, severe untreated middle ear infections and neurological problems. Tumours and polyps in the ear canal can both also affect hearing. All-white, blue-eyed cats are often born deaf.
How will I know if my cat has experienced hearing loss?
Sometimes it is difficult to tell for sure if your cat is deaf as cats are experts at using all of their senses such as touch and smell, and often they compensate for any lack of hearing. Deaf cats might not turn when you approach and probably won’t react to loud noises or turn their ears towards sounds. Deaf cats are often difficult to rouse from sleep and do not respond to you unless you physically touch them.
Dealing with deafness
Feline ear problems can be debilitating and confusing for your cat (especially if the issues are sudden in onset rather than gradual) so it’s important to make things as easy for them as possible. Following that, the safety of your pet is paramount. In terms looking after your pet, making sure it’s away from situations where a lack of hearing could result in harm is important. Roads are now much more dangerous, as is the outside world in general, where your pet could meet an unfriendly animal or predator.
Day-to-day interaction with your cat will be more limited. Replace voice commands with hand signals that are distinct and consistent, as well as easy to remember. You can even use a torch to call your cat in for meals in the dark. Just because a cat can no longer hear doesn’t mean they can’t feel. They might feel your approach through vibration in the floor or on the stairs. Make sure your cat is aware of your presence, or you might scare him or her with touch. Initially, when your cat turns around (either in response to your hand signal or vibration), offer a treat.
If your cat wears a collar, make sure it is a quick release collar showing your address, your vet's phone number and a note which says, 'I am deaf'. If they have not been already, ensure they are micro-chipped.