When we think of cats with disabilities we usually think of more visible ones– like cats who are missing a limb or only have one eye. We rarely think of the invisible feline disabilities, like blindness or deafness. Just like humans, cats can gradually become deaf as they age or because of an injury or infection. They can also be born partially or completely deaf due to a genetic defect. Disabled cats are at a vast disadvantage if they end up in a shelter where they are forced to compete with healthier or able-bodied cats. If you’re able to open your home to a deaf cat (awesome!) or if your resident cat loses her hearing there are some things you can do to make the transition easier.
Image Source: Terry Johnston via Flickr.com
Use visual cues
Deaf cats depend strongly on their other senses, and their vision becomes an even stronger part of how they interpret their environments. You can use visuals in several ways.
- Wave your hands to get your cat’s attention as you enter a room so she won’t be startled.
- Wave your hands wildly above your head to express being displeased about a behavior that you’d normally speak sternly to her about, such as jumping on the kitchen counter.
- Flicker the overhead light on and off to get her attention when you enter the room. This can be helpful if she’s facing away from you and wouldn’t notice if you waved your arms.
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Take advantage of vibrations
Even cats who live their lives indoors (where they are safe from virtually all predators) still maintain their wildcat instincts which make them believe they’re always being hunted. For this reason, you can cause a great deal of stress if you’re always sneaking up on your cat, even by accident. Visual cues are great if your cat is awake and paying attention to them. If not, you can avoid startling your cat by stomping on the ground as your approach. The vibrations will alert her of your presence.
Image Source: Noel J. Goodwin via Flickr.com
Keep a routine
Cats are finicky creatures who love routine and dependability. This is even more true when your cat is missing one of her senses. To avoid disorienting her and causing her stress, keep up with a dependable mealtime routine and avoid rearranging the furniture.
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Keep her inside
Deaf cats face much more danger outside than their hearing counterparts since hearing is one of the best ways to sense approaching cars and predators. If you feel your cat must go outside, consider buying or building an enclosed “catio” or walking her on a leash.