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Vet's Corner

How to spot the signs your cat is going deaf

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If it seems that your cat has stopped listening to you, it could be that she’s losing her hearing. Petplan behaviour specialist Inga MacKellar explains the signs to look out for and top tips for how to help.


How do I know if my cat is going deaf?

As cats age, their faculties can start to fade and it’s not unusual for them to experience some level of hearing loss or to go deaf in their older years. If your cat has always appeared at the rattle of a full food bowl or become excited at the sound of birds tweeting outside the window and no longer responds to these triggers, it could be a sign that she has hearing loss.

Most animals will look up or around when they hear a noise to find the source of the sound, and a cat’s ears will swivel. You can test your cat’s hearing by quietly entering the room she’s in so that she doesn’t notice you and then clapping your hands from a distance to see if she reacts.

Some cats are born with congenital deafness, which is more common in those with white coats. If you rehome a white cat from a rescue centre, it’s always a good idea to have her hearing checked.

Ways to help a cat with hearing loss

1. Discovering that your cat may have such difficulties can be worrying, but there’s no reason why a cat with hearing loss can’t live a full and happy life.

2. Get her vet-checked – If you’re concerned that your cat might not be able to hear you properly, it’s important you take her to your vet for a check-up as it could be that a temporary condition, like a bad ear infection, is causing the deafness.

3. Keep them safe – The most important consideration when you have a cat with hearing loss is her safety. If she’s deaf, she’s at risk of not being able to hear dangers, and a cat that has free run of the neighbourhood could end up injured if she can’t hear cars approaching or horns honking at her to get out of the way. Dogs passing close by can also pose a threat if she cannot hear them.

4. While with normal, healthy cats, as much free access indoors and out is recommended, with a deaf cat you should restrict it to your home and garden. If you can’t make your garden cat-proof, then provide some sort of secure cage enclosure coming off your back door or accessed via a cat flap so your cat can still enjoy being outdoors but will be safe in the garden.

5. Good vibrations – If your cat is used to wearing a cat-safe collar, then fitting a bell to it is a good idea so you can locate her easily if she can’t hear you calling.

6. Try not to startle – It’s important that you approach your cat from the front, especially when she’s resting, as she won’t hear you coming up from behind. If your cat is laying on the floor, she may feel the vibrations if you stamp your feet to announce your arrival. You could also switch the lights on and off a couple of times on entering a room so that your cat knows you’re coming, or use a laser pointer a couple of feet in front of her to get her attention. Be sure to never direct a laser pointer straight at your cat’s eyes, though.

7. Make extra time to play with your cat – Deafness doesn’t mean that her quality of life needs to be reduced. Using toys with lots of movement – such as rolling small balls or flicking fishing rod toys in front of her – will help keep her stimulated.

8. If she was a hunter but her outdoor access is now reduced, provide her with food-activity toys or try hiding a few dry biscuits around the house for her to find. She may also enjoy watching special cat stimulation DVDs on the TV – these include mice running around or butterflies and insects flitting about.

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