Life With a Deaf Cat

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Yuki talking loudly to a bird outside

One of my cats, Yuki, is a tiny tabby with a lot of energy. Most people don’t realize it when they meet her but Yuki is deaf. Yuki could hear as a kitten and was deaf by 6 years old. There were subtle signs – she didn’t come when called for (but for a cat that’s not unusual). It was pretty obvious one day when I was vacuuming right next to her and she was happily asleep.

The term “special needs pet” probably makes you think a pet is going to take a lot of extra work. With Yuki, it really hasn’t been. We had a period of adapting but then we had a cat who was calmer and happier. I was concerned how Yuki would be with a newborn or toddler – but since she’s not bothered by the noise, she’s been the most friendly with him.

How being deaf changed Yuki

One of the first changes I noticed (and the most dramatic) was how much calmer and less skittish she became. She no longer ran when the doorbell rang or the vacuum was on.

At the same time, Yuki became cautious – especially with our other cats. Deaf pets can get extremely startled if you touch them when they don’t know you’re there.

One change for us was we could no longer call Yuki by her name or the words she knew (like “treat” or “dinner”. We couldn’t say “no” when she was scratching the carpet or jumping on a counter.

Deaf cats also can meow loudly. Sometimes it sounds like something could be wrong but she’s just saying hello. We learned to look at her body language for cues.

Toys for a Deaf Cat

We found Yuki’s interest in toys did not change too much. She loves teaser toys, feather wands (no need for the bell!), and especially the red dot. She plays with our other cats still, but Yuki will give a loud hiss if she doesn’t like what they are doing. Yuki also tends to sleep and hide up higher now, so we always have a nice cat bed for her on top of her favorite cat tree.

Tips for being a good pet parent to a deaf cat

  • Deaf cats can become extremely startled if you touch them while sleeping, or sneak up on them. If they don’t notice you, try tapping the object they are laying on, lighting stomping on the floor, or using a can of food or another smell they like to wake them up or get their attention.
  • Think about how you can communicate using all the senses. How can you get their attention through touch, light, vibrations, or smells?
  • Come up with schedules/routines. This is a good habit for any cat but especially for a deaf cat who may still be acclimating to their new condition.
  • Be extremely cautious if you take a deaf pet outside. Never leave them unsupervised because they can’t hear dangers like other animals or vehicles. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a deaf pet indoors especially if you can provide him/her with an interesting window or some variety. Yuki spends some time daily in an enclosed patio (supervised) – it’s something she loves that we didn’t want to take away from her when she went deaf.)

Further Reading