This was originally published as an article on less adoptable cats in September of 2011, and edited for today's post. [Sadly, many consider deaf cats to be less adoptable. That is their loss!]
***I'm sometimes asked, "what's it like to live with a deaf cat?" My favorite answer comes from another deaf cat owner, who replied, "It's no different, really. I yell 'no!' and he ignores me just like the others do."
Those first months were especially hard on me, as I had to be the 'bad guy,' administering those hated ear drops twice a day. I was also the one who took him to countless vet visits, and ultimately his surgery. I worried this would affect our ability to bond and that he'd associate me with nothing but unpleasantness. I'll be forever grateful that this didn't happen!
Deaf cats fall squarely under “less adoptable.” But why?
I think in part it's a concern over excessive medical bills.
But deafness isn't a disease; it's a physiological condition. Unless complicated by infection, deafness does not require medical care. In Maxie's case, he has no eardrum. Nothing we can do about it – he was born that way.
Another reason people may shy away from adopting a deaf cat is fear of the unknown or discomfort around an animal that is 'different.' Perhaps they worry such a pet might be less responsive, but that's not the case. With the loss of one sense, the others become more highly developed.
Max doesn't really have a meow - he never could hear to develop one. But he is exceptionally perceptive, the first to notice you when you come in the room. And he's very tactile as well, the only cat of our three who uses his paws to open, lift or carry.
He'll venture down into the basement to choose a trinket off my husband's workbench, carry it in his mouth up to our bathtub, and then drop it, just for the joy of watching it careen off the sides.
How does one treat a deaf cat? The answer: same as any other – with a few very important exceptions.
First and foremost, a deaf cat should never be let outside. With one of their most important defense mechanisms gone, deaf cats are at greater risk.
Second, a deaf cat is easily startled. So when you approach – especially when sleeping – be sure to create a vibration by tapping on a surface or create motion by sitting a short distance away on a sofa or bed. Such movement will give him fair warning that someone is near.
Third, never hit a deaf cat (not even a light bop on the nose in reprimand). Since they can't hear, they can't distinguish between a stern tone of voice and a loving one. All they will come to know is that human hands hit cats, so they'll associate them with painful, unpleasant things. Instead, use hand signals or facial expressions to reinforce your training.
He brings us such joy. It's hard to imagine anyone not falling insanely in love with this big sweetheart.
He has so much love to give, and I cannot imagine life without him.
I am proud to be Maxwell's Cat Parent.