Friday, April 12, 2013

I am Maxwell's Cat Parent

I am a Cat Parent - and since Maxwell's birthday is this Sunday, I'm sharing his story. This is our entry in today's blog hop for the Petfinder "I am a Cat Parent" campaign.

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."

We noticed Maxwell was deaf on his first day with us when he failed to react in any way to the vacuum cleaner. As a test, my husband slowly advanced the machine right up to his nose, where he curiously sniffed it and turned away. The vet confirmed it the next day.

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.

Max is exceptionally trusting, affectionate and innocent, and I'm more protective of him than I am our other two. 

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.


  1. You are a GREAT Cat Parent. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  2. What a wonderful story...Your 3 rules are so simple...anyone considering adopting a deaf cat should be comforted to read how easy it has been for you and Max...

    I was thrilled to read that Giz & I were not the only ones who'd been to PechaKucha...I was fascinated by it and hope to attend the next one...Let me know what presentations you see next week

  3. We agree you are a great cat parent. LOL we are laughing at the bit about no difference if a cat is deaf you yell no and like all cats they don't listen. Priceless. Have a super Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly

  4. Hey Mum!
    Really nice post and it is wonderfur to get to know Maxwell a bit better.
    Adopting those who may be different gives so much back to the family.


  5. What a touching and beautiful post. I love Maxwell all the more for knowing how special he is. Purrs from the Zee/Zoey gang

  6. We had a deaf kitty too...our son found him outside, wandering. Chuckles was the FUNNIEST boy, and was famous (here, anyway) for launching stuff off the counters.

  7. I was very moved by this post. I've never had a deaf cat so had never thought about the different ways to treat it. Very illuminating. Thanks xx

  8. Thank you for your great tips for humans with deaf kitties! I already know Maxwell is in good hands. :)

  9. Happy Bird Day Maxwell....what a lovely post from your mommy, I hopes she and your daddy showers you wif prezzies tomorrow...and cake! Lotsa cake....*smacking lips* can I come over?

  10. you are wonderful cat parents!!! we remember when Doc was hear and wondered if him being deaf would affect him being "adoptable". he made it about 5 hours before his cute white self was adopted....and his new family was great and very understanding. he was pretty fearless - mostly cause he didn't know any better. :)

  11. How wonderful, an such good advice! What were the eardrops for? So glad you didn't become the monster for that.

    My Sally, pure white backyard-bred Angora with green eyes, was genetically deaf--born with hearing that she lost in her first six weeks. I met her when she was a kitten, then the person who had adopted her surrendered he to me when she was one year old because he couldn't handle her. This was partly her deafness and partly her Angora attitude. I thought she was great fun, and a lovely art model.

    I'd fall for Maxwell in a heartbeat! I hope he and Mr. Sunshine, my engineer, never meet--the world will be in danger!

  12. Our wonderful, blue-eyed, white kitty Madison was not deaf. Everyone always asked and I always wondered what it would have been like for us if he had been. We now have the answer. Does Max purr? Since that isn't really learned behavior, we're hoping he does. We think you and Max are blessed to have found each other. Purrs and hugs from the kitties at The Cat on My Head, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Josette

  13. Max is such a handsome boy and I had forgotten he was deaf. I was wondering if he vocalized at all since he was born without the ability to hear. I don't think being deaf makes any animal less adoptable - just more special.

    Jasmine spent almost all of her life with just one eye; but because she had been they way since she was a kitten, it never interfered with her normal activities. And I was so used to the way she looked that I thought nothing of it until someone met her for the first time and I had to explain how she lost the eye and how she functioned without it.

  14. What a great post! I didn't know you were deaf. We were thinking Greyson has less than stellar hearing but I think he is just ignoring me now.


  15. What a beautiful kitty - and a great lesson for those who might adopt a deaf cat!

  16. Aw, how lucky Maxwell AND you are to have found each other. This post made me tear up a little, as I remembered our sweet angel cat, Graphite. He lost his hearing later in life, but adapted amazingly well. We used to tap on the floor, sofa or bed to let him know we were approaching. And the smart boy also learned to recognize hand signals. :)

  17. Cats rarely pay attention when they CAN hear you. I have a cat who when I first met him never talked, but he can. I have only heard him speak twice. Cats have such personalities that an ability/disability only make them more unique. Takes a special (and patient) person to adopt an animal with limitations. Good for you!


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