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Home > Cats > How to Tell if a Cat Is Deaf? 12 Vet Reviewed Signs & Care Tips

How to Tell if a Cat Is Deaf? 12 Vet Reviewed Signs & Care Tips

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Is your cat exhibiting odd behaviors like not noticing when you call it or being louder than normal? Then, your cat might have lost some or all of its hearing. Deafness in cats can occur for a few reasons, including aging, trauma, or infection, or because it’s been inherited.

But what should you look for if you think your beloved kitty has become hard of hearing? Below, you’ll find 12 signs to look for that can help you figure out whether your pet has lost its hearing. If you notice any of these, your next step will be to take your cat to the vet for a proper diagnosis.

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The 12 Signs a Cat Is Deaf

1. Clinginess

If your kitty has recently become clingier than normal, it could be for several reasons, but it could also be due to hearing loss. Losing the ability to hear means your pet is much more reliant on their other senses, such as touch. Being closer to you more often can help them pick up needed context clues about what’s going on, plus they can get reassurance from pets or cuddles. Being closer to you also means they can feel vibrations when you speak.

cat snuggling with owner
Image by: cottonbro, Pexels

2. Discharge in the Ears

If your beloved feline loses hearing because of an infection or inner ear injury, there could be discharge in one or both ears. Your cat may also be only temporarily unable to hear because the discharge and inflammation within the ear have caused swelling to the point that hearing can’t happen. Discharge in the ears is a sign that you should get your cat to its vet to remedy the situation and see if any lack of hearing is temporary. If left untreated, deafness could become permanent.


3. Ignoring Commands

This sign is a bit harder to determine because cats always ignore commands when they don’t want to obey them. However, if you’re giving your cat a command to get off the counter and it isn’t listening to you, it could be that your pet can’t hear you. If the cat seems to ignore you when you give them a command more often than usual, it might be time for a hearing test.

Himalayan cat
Image by: Nattapong Pongpiyapan, Shutterstock

4. No Longer Responding to Common Household Noises

How often do you have to call your cat to dinner? Never, right? Your pet comes running whenever they hear the lid on the food jar or the sound of scooping food. If your cat can no longer hear, they won’t respond to common noises like these. If you feed them at the exact same time every day, there’s a good chance the kitty will still come when it’s time to eat, but they may have stopped doing things such as meeting you at the door when you return home because they no longer hear it open. Watch if your cat’s reactions to everyday noises have changed if you suspect deafness.


5. Nighttime Noisiness

If your cat is suddenly unable to hear like they used to, you might find them making more racket at night. Why? It could be that a dark, “deserted” house isn’t the most fun, and creating noise might be reassuring. Deaf cats tend to be noisier in general, but if your cat has suddenly taken to making nighttime noise, it could be a sign they don’t hear so well.

Portrait of cat meowing
Image by: MonaSilver, Pixabay

6. Noisy in General

Why would a deaf cat be noisier than normal? Because they can no longer hear their meows. With that inability to hear, your cat also cannot regulate how loud its voice is. So, your pet may meow more often than it used to and at a louder volume as it tries to figure out how to regulate the volume of its voice.


7. No Response to Its Name

Much like ignoring commands, a deaf cat will no longer respond to its name because it doesn’t know when it’s being called. This sign should be easier to notice since felines tend to have some sort of response to their names (even if they ignore the reason why we’re using their name!). So, if a kitty used to come running when you called but can no longer be found when you want them, they may be unable to hear you.

Maine Coon cat on white background
Image Credit: mikkytok, Shutterstock

8. No Response to Distressing Noises

Most cats are terrified of loud appliances, such as vacuum cleaners. Some may hate the sound of fireworks or thunder. So, if your cat always runs away when you bring out the vacuum or when there’s a storm, but suddenly, they don’t seem to mind, it could be a sign of deafness. After all, it’s not like cats just get over the fear of those things one day out of nowhere!


9. Poor Balance

This might seem like an odd sign, but if your cat is losing or has lost hearing because of an infection in the inner ear, its balance could be off. The inner ear plays a large role in maintaining balance, so any issues there could make it more challenging for them to stand or walk correctly. Your pet may also have difficulty jumping or landing because of this. Poor balance can also be a sign of other things, so your safest bet is to take your cat to the vet for testing.

cat walking on fence
Image by: fantom_rd, Shutterstock

10. Scratching at Ears or Shaking Head

If your cat was born deaf, it wouldn’t have this sign, but this will probably occur if your pet slowly loses hearing. Why would your feline be scratching its ears or shaking its head a lot due to the inability to hear well? Because they don’t understand why they’re losing their sense of hearing. Shaking the head or scratching is an attempt to dislodge any debris they imagine is stuck, making it difficult to hear. It could also signal that they have an ear infection, which must be treated immediately to avoid potential deafness.


11. Startles Easily

Does your feline companion seem to startle more easily as of late? Then, chances are they’ve lost their hearing. Think about it—if your pet doesn’t hear you come into the room, then suddenly sees you from the corner of their eye, it would be a bit of fright (similar to a jump scare in a horror flick). If your kitty seems to startle a lot more than before, it could absolutely be because they can’t hear.

cat sartled, scared near window
Image by: Piqsels

12. Your Cat Is White

It’s just a fact that white cats are more often deaf than other colors. This is because they carry the dominant white gene, which can cause congenital deafness. The risk of deafness rises if the cat also has two blue eyes. If your kitty is white and you think it could be deaf, the chances are much higher than it is—particularly if it’s also got two blue eyes. This doesn’t mean that every white cat will be deaf; it just means that the risk of deafness will increase.divider-cat

 

Tips for Living with a Deaf Cat

bearded man playing with his cat
Image by: Nataliabiruk, Shutterstock

If your cat is deaf, there’s no reason it can’t live a happy, healthy life. You just need to give them a bit of a helping hand. Here are a few tips to enable your deaf cat to live life to the fullest.

  • Keep them inside. Deaf cats can’t hear danger outdoors, such as cars coming down the road or dogs barking. Keeping them inside is safer and will prolong their life.
  • Use means other than your voice to get them to do things such as come to you. Your pet will rely on senses other than hearing now, so accommodate them by incorporating visual cues and vibrations. You can make hand movements that mean “get off the counter” or “come snuggle,” and eventually, they’ll learn what these cues mean. Deaf felines will also be more sensitive to vibrations, so you can get their attention by jumping to cause them.
  • Stick to your normal routine. Cats love routine and period, but maintaining routine for your deaf cat will help them cope with their sudden hearing loss.
  • Play and cuddle. Some cats will become depressed after losing their hearing, so help them by playing with them and cuddling. Spending time together is never a negative!
  • Let your pet see you coming. Deaf cats can startle more easily, as we said, and the lack of hearing can make them feel more vulnerable. Let your cat see you entering or leaving rooms so they’re less easily startled and feel safer.

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Conclusion

There are several ways you can tell if your cat is deaf, including seeing if they respond to verbal cues such as commands or their name, noticing if they easily startle, or paying attention to their responses to distressing noises. If you believe your cat is suffering from hearing loss, it’s vital to speak to your vet to get a proper diagnosis. Deafness can be the result of a few different things, so there is a chance your pet’s hearing loss could be temporary.

If your beloved feline friend is deaf, you don’t need to be concerned that they won’t lead a happy life. Your cat will simply utilize its other senses to communicate with the world around them. You can give them a helping hand by incorporating visual cues and vibrations into your communications with them.

Felines are resilient; you’ll be surprised how easily your pet can bounce back from some hearing loss!


Featured Image Credit: TheCats, Shutterstock

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