How to tell if your cat is deaf – and how to help

As animal lovers and pet owners ourselves, we know it’s important to ensure that your cat is happy and healthy from day one but an ailment that’s harder to spot than others is deafness. While some cats are born with hearing issues, others can develop issues from injury, illness or old age. Whatever the reason behind the problems, there are signs owners can look out for to help determine whether their feline friend is struggling with hearing loss.

What are the signs of deafness in cats?

Luckily, there are several signs which can help indicate that your cat might be having trouble hearing. Even if you believe your cat’s ears are working as they should be, it’s always good to be aware of these behaviours for any future problems.

  • Failing to respond to owners
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Being easily startled by movement
  • No longer being afraid of loud noises (like the hoover)
  • Sleeping longer or more deeply
  • Head shaking or pawing at their ears
  • Pus or other discharge from the ears
  • Unpleasant smell coming from the ears

What are the signs of deafness in kittens?

It can be harder to spot deafness in kittens since the signs can be associated with individual quirks you think they might have. There are a couple of simple tests you can conduct at home, however, so that you can reach out to your vet if you have any concerns about their hearing.

A white cat sleeping

Observe your kitten

Simply watch your kitten as they walk around the house. If they’re not startled by loud noises or don’t respond to common household sounds, your kitten could be deaf.

Is my cat deaf or just ignoring me?

Sometimes it can be tricky to tell whether your cat truly struggles to hear, or they might just be a little stubborn. For example, they may ignore you when called but know exactly when the treat bag has been opened! Without looking for other signs and speaking to a veterinary expert it can be hard to tell which category your feline falls in.

Ways to help a cat with hearing loss

Discovering that your cat might have difficulty hearing can be worrying, but they can still live life to the full as long as you help them every step of the way.

Go to the vets

First things first, if you have any concerns about your cat’s hearing or notice a change in their behaviour, you should speak to your vet as there could be many reasons behind their problems. Getting a diagnosis can help you treat the condition or adapt to life with a deaf cat.

Keep them indoors

If your cat is deaf they won’t be able to hear any potential dangers that could be around them, such as passing cars, so it’s not really possible for them to go outside safely. If you still want them to enjoy a different space, you could build an outdoor run in your garden with netting overhead, helping keep them safe and stimulated.

Know where they are

Fitting a bell to their collar will help you locate your cat easily if they’re unable to hear you calling.

Get a hearing friend

Your cat will quickly learn from a hearing friend if they had one! Not only would another cat provide extra company for your cat, but they will also react to your calls first, helping your deaf kitty understand more of the world around them.

Rely on visual cues

Using certain hand motions or gestures for different things will help your cat learn what you want from them. You could also try using a laser pointer to lure them towards their food when it’s dinnertime.

Remember: Don’t point the laser towards their eyes!

Try not to startle

When your cat is sleeping, it’s important to let them know you’re there without scaring them. Gently touch the area around them so that they wake up to the vibrations they feel instead of something sudden and scary.

Remember: If you're beginning to notice that your cat isn't responding as they used to, it’s important to speak to your vet so that they can be properly diagnosed.

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Looking for more cat advice?

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Animal Friends Insurance is a multi-award winning FCA-regulated pet insurer, founded in 1998 to provide industry-leading pet insurance and first-class animal care to create a better life for every animal.
As one of the UK’s largest pet insurance providers, Animal Friends works with vets, veterinary professionals, and partners pioneering the latest veterinary technology & healthcare advancements to achieve our vision.
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