Living With My Deaf Cats

By Jennifer Moore

Living with a deaf cat is a very different experience than living with cats who can hear. The first thing you learn is that you obviously cannot call them by their name and expect a response. I never realized just how much I actually communicated with my ‘hearing’ cats by talking to them until Mikey came along.

Mikey a deaf white cat

Mikey – Photo copyright Jennifer Moore

By nature, cats like to sleep in hiding places which is fine but when you are doing a ‘deaf cat head count’ several times a day, or when they slip out the door into the woods, life can get interesting to say the least.

Sensitivity To Vibrations

Cats who are deaf are more sensitive to vibrations, so I use this to my advantage when I am searching the house for Mikey, I learned that if I stomp my feet on the floor, he comes out from hiding within a minute or two. He comes out every single time so that is how I call him.

Finding Him

If Mikey slips outside the stomping method is futile but with his white fur finding him during the day is not as much of a challenge as trying to find him at night if he gets out. I learned that a flash light being turned on and off will guide him back to me most of the time.

Most of the time was not good enough odds for me so I taught my Standard Poodle ‘Jessie’ to find Mikey and she does the best job ever. All I do is let her out and tell her to “find the kitty” and she does every time.

The best way to avoid all of this is to make sure every window has a secure screen and that everyone is aware of the importance of shutting doors. We actually attached a bungee cord to all the doors that lead outside, this way they automatically shut when you let go of the handle. He rarely gets out anymore.

I have heard that some people put bells on a deaf cats collar to make them easier to locate but this is not an option for Mikey because living in the mountains means that wild animals could locate him as well and he would be unaware of their presence. So getting outside is the biggest danger but being in danger is not the only time you need to communicate with a deaf cat.

Sign Language

I figured out early on that Mikey is not disabled. Mikey is very capable and very bright, so I taught him sign language, he knows…

  • Come here
  • No
  • Get down
  • bye bye
  • Time to Eat (he knows this one best)
  • Lets go outside
  • It’s Mommy Mikey Lovey time 🙂 ( my favorite)

These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head, there are more because I talk to Mikey all day long. It doesn’t have to be the traditional sign language either, it’s just about using the same signal every single time for each thing you ask of him. He caught on quick.

He Looks At Me Often

The one thing that I notice the most with Mikey that differs in the hearing cats…is how often he is looking at me . This is important and it’s learned because he loves to communicate with me and he waits for me to tell him things. 🙂 He pays attention because if there is something going on he wants to know about it.

Waking Him

The up side to living with a deaf cat is a big one….they are not skittish at all and he will cuddle bug with me all night long because he doesn’t get woke up as easily as most cats. I love this part the most. I am careful though in how I wake him up if he is asleep because he can’t hear me coming and will wake up with the loudest meow you could ever hear when startled awake. So I usually just wave my hand back and forth as I approach him so he can feel the shift in the air, it’s subtle enough to not startle him or me.

I live with two deaf cats and I have applied everything I have learned with Mikey when raising Daisy as well and it works with her too.

Play With Other Cats

It takes a commitment to raise any cat but especially a deaf one. I have other cats in the household and Mikey is clearly the king of them all, mostly because when they play, he doesn’t hear them cry if he hurts them. The hearing cats usually let go when they hear the other let out a screech. Mikey doesn’t hear it so he just keeps right along playing and so the others think he is mean, I can tell by how they walk around him. 🙂 I am usually close by though and referee is just one of my titles.

If one is willing to commit to the care it takes in raising a deaf cat, I believe the relationship that can be established with the cat is like no other. It has been an amazing experience.

Jennifer

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Living With My Deaf Cats — 20 Comments

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. First class and very instructive and also very interesting. For sample, the way you use vibrations to call him and the lovely way that you used your poodle to find him if he got outside. And then there is the sign language. It is great stuff and very imaginative and enlightenment domestic cat caretaking. I love that sort of thing.

    When you add that enlightened cat caretaking to the beautiful subject matter of this article, Mikey, it has a magical feeling about it. Thanks a lot for writing it. I will do my bit to spread the word.

    • Michael, I was out of town all day and just now had a chance to see the article since you published it and I want to say thank you so much. I love your love for cats and this site is so wonderful.

      • Thanks Jennifer. Well, I can reciprocate that comment 😉 You have a wonderful connection with your cats. I wonder, though, whether a person can sometimes have a stronger connection with a disabled cat than with a fully able-bodied cat. It seems to me, that a disability heightens the connection between human cat because the true cat loving caretaker wants to care and nurture and when a cat has a disability he or she may need more care and nurturing than normal which pushes a button inside the person who genuinely cares. I was just very impressed by the way you look after your cats. The love for them comes out through the page.

      • What drives my love of cats is an extremely strong inner desire to nurture the vulnerable and protect the vulnerable together with a love of the naturalness of animals including of course the domestic cat and from naturalness we get genuineness and honesty. These are the things which motivate me.

  2. awesume article your a natural writer jennifer nice to see a different article from a deaf perspective really lovely.

      • defintily its a great to have something different, she seems to understand them greatly. I see she has some other articles that she did a long time ago. great to see.

      • They say that a good portrait, whether in painting all in photography, shows something of the individual that goes beyond the appearance. Your photography does that for your cats. It is almost as if you are photographing something inside the head, getting inside the head of the cat which is the art of good portrait photography.

  3. I found this article fascinating, an insight into living with deaf cats and I will share it far and wide because you have such good ideas Jennifer on how to communicate with deaf cats.
    Do you still talk to your deaf cats using your voice, like you do to your other cats and your dog? It’s so natural for a human to talk to other humans and to animals, we do it without thinking don’t we? I just wondered if you do this even though you know they can’t hear your voice. I wonder if when having ‘lovey time’ a deaf cat can hear the vibrations of your voice and your heart when you hold them close?
    This beautiful article will stay in my mind.

    • Rurh, thank you. And to answer your questions, yes I talk to Mikey all the time, Daisy too. People try to remind me all the time that the cats cannot hear me. 🙂 As for Mommy and Mikey lovey time…when I pull him close to cuddle he likes it but he never purrs until I begin telling how much I love him, he feels the vibration from my voice, it’s very sweet.

      • they will always know as i believe have a deep sense that their owners know and love them even if they are deaf or disabled they always seem to know somehow.

      • I suppose, as well, when you talk to your cats even though they cannot hear you they can see your body posture and your actions and they understand that those actions fit in with routines and with the routines something happens which they like, so perhaps, although they cannot hear you, they understand.

  4. Your article is so wonderful and helpful to me, Jennifer.
    The ways you have created to communicate with Mikey are genius.
    I’m going to try to adopt some of them for my very old Lucky girl who has been becoming more and more hearing deficient over the past 2 years; a gradual decline that is to the point now that my hand claps from 3 feet away don’t rouse her.
    Thank you so much.

    • I thought she was very clever, as well, in finding ways to communicate and look after her cat effectively. It does show, though, a very close relationship. You can feel how intuitive it is and how natural it is. I just love that because not only is the relationship so close and beautiful, Mikey is magnificent and special.

      • Michael, thank you, your words are so kind. All I have ever wanted for Mikey is for him to have a good life despite being deaf. After spending years and years researching the subject I think I have learned the most just by watching Mikey. He never fails to let me know what he needs, I just make sure that I provide what he is looking for to the best of my ability.
        In return, I found in him a friendship like no other.

    • Thank you Dee. When I first realized Mikey was deaf, I remember all the concerns I had for his well being. It’s difficult to imagine a cats life without hearing because they rely on what they hear so much. Your Lucky will adapt fine, cats are amazingly resilient. The most important thing in communicating with her will be to look at her because she is going to be looking for visual clues, when one sense begins to fade they rely on another. If you have any questions at all you can email me at ibjennyjenny@gmail.com, I would be happy to help in any way that can. Thanks again.

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