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Caring for a Deaf Cat

If you suspect hearing loss in your cat, have your veterinarian do an exam.

There is a test for deafness called the BAER (brain stem auditory evoked response) test. It consists of placing three small electrodes subcutaneously (similar to acupuncture needles). In most cases, the animal doesn’t need sedation and the test is very quick. The test is performed at special sites and your veterinarian will have more information on BAER test locations.

Here is a short video on the BAER test

How to Communicate with and Train a Deaf Cat

Avoid startling him by always coming into his visual field before petting him or picking him up.

Greet your cat by coming into his line of sight, getting down on his level and extending your index finger for him to sniff. This is similar to nose-to-nose sniffing that familiar cat friends do.

You can clicker train a deaf cat as you would a cat with hearing, but instead of using a noise-making clicker, use a penlight. Don’t use a laser pointer, and don’t shine the penlight in the cat’s eyes. Do a quick flash with the penlight and offer a treat. Do this about 10 times to help the cat associate the light with the delivery of the treat. Then, when the cat displays a desired behavior, mark it with the penlight and immediately offer a treat, just as with traditional clicker training.

A deaf cat can feel vibrations so as you come into a room, solid footsteps will help him become aware of your presence.

You can communicate and train your cat using hand signals. Make your signals one-handed and be totally consistent in the presentation as well as what behavior you’re requesting. If there are other family members in the home, teach them the signals as well so the cat will always receive the exact same message. Develop hand signals for at least the most basic commands or situations such as come here. You can combine hand signal training with penlight clicker training. You can also create a meal announcement hand signal so the cat will know when dinner is served if you feed on a schedule.

If there are other cats in the house, the deaf cat will watch and learn many communication signals through them.

Caring for a Deaf Cat

Never let your deaf cat outdoors unless confined in a safe catio enclosure. A deaf cat can never wander outdoors, even if you’re convinced he’ll stay close to home. A deaf cat can’t hear horns honking, barking dogs, the warning sounds of another cat nearby as well as any other sounds of danger.

Since a deaf cat can’t hear to respond to being called when out of sight in the home, consider attaching a small key finder to his collar for location purposes.