Monday, December 12, 2005

My deaf cat

I have recently come to realize something. It is with great embarrassment that I reveal that it has probably been going on for quite some time.

My cat is pretty much deaf now. She's 17.5 years old and heading toward the infirm, but I wouldn't have wished another disability on her skinny, little body. She can still hear the very, very loud if it is right next to her hear, for example when she's on her kitty sauna (aka computer monitor) and I click on a website that blasts obnoxiously out the speakers next to her ears. She'll wake up for that.

I wish she weren't so oblivious to the fact that she can't hear, but I still can. She calls and calls for me, day and night. It is with her crying pattern, I am trying to piece together when she might have gone deaf. She's cried like this for almost all of the 4 years I've been in this house, but she used to come if I called back, or whistled, or clapped. Now she doesn't come, or she wanders around my usual haunts until she finds me. Or I go looking for her and have waving fits [my version of cat sign language] to get her attention. Or I throw things from in the office out into the hallway in order to catch her eye.

[A]ging cats adapt their lifestyle to cope with any incapacity; slowing down gradually, seeking warm, comfortable spots and spending more time asleep. They sleep more deeply and are harder to rouse, so don't suddenly disturb a sleeping cat or it will be startled, especially if its hearing is fading. This deep slumber also shows that the cat feels safe.

I've also tried to figure out the duration of her deafness per this sort of statement. How long has she been sleeping so soundly? I mentioned the sound sleep to the vet in June and I think she should have picked up on it and a deafness connection, not that an earlier diagnosis really matters a lot in this case.

By deduction, I think she's been essentially deaf for close to a year. Having just officially put it together, or come out of denial about the symptoms staring me in the face every day, I decided to search online about deaf cats to piece together more details. Much of what's published is about congenitally deaf cats (white ones with blue eyes), so it semi-applies .

These are helpful excerpts from several websites:
Communicating With a Deaf Cat
By Amy Shojai for The Daily Cat

[A]ge-related deafness, called presbycusis, is the most common form. It can develop rapidly or gradually when the cochlea (hearing organ) degenerates and the tiny bones of the middle ear lose their flexibility to vibrate and transmit sound.

The Cat Locator ( pendant attaches to the collar and emits a tone when the handheld applicator is activated, to help you find your deaf cat. You can also use the collar's vibration (much the way a pager or cell phone vibrates) as a training signal to curb desirable behaviors.

Older kitties often become clingy and cry for you to "rescue" them. Try wearing very strong, distinctive cologne on your ankles to help kitty find you more easily with his nose.

Living with a Deaf Cat
I usually jokingly reply to people, when they ask what it is like to have a deaf cat that she is just like all my other cats. I yell "no" and she ignores me, just like all the others do.

Where hearing loss is gradual, it can be ages before you realise that Puss is deaf because the cat compensates for its lack of hearing. Where hearing loss is sudden, the cat may appear confused, irritable, over-attached to the owner, insecure or exhibit other 'unusual' behaviours in response to the sudden loss of this sense. Some deaf cats call out more often and more loudly (they cannot regulate their own volume) while others may become mute.

In most older cats, hearing loss is gradual and not apparent until the later stages since cats do not always respond to being called.

Some deaf cats learn to respond to hand signals similar to those used in distance control of dogs.[Our hand signals consist of huge, gyrating, waves that catch her attention. I also try to catch light and shadows to get her to look.]

Poor hearing makes cats defensive - they strike out first and ask questions later. [Our puss is so gentle, this isn't an issue.]

In June 2003, a German acoustics expert announced his invention of a hearing aid for cats. Hans-Rainer Kurz, a hearing aid specialist, took two years to develop the hearing aid with help from experts at the Vetenarian University in Hanover. They developed a tiny device, which can be implanted in the cat's outer ear. Herr Kurz has already had success with a similar aid for dogs. He admitted that the device would not cure totally deaf cats, but could help those with severe hearing difficulties. The hearing aid ensures that the cat is able to take the usual acoustic signals and re-work them into sounds in the brain. Quiet sounds that hearing-impaired cats had never heard before would become distinguishable. The feline hearing aid currently costs around £300.

Recruitment of the Auditory Cortex in Congenitally Deaf Cats by Long-Term Cochlear Electrostimulation
Rainer Klinke, * Andrej Kral, Silvia Heid, Jochen Tillein, Rainer Hartmann
Science 10 September 1999:
Vol. 285. no. 5434, pp. 1729 - 1733
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5434.1729

My cat's isn't congenital (as in she isn't a white cat with blue eyes), but I think the science is interesting.

With these links, I've gone from low level (literally and figuratively) perfume on the ankles to cat sign language to hearing aids and up to cochlear stimulation. Whatever the cat owner might want to do to aid the deaf cat, there is probably a solution.

[Edited to add: I came up with a brilliant solution - my cat is flashlight trained, it was easy to do, and I can call or guide her with that.]

Of course, any proper solution includes shopping, too.

Love a Deaf Cat Today!

Love a Deaf Cat Today! CapLove a Deaf Cat Today! Jr. Ringer T-Shirt


Anonymous said...

My Dixie was nearly deaf, too. You could stand behind her and clap or yell her name, and she didn't move a muscle. I guess it had it's benefits, though. She got over her fear of the vacuum cleaner.

DD said...

One of our cats is diabetic and has been for several years. At 13, his eyesight is starting to fail due to the combo of diab. and age. Blind cats are as easily spooked as well as the deaf ones, but I would think it'd be tougher for kitty to be deaf as they are so dependant on their hearing.

17.5 is an impressive age, I must add. Sign of good love.

Anonymous said...

OOOHHHH.... poor little kitty! I've recently adopted a geriatric 18 year old kitty because no one else would give her a home... the poor thing has been mangled by some wild animal, had her tail amputated, and was locked in a woodshed for six weeks... talk about a survivor! I hope she doesn't lose her hearing to boot.

Anonymous said...

It is now almost a year since you wrote about your deaf cat. My cat Jane is 18 and I just realized she is deaf. Did you ever find any other tricks that worked. I am so concerned about her happiness. Thank you for anything you can lend.

Unknown said...

I'm so glad I found this web site. My Coco will be 20 this August 2008and I realized about month now that she is deaf. I have 3 cats total and she is now attacking Patches, she has tinkled on the floor and I'm concerned. Both patches and Mosch Mouse are about 8 years old, bro & sis. What can I do to make Coco's life easier as she ages, she is my baby girl. I just can't imagine life without her. Any advise please email to Any!!!

Jessica said...

I've just figured out that my ~6mo. old Javanese foundling, Leo, is deaf. The only impacts are a) he sometimes comes home on his own, a lot later than his 5[!] housemates, and b) it has until now felt like I just wasn't connecting with him quite right.
He is, like the other 4 foundlings [brought home by my A#1 Ash], an extraordinary cat in many, many ways. Hearing is just not a big concern, for him. Like all the others, he's my [recovery from DV] inspiration.

Patricia said...

Our 17 year old cat is deaf too and i think has been so for about a year. My worry is that she is inclined to lie on various neighbours driveways and of course now she wouldnt hear a car approaching and I am scared they might not notice her. She eats well but is really skinny and seems to have a bit of dementia too!

Anonymous said...

Re: the cost of the hearing aid - How much is £300? (I don't understand the notation.)