SNOW WHITE – the deaf cat
I once had a special cat and she inspires me to suggest to you how to care for your deaf cat – which, yes, you love so dearly as I did love SnowWhite.
Actually, her name was “Schneeweißchen” (in English “snowwhite”) as she was completely white. She came to me as a little kitten of about 4 weeks or so, a handful of soft white fur. I was completely touched and excited, then.
Why can a cat become deaf?
In case of SnowWhite there were certainly several reasons. She was WHITE and white cats have the tendency to become deaf, but not all do. So don’t fear deafness if you have a white cat! Be just aware that it might happen with the years.
The second reason is the side effect of treatments with antibiotics and sulfonamides. SnowWhite had so many health challenges in early years and accordingly several cycles of treatment with strong drugs, so the probability of her getting deaf was definitively high. – But I didn’t know about all that, until…..
How do you notice that your cat is getting deaf?
At first I didn’t really notice much difference. She seemed to be slow to answer to my call for the evening meal. I always shouted “Gatti” (means “cats” in Italian) and all my cats came from all corners of my property to the feeding place. The others came quickly – and SnowWhite sometimes showed up a little later and walked slower than the others. No big deal, I hardly was aware of it. Who knows, after all, why some cats run and others don’t?
I definitely became aware that something was not right when I arrived in my car and SnowWhite got herself out of my way only in the very last moment. Now I began to observe her behavior closely and I soon noticed that she responded to noises only from a certain level on. She was not deaf yet, but definitely on her way to deafness.
What says the vet about deafness?
My vet couldn’t give me a truly exciting answer, not at all. She told me, as the consequence of the race and the previous treatments the beginning deafness was not reversible and that she and myself needed to get used to it and find new ways of connection and behavior. And we did.
What to be careful about when interacting with a deaf cat
Normally cats are very responsive to noises and often hide when they hear unfamiliar sounds. This obviously is not the case for a deaf cat. So YOU need to be very aware of where the cat is when you move. As the cat has a heightened need of feeling safe – and you are the person she is relating to -, it is most likely that she is somewhere around you. It is very easy to step on it unconsciously. So a deaf cat is an opportunity for YOU to become more aware and mindful of what is going on around you!
When you live in the countryside or you have a garden you need to keep an eye on your kitty. She still can see and knows where to go and how to come home, but she is completely unaware of possible dangers around her. A stray cat, a dog, whatever comes along, often she notices it in the very last moment and reacts impulsively and uncontrolled. Thats why she might not be aware of obstacles and dangers when fleeing from the surprise danger and she might hurt herself badly. So make sure that there are for instance fences protecting her from attacks or from falling down an abyss.
The same is true even when you live in a flat. Make sure that there are no objects around where she could run into in moments of panic which will be almost a default behavior when unforeseeable – in the literal sense of the word – things happen and frighten her in the moment. As soon as she gets used to the new situations there is no problem at all any more.
Handicapped cats learn quickly to compensate their inability
If you really care for your deaf cat you love so dearly as your animal companion – and I presume you do – you need to observe her closely and understand her special situation and how to respond to it in ways to make it easy for her. In the case of a deaf cat for instance you won’t come near to her from behind and touch her unexpectedly. She needs to SEE you in order to be prepared to feel your hand.
In case of a blind cat you need to take care that the things around more or less keep staying in the same position, no dangerous objects around where she could bump into and get hurt. She will hear you coming and she will not be surprised when you touch her, but she will awkwardly stumble over your shoes or shopping bags lying in an unexpected place.
See challenges as an opportunity!
Whatever challenge arises with your lovely animal friends: don’t worry too much! Although it is not always easy to fight an illness or to get used to live with an handicap – the reward is huge. You and your cat become closer and closer, the animal recognizes your love and care and it gives it back to you manifold. Your relationship can become so deep BECAUSE of the special challenge you are facing together. And you, as the caregiver have a precious opportunity to learn about yourself. We had already talked about your increased awareness of the world around you. You can also grasp the opportunity to observe yourself and your emotional responses: are you getting angry and impatient when things are not going as you had planned? Do you begin to hate other members of the pet family – or the handicapped one itself – because of behavior you don’t like? Mans things to become aware of which will help you to grow in a more mature and loving person – if you take on the CHALLENGE yourself as a gift instead a burden.