How to care for your deaf cat you love dearly?

How to care for your deaf cat you love dearly?

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.

My mother with Schneeweißchen - about 25 years ago

My mother with Schneeweißchen – about 25 years ago


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.

11 comments on “How to care for your deaf cat you love dearly?
  1. Hari S Nair says:

    Wow, I really want to admire you for how you learned to take care of snow white, it might have been really hard since as you mentioned one has to be very alert and aware with deaf cats. I agree that they learn quickly to live with their inabilities.

    I have a very bad story due to which I am a little scared of having a cat, actually I lost a very adorable baby cat as a kid but I think I am now ready to have a pet cat so this site going to be a regular stop.

    Thank You 🙂

    • Heidi Hornlein says:

      Hi Hari and thank you so much for writing the comment on the story of snow white. I really hope that your childhood disappointment and grief is overcome now and you will have a lot of joy with a cat now. It is always beautiful to have a little kitten and watch it grow up. It needs some time to teach it what to do and what not – and not always you will succeed. But the joy and affection they will give you when you treat cats well – it overrides all the little things which might be bothersome at first (like scratched sofas etc.) I wish you good luck to find the most lovely one and don’t hesitate to come back here and ask your questions or tell your stories!

  2. James Kelly says:

    What a wonderful heart rending account of caring for a cat with a major disability of deafness. You wouldn’t want to let your cat out of the house if you live near a busy road in that situation. This must be particularly distressing for the cat which normally has a far more superior acute sense of hearing than their owners possess. However I sometimes wonder about that as Oscar our cat walks between my legs when I am preparing his meals. His sense of smell must override his superior hearing in anticipation of what he is about to eat or is he more trusting that I wont stand on him? He is certainly taking risks there as I have a hearing problem!

    • admin says:

      Hi James and thank you for your wonderful comment. The best thing is to be able to use all our senses, but when one is missing our bodies develop more capacities with one or more other senses. Smelling (tasty) food for an animal seems to be number one where everything else becomes secondary. How is it for you and the hearing problem? I would love a story about your cat Oscar and his food dance between your legs, also for our section “your cat story”.

  3. Tan says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this really uplifting story, and for all the useful information. I know quite a few people who are involved with animal rescues & sanctuaries and so will remember to refer your website onto them! One of them has a three-legged white cat.. I didn’t know white cats had a tendency to become deaf.. luckily she has adapted to her disability well and as far as I know has shown no signs of deafness so far. Also I love the photo of your mother with Snow White – so cute 🙂

    • Heidi Hornlein says:

      Hi Tan and thank you for the comment. White cats have the tendency to many problems which colored cats don’t have, I had 5 white cats and ALL of them got cancer on the top of their ears because the skin is not enough protected against the strong sun in countries like Italy where I live. I will write separately about that issue later. And I also will post more photos of snow-white. She lived in the time prior to digital photography and I have only very few pics and only on paper. Will do my best.
      I have the intent to publicize info for rescues and similar info very soon here on my site. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. ToveL says:

    Thanks for sharing this emotional story with me. I felt like crying because you really understood what your cat needed when she turned deaf.
    I’ve never had cats earlier but I want to have one in the future. With your knowledge about this important topic, I feel I will be more ready to embrace a new family member.


    • Heidi Hornlein says:

      Hi Tove and thanks for your kind comment. Yes, cats are beutiful creatures. I like them especially for the fact that you cannot dominate them like a dog. They always remain individuaals and give you the gift of their love – if you treat them in a good way. It is a journey about getting to know another creature AND yourself. I can only encourage you to get a young kitten and try it!

  5. Yvonne says:

    I truly admire your patience in taking care of Snow White. I can’t imagine how many challenges that both of you faced together and I’m glad that the challenges deepened the bond for you both. It’s so true that animals (and even children) can help us learn about ourselves and how we react in certain situations.

    I love cats but I lost one that was very dear to me many years ago. I’m not sure if I’m ready to have another one yet as I don’t think I bear to lose them.

    • admin says:

      Thank you Iyonne for your kind comment. I dan really relate to your hesitation to have another cat after having lost such a dear one to you. From my own experience, I can say that the new cat won’t wipe out the memory of your beloved cat and it will give you a lot of joy which you miss out with not having another one. Cats are real individuals, everyone will give you a different experience. And yes, loss is part of life, but not having an animal for the fear of losing it (which we most probably will) takes away so much possibility of joy and even growth.
      I wish you the very best with any future animal companion!

  6. elias says:

    Hey, great article and I agree with your tips. I had a blind cat once, it was the cat of the neighber and it was white too, a big male white cat and when you said in the article that white cats have tendency to develope deafness with years, I think you are spot on on that!
    Anyways, the cat was extremely friendly and caring, never showed any hostile or wierd behaviours, but in the contrary the cat was very strong and aren’t scared of lots of things, besides being friendly and want to cudle with me.

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