Good to know before adopting a deaf cat
- my own personal experiences
I often get asked for advice from people considering adopting a deaf cat. So that is why I wrote down the following, which is merely my experience living with two deaf cats. Please take into account that I am in no way a cat expert, vet or anything of the sort. Cats can be very different, so this is not some ultimate truth about deaf cats. But hopefully this will give you some idea of what to prepare for before adopting a deaf cat.
Indoor or outdoor?
The shelters in Denmark tend to recommend that you keep a deaf cat indoor (and possibly take them out on a leash or in a catio). Deaf cats can't hear a car or other animal approach and can get badly hurt or killed because of their handicap. So letting a deaf cat walk outside freely can be very risky. Of course there are examples of deaf cats living happy lives outside. But the risk very much depends on the environment you live in and the cat itself. I personally live in an area with heavy traffic, so I would never take the risk living here. If you haven't had an indoor cat before, you should know that this can be more time-consuming than having a cat who can go out. You need to activate your cats with play and an interesting environment. Also they are likely to jump everywhere and explore everything, so nothing is sacred. You need to consider that their food covers all their needs and be aware that they don't get too heavy. An indoor cat can have a happy life if you make sure to give enough entertainment (and perhaps a friend?). Here are some ideas to keep your cat busy!
Sleeping and hiding places
Deaf cats tend to hide when they sleep, because it makes them feel more safe. So it's a good idea to prepare some quite hiding places if you are adopting a deaf cat. Victor is a classic example of a hiding cat and he prefers sleeping under the bed or in a closet. These are also his go to places if he is feeling unsecure about strangers in the house. Other deaf cats, like Ronja, are going in the opposite direction and are more brave. So she sleeps out in the open and have from day one.
Be prepared for a cat that "talks" a lot and that can meow very loudly. It varies how loud a cat meows, but there is definitely a tendency in deaf cats to meow very loudly. This is because they can't hear themselves and can't control the volume. I'm sure they can sense the vibrations of their meow in their throats though. If you can't handle many loud meows or you have neighbors close by, you might need to reconsider adopting a deaf cat, unless it is already adult and you know for a fact it doesn't talk much. More on deaf cats meowing here.
Getting the cat's attention
Deaf cats startle easy, cause they can't hear your coming and they don't have the full picture of what's going on around them. So it's not a good idea to touch a deaf cat, that isn't already looking at you. Instead you can blow on it gently. If it is too far away to feel the blow, you can stomp on the floor or flicker the lights. Just remember that deaf cats can choose to ignore you too 😉
With that said, deaf cats tend to be more attentive to their humans and look you more in the eyes. They rely a lot on your behavior to read situations. This also means that they follow you around a lot (say goodbye to bathroom privacy!) and therefore you don't need to get their attention as much as you'd think. You most likely already got it.
Raising a deaf cat
Deaf (indoor) cats can be real trouble makers! They don't startle from the loud noises they make from knocking objects over, so they just keep on doing it. It is also difficult to stop them mid action, as you can't yell "no" at them. You need instead to use big arm movements to signal stop. This requires that the busy cat can actually see you, which is why you will often be too late. So you are going to have to run a lot. Hide away your most fragile and precious stuff in the beginning or make sure it's out of reach. I lost a lot of stuff when we adopted Victor. I find that my deaf cats respond really well to clicker training, so you might want to give that a go if your cat is a real troublemaker.