Sensory issues in cats

With the right care and attention, cats often adapt well to sensory issues. Learn how to care for a deaf or blind cat.

Cats can develop sensory issues for several reasons, including old age, illness and injury. The most common issues include the loss of sight or hearing.

With the right care, cats who are deaf or blind can still maintain a great quality of life. Cats have an incredible ability to rely on their other senses, allowing them to go about their daily lives without much difficulty.

 

Deafness in cats

What causes deafness in cats?

The most common causes of deafness in cats are:

  • old age
  • genetic defects
  • tumours and growths in the ear canal
  • injury
  • untreated ear infections
  • neurological problems.

Some cats are at a higher risk of genetic defects, which can cause deafness from birth; white cats with blue eyes are by far the most likely to develop hearing loss.

Deafness can be temporary, caused by blockages or mild bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. It can also be a side effect of certain medication, so always consult your vet for potential treatment.

How to tell if your cat’s going deaf

Cats are experts in using all their senses to understand or react to their surroundings, so it can be tricky to identify whether your cat is going deaf.

Deaf cats may not turn around when you approach them and may not react to loud or surprising noises. They can often be difficult to wake up and may start meowing louder than normal.

A good test of their hearing is to position yourself behind them, cover your mouth (so they can’t feel your breath) and hiss. This is a universal sound of danger, so if your cat doesn’t respond there may be an issue.

Going deaf is usually a gradual process, so you may not be able to spot it right away. If you’re unsure, or you think your cat is losing their hearing, speak to your local vet for advice.

Looking after a deaf cat

Deaf cats are often exposed to increased dangers, especially when outdoors; they may not hear an oncoming car or an aggressive animal that might pose a threat.

Many cats love to spend time outdoors, so adjusting to hearing loss can be very difficult. If you have one, transform your garden into a safe, cat-proof haven so they can maintain their outdoor life while staying protected from dangers - tall fencing and overhead netting both work well. If providing a safe outdoor space isn’t possible, your cat should be kept indoors at all times.

Whether inside or outside, don’t forget to provide lots of interesting places or objects for them to explore and display their natural behaviours.

Aside from keeping them safe, you’ll also need to adjust the way you communicate with your cat as they lose their hearing. For example, replace voice commands with hand signals or use catnip-scented toys.

Deaf cats can be easily startled, so always approach your cat in their line of sight.

Blindness in cats

Causes of blindness in cats

Age-related causes of blindness are much less common in cats than in dogs, although they can still happen. The most common causes of blindness in cats are:

  • injury
  • glaucoma
  • toxoplasmosis
  • infection
  • high blood pressure.

How to tell if your cat is going blind

If your cat appears more cautious or disoriented, this may be a sign of vision loss. Your cat may also become easily startled or confused when you approach them, and they may misjudge heights when jumping on or off objects.

If your cat is going blind, they may develop cloudy, discoloured or inflamed eyes. They may also have large pupils that don’t contract in the light.

If you think your cat is experiencing blindness, speak to your vet immediately.

Caring for a blind cat

While their sight is still important to them, cats often rely more on their hearing and sense of smell, so many cats adapt well to blindness.

Try and keep your home environment as consistent as possible, e.g. not moving furniture, litter trays or food and water bowls. You should also try and keep your cat indoors as much as possible or build a cat-friendly outdoor enclosure to help keep them safe outside.

Blocking off stairways, balconies and decking can help keep blind cats safe, and always keep the toilet lid closed to avoid accidents. Blind cats tend to respond well to noisy or scented objects, so investing in toys with bells, rattles and catnip helps stimulate their senses while maintaining a great bond.

Constantly talking to your cat will help them locate you about the house and maintains a sense of security. If you have other pets, you may want to add a bell to their collar for the same reason.

For more helpful advice on caring for a blind or deaf cat, speak to your local Medivet team.

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