It is a common misconception among people that white cats are deaf. However, this is not entirely true. While it is true that most kittens who show signs of being deaf are indeed white, not all white kittens are deaf. Therefore, it is important to understand what causes deafness in cats, regardless of their color.
What Causes Deafness in Cats, and Why Are White Cats So Often Affected?
Up to 22% of white cats with non-blue eyes are deaf. Up to 40% of cats with one blue eye are deaf, while up to 85% of cats with two blue eyes are deaf. It is because of these numbers that many people assume that white cats are always deaf, due to such a high percentage of white cats (with blue eyes) being deaf.
The reality is, the gene for deafness is “in close proximity” to the genes for white fur and blue eyes, according to the Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department at Drs. Foster & Smith. Therefore, it is not unusual for the deafness gene to be passed on along with the genes for white fur or blue eyes. However, deafness is not necessarily linked to having white fur, blue eyes or both.
Breeds of cats that are more prone to congenital deafness include white Persian cats, white Cornish Rex cats, Devon Rex cats, white Turkish Angoras, white Maine Cones, white Scottish folds, white oriental shorthairs, white Manx and Ragdolls. In these situations, because deafness is hereditary, it is recommended against breeding any affected (deaf) cats as it is highly likely that the resulting offspring will also be deaf. This is especially true if two deaf white cats are bred together.
Symptoms of Deafness in Cats
That being said, deafness can actually affect cats of any age, breed or gender. It is not purely limited to white cats, blue eyed cats or a combination of the two. Here are some signs to look for if you suspect that your cat may be deaf.
Cats who are deaf are often unresponsive to their name, the sounds of toys and to every day sounds. They are not woken by loud noises, but may respond to vibrations. For example, a cat sleeping on the bed that does not respond to a loud noise may respond to feeling vibrations if the bed is tapped in order to get the cat’s attention.
Cats who have been deaf their entire lives are likely to be more sensitive to vibrations in the home. For example, a cat sleeping on the floor may look up when someone walks by; not necessarily due to the sound of the walking but because of the vibrations on the floor from the walking. For this reason, some people may not be sure if their cat is deaf because of these types of reactions.
If you suspect your cat may be deaf, no matter what the cause, it is important to have this verified by a veterinarian. Cats who seemed to have suddenly “gone deaf” may actually have an ear inflammation, a tumor, or some other inner ear disease that could potentially be treated.
Cornell University, Ask Elizabeth: Are White Cats Always Deaf?
Pet Education: Deafness in Cats
PetMD: Deafness in Cats