Because I’m a sucker when it comes to handicats, I adopted Zoe about 5 months ago (rhymes with “toe” not “doughy”). She was born deaf and is afflicted with a mild case of cerebellar hypoplasia (the latter makes her head wobble like a drunk).
Zoe is not my first handicat, but she is the first in our condemnable home that is deaf. In case you, too, are considering a deafie, I wanted to share some on my experiences so that your handicat’s transition to their new home will be smooth and uneventful:
DEAF CAT DOS
1. Try a Belled Collar
As a cat person, you probably know that these little sumbitches crawl into the most inconspicuous places. For example, last year I thought I lost Mr. Tiddles forever after he discovered a crack deep inside of a kitchen cabinet just wide enough to squeeze through. Fucker must have thought he found Narnia. No amount of sweet-talk and promises of pettings enticed him to return from his dark paradise. Thankfully, his fat ass has no qualms about dislocating his own rib cage for a treat; otherwise he’d still be roaming the inside of the walls like a rat as I write this.
Well, only a month after her adoption, Partner and I lost Zoe. We turned the house upside-down looking for her. The other four bastards weren’t much help. Calling Zoe’s name or shaking a bag of treats was, of course, pointless. After a stressful, 60-minute search inside and outside of the home, Zoe nonchalantly crawled out from behind the sofa (the one place we failed to look) as if nothing was wrong. If she donned a belled collar, we would have certainly heard her when she crawled behind the sofa for her little siesta in the first place.
2. Teach Them Hand Signals
Believe it or not, these uppity creatures can be trained. I know. I was just as skeptical and surprised as you, but if Helen Keller can learn “water” these heathens can learn simple hand gestures.
So far, Zoe responds to “spirit fingers” (the wiggling of all fingers of my right hand). This is her “sign name.” When she sees spirit fingers, she typically trots to me knowing she will either receive treats or pettings. If she does not, I know she doesn’t want to be bothered. She is, after all, a typical cat. Eventually, I’m hoping we get to the point she’ll understand a sign for “Do you prefer chicken or tuna for lunch?” and “Jesus Christ, will you please go back to the litter box and cover your stinky poo.” But right now, we’re working on a simple, “Good girl.”
NOTE: Teaching your cat requires a lot of time, patients, and repetition. A lot. Don’t give up.
DEAF CAT DON’TS
1. Don’t Sneak Up On a Deaf Cat
By a show of hands, how many of you have nearly shit yourself when I mischievous “friend” or “loved one” snuck up behind you and just silently stood there until you turned around? It’s not pleasant, is it? Now imagine this happening multiple times a day for your entire life. You’d most likely become a nervous wreck, startled by the slightest of movements.
When approaching a deaf cat that is either sleeping or sitting with their back to you, it is recommended to stomp as much as possible; otherwise, you may have to peel your startled feline from with ceiling with a spatula. If they do not respond to the stomps, knock on the floor directly behind them before touching them. This has worked for me; unfortunately, I am still trying to figure out how to teach this to the other cats.
2. Do Not Allow Deaf Cat Outside
It’s a dangerous world outside full of fast cars, roaming dogs, and angry birds. Unless you implant eyes in the back of your deaf cat’s head (and I don’t know of any vets that would do this), they won’t see any of them coming.
Because of a deaf cat’s sensory limitations, you must keep a deaf cat indoors at all times. I repeat, never allow a deaf cat outside no matter how much they stare longingly through the bedroom window.
3. Do Not Spank a Deaf Cat
When caring for a deaf cat, you will experience very loud meows at all times of the day and night (dear God, all hours) or outbursts of biting and/or scratching if you surprise them. But no matter what, do not react with any sort of physical intimidation or discipline. A beating is not how you train your startled cat to trust you. Your deaf cat may need time to understand that they are in a safe environment. I have not accomplished this yet, but I believe Zoe will eventually understand if given lots of gentle love.
Oh, and if you happen to know a physically violent owner of a deaf cat, message me so that I may greet them with an ass whippin’ (and don’t worry, your name won’t be mentioned).
The best way to train a deaf cat is to reward them for good behavior. When Zoe does something sweet (like kissing her blind brother) she is rewarded with a treat.
Whether deaf, blind, or gimp, a handicat deserves the same quality of life as any able-bodied feline. Please be patient and understand that they need you just as much as you need them.
This is by no means an all-inclusive guide to caring for a deaf cat. All cats have their own personality and behavior. What you see above is just me sharing my experiences. I intend to post additional tips as I learn more about Zoe’s behavior. Until then, there are numerous resources online. Just Google it.