Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Living With a Deaf Pet
Pets do loose their hearing as they get older just like people. Some pets like white blue eyed cats and dalmatians can be born deaf. It takes some extra effort but they can adapt and make great pets in spite of their handicap.
I know from first hand experience. Albert, now four, is a beautiful long haired blue eyed deaf cat. I found him as a kitten sitting quietly alongside a busy road, watching the cars drive by. I walked up to him with a friend to help keep him from running into the road and he let me pick him up without any fuss. Since a family member had a white deaf cat, I surmised that this may be the case with Al. I knew that the local shelter would have a hard time placing him with his hearing loss and since I too am hearing impaired, I just felt this was meant to be.
Here are some suggestions to help make this living situation better for you and your deaf pet.
If your pet is deaf, then he must become strictly an indoor animal, out of harm's way. He will not be able to hear the engine of an oncoming car or the movements of another animal or person who may hurt them.
Indoors you must still become more aware of your pet's handicap and adjust your routine to assist him. Avoid startling the animal - never approach him from behind. Stomp on the floor. The vibration will let him know you are nearby. If your pet is sleeping, blow gently on his fur and he will turn to see what you want. Always be gentle in getting his attention.
If your pet was once hearing and responded to voice commands, then you will have to train him to respond to visual clues. Once I have Al's attention, he seems to be able to know what I am trying to tell him. Hand signals work great and are easy to teach. I wave at him to tell him to come. If it is for his food, I hold the food dish up for him to see and he will come to me.
Since he can't hear you telling him no, you must use another form of command to keep him in line. I use a water squirt bottle to stop Al from getting up on counters etc. You must quickly squirt and then stop - you don't want him to think it is a game. Sometimes just distracting him with a toy or another activity is the best way to divert his attention away from doing something you don't like. It doesn't always work - Al has a mind of his own but I keep trying.
Life with Al has been interesting and challenging but I would not have it any other way. Like the new movie out - Life with Marley - my life with Al has been just as funny and difficult but I have learned a lot from him along the way.