Are Blue-Eyed White Cats Really Deaf?

Most blue-eyed white cats are deaf.
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Many old wives' tales associated with cats aren't true - such as they can suck the life out of an infant. Others, such as blue-eyed cats are deaf, have some basis in fact. If Snowball can't hear, it could have a lot to do with eye and hair color.

Do Snowball's Blue Eyes and White Fur Mean She Can't Hear Me?

Snowball's hearing ability has much to do with her genetic makeup. Cats who are white, with a dominant white gene (marked as W), are commonly deaf because that gene is associated with deafness. Some of these cats can actually have other colors in their fur, often in spots on their head, which fade with age.

Eye color in white cats also relates to the potential for deafness. Cornell University cites a study that found that 17 to 22 percent of white cats with non-blue eyes were born deaf; 40 percent of white cats with one blue eye were deaf; and 65 to 85 percent of white cats with two blue eyes were deaf. Some of the cats were deaf in only one ear - interestingly, if a cat had a blue eye on the right side of her head, she tended to be deaf in the right ear (and vice versa).

Are There Specific Breeds That Are Always Deaf?

There is no guarantee that a cat will or won't be deaf, but according to a study by Louisiana State University, deafness is more likely in cats of certain breeds that carry the W gene than in other breeds. These breeds include, among others, white Scottish fold, Nowegian forest cats, ragdoll, white Cornish rex, white Persian and white Maine coon.

What Should I Do If I Think Snowball Is Deaf?

If Snowball doesn't respond to you calling her name, try getting her attention in other ways, such as whistling or snapping your fingers behind her. If she isn't aware of your presence unless you touch her, it's a good idea to take her to the vet to get an official diagnosis. If she is deaf, and it's a congenital condition, there won't be anything to do that will enable her to hear - it will be a life-long condition.

A Few Tips If Your Cat Is Deaf

Cats who cannot hear can have a perfectly healthy, normal life. However, there are a few steps that you will need to take to ensure their safety. Keep them out of situations where they need to rely on sounds to take cues. For this reason, it's best to keep a deaf cat indoors - they will not hear cars or roaming dogs, which could put them at great risk.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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