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FAQ: Deaf Animals   Tags: deaf, faq  

This guide briefly discusses the more common incidences of deafness in various species.
Last Updated: Sep 22, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Deafness in nonhuman species

Many nonhuman species -- largely invertebrates -- are "deaf" in the sense that they do not have organs developed for detecting sound waves. Among these are worms, mollusks, squids, octopi, and more. The issue of whether or not a given species can "hear" is often obscured by the fact that many of them can detect the vibrations of sound waves, without actually hearing the sound itself. For example, many insects can detect sound through various organs, not all of which are true "ears." Virtually all animals with ears can become deaf from illness, injury, or medical intervention. This document is limited to those animals that are deaf from hereditary causes or are naturally deaf. Information about cat breeds are detailed below; for other species, use the yellow tabs above.

Cat breeds with tendency to hereditary deafness

Deafness in cats has relatively little connection with specific breeds, and more with having all or mostly white fur (not albinos, which have pink eyes and are normally hearing. Hereditarily deaf cats with white coats have blue or yellow eyes.) Nevertheless, some breeds of cat do have higher rates of genetic deafness than others:

  • Maine coon
  • Siamese
  • White American shorthair
  • White American wirehair
  • White Persian
  • White Turkish Angora
  • White Turkish Van (there is some debate as to whether white Angoras and white Vans are separate breeds, or an arbitrary division of the same breed)
  • White cats with two blue eyes in general (regardless of breed) are usually, but not always, deaf.
  • Odd-color-eyed (one blue and one yellow) white cats are often deaf in one or both ears, though less often than blue-eyed whites.
  • White cats with two yellow eyes also are commonly deaf, though less often than blue-eyed or odd-eyed.

Partial bibliography:

  • Brinicombe, David, "The 1995 all breed white deafness survey: preliminary report and discussion paper", (February 27, 2002).
  • Brinicombe, David, "Advice for looking after deaf kittens and cats", (February 27, 2002).
  • Delack, John B., "Hereditary deafness in the white cat", Compendium on continuing education for the practicing veterinarian, vol.6 no.7, July 1984, p.609.
  • Strain, George M., "Congenital deafness in dogs and cats", Compendium on continuing education for the practicing veterinarian, vol.13 no.2, February 1991, p.246.
  • "The surprising world of the deaf cat", Deaf life, vol.4 no.8, February 1992, p.18-27.

Far more research and writings have been done on deaf dogs than on deaf cats. This is why the available literature on deaf cats is dwarfed by that on deaf dogs.

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Prepared by Tom Harrington
Reference and Instruction Librarian
September, 2002
Updated February, 2004

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