Caring for Deaf Dogs and Cats: 10 Tips for a Happy, Safe Home

As pets age, they can begin to lose their hearing. On the flip side, a birth defect can mean some pets never have their hearing to begin with. There are plenty of health conditions that can cause hearing loss in the interim, too. While this may not lead to a huge disturbance for your pet, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to caring for a deaf dog or cat.

Keep Cats Inside, In an Enclosed Outdoor Area, or On a Harness

Indoor cat sleeping on windowsill

If you have a deaf cat, they should generally remain indoors for their safety, as they won’t be able to hear any approaching danger. However, there are a few exceptions. If you have an enclosed outdoor space for your cat, like a catio, that should be fine for outdoor adventures, provided there aren’t any means of escape. If you can train your cat to walk with a harness and leash, they could also enjoy the great outdoors. It may be a good idea to include a note on their harness that they are deaf, though, so people are aware.

Be Careful When Walking Your Dog

When walking your deaf dog, a harness letting people know about their hearing issues is also a good idea. Their tags could include that information, as well. When you’re in an unfenced area, be sure that your dog is always on a leash, too. If you’d like a leash-free area for your pup, an enclosed dog run should provide them with a safe spot to run freely.

Communicate with Hand Signals

Dog learning hand signals from human

Since your pet can’t hear you, you’ll need to be creative in using their other senses. Visual cues like hand signals are helpful. Sometimes pet parents make use of American Sign Language, or they’ll make their own version of ASL signs.

To get cats to come to mealtime, rather than calling them, you can teach them that beckoning them toward you means they should follow you. Flicking lights off and on can be another visual signal. To get a cat’s attention when she’s being naughty, you can get them to make eye contact with you and share a firm “no” signal.

For dogs, hand signals can be used to signify many things, like sitting, going for a walk, or going to bed.

Training May Require a Different Approach

Dog training with human in park

As mentioned before, training can be a bit different with deaf pets because they can’t hear spoken commands or praise for catching on. Facial expressions can be helpful for this, with happy expressions for good behaviors and disappointed faces for bad behaviors. You can also replace clickers with laser pointers or a flashlight with cats. Those lights can also be used to direct their attention to something.

For dogs, a “watch me” hand signal is important because they’ll have to get their training just from visuals. Be sure to reward them with treats and pets when they’re paying attention to you, and once they’ve mastered “watch me”, it opens the door for other basic commands.

Turning lights off and on is a helpful training tool for both deaf cats and dogs, too.

Use Their Sense of Touch

Cat getting chin pets

Using a deaf pet’s sight is a good way to get them to utilize their other senses, but another important sense is touch. One way to take advantage of touch is using vibrations to get their attention. Stomping your foot near them or tapping on nearby surfaces will generate vibrations that can get their attention, and this can be used to announce dinner time as an alternative to flickering lights.

Touch can also be used to bond with your deaf pet and make them feel safe. Be sure to pet, brush, or cuddle with them every day. Speaking into their fur may also be a comforting way for them to feel your voice’s vibrations.

Try to Avoid Startling Them

Vibrations are a good way to avoid startling your deaf pet, too. Stomping as you come into the room can alert them to your presence, as they’ll feel the vibrations. It’s best to approach them in a way that allows them to see you before you touch them, too. If they’re asleep, walk with heavy feet or tug on the edge of their blankets to wake them up. You can also place your hand in front of your dog’s nose to try to rouse her.

Get Them a Buddy Without Hearing Issues

Two cat buddies looking outside

Much like caring for blind pets, it can be helpful to get your pet a buddy with the sense that they lack. So, you could look into getting a dog or cat without hearing issues. This will allow your deaf pet to look to their new buddy for more cues on their environment, which may help keep them safer. However, because the deaf pet won’t be able to hear any auditory cues from the other pet, you may need to step in if there’s a bit of growling or hissing.

Create a Routine

Keeping things consistent will allow your pet to know what to expect, like when it’s time for a walk or a meal. Much like with other pets, a set routine can be important in keeping your deaf dog or cat less anxious and helping the home run smoothly.

Make Sure They Know Where You Are

Without hearing to keep tabs on you, your pet may not know where you are unless you communicate that to them. When you leave a room, get their attention so they know you’re headed elsewhere. Any time you leave the house, be sure they know it, too, otherwise they may become concerned looking for you.

Give Them Lots of Love and Lots of Play

Deaf dog plays with ball

Deaf cats and dogs enjoy games much the same as all other pets, though you may not need the squeaky and bell-filled options. Make sure you enrich their lives with lots of fun, lots of affection, and lots of smiles.

Help Rescue Animals

Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free!