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Listening to your deaf pet’s needs

 | September 14, 2012
FEATURE

Cats and dogs with hearing disabilities require a little extra care and understanding so they can lead as normal a life as possible.

While many of us feel distressed or sorry for them, we must remember that as long as their sense of smell is intact, they will be fine for the most part. Pups and kittens have a fully developed sense of smell the moment they are born (critical for their survival in sniffing out mom for milk) while their sight and hearing develop much later.

If your beloved cat or dog is deaf, don’t fret. Here are some helpful ways to make their lives happy and keep the lines of communication open.

Visual cues

You can still get your pet to come to you by making the gesture for ‘come’ instead of saying the word out loud. It may take a while at first for your pet to understand, but if you wave a treat in your hand as you gesture for her to approach, she’ll easily catch the whiff of food and walk over to you. Reward her each time she gets it right. Getting her to ‘stay’ is also easy – just use the ‘halt’ gesture with your palm facing out and reward her when she obeys. Time for a walk? Show her the leash. There will be lots more you could think of to replace verbal commands as you go along.

Capitalise on her sense of ‘feel’

My deaf dog still reacts to thunder because she can feel its strong vibrations. Cats too have an extraordinary sense of feel, being able to detect footsteps whether on a tiled or wooden floor. Since a deaf pet can easily get startled if you suddenly appear by their side to pet them, stomp loudly on the floor as you approach them or switch a light on and off to make them aware of your presence. It will take the edge off the shock.

Outdoor supervision at all times

A deaf cat will dangerously settle down in the middle of the road, sometimes snoozing off simply because she cannot hear anything and assumes the path is safe. If your cat or dog goes outside, you must ensure you watch over them. Even cats can get accustomed to being leashed so buy a harness and get her used to wearing it so you can walk her.

Remember to reward her

Some trainers are against giving treats to pets as a form of praise. A simple “Good girl!” or “Smart kitty” does the job such as in Clicker Training when the sound of a click is deemed sufficient. However should your pet be deaf, finding an alternative means to reward her becomes important. Giving her treats might be the best option to reassure her she has been a good girl or done something right. Or if you’re totally against food, stroking her head, scratching her chest or giving her a kiss might be other options.

Watch the flicker of her ears

Normally, a cat’s or dog’s ears flicker as she picks up sounds from near or afar. However you will soon realise that even your deaf pet flicks her ears every now and then. That’s because their ear movements are indicative of other things besides hearing sounds. A dog that’s extremely happy to see you will flatten her ears while wagging her tail furiously. A cat also communicates with you and other cats by twitching her ears. In time, you may be able to recognise just what she is saying through the use of her ears.

LINKS

http://cats.about.com/od/amyshojai/a/five-ways-to-help-a-deaf-cat.htm


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