At some point, you’ve likely heard someone say that all white cats are deaf—particularly those with blue eyes. But is this factual? Not entirely!
While white cats with blue eyes certainly are more prone to hereditary deafness—white cats, in general, are more inclined—not every white cat with blue eyes will be deaf. People tend to think that they are because the chances of them being so are incredibly high (really, really high). But if you own a cat that looks like this, it doesn’t necessarily equal deafness.
The W Gene
Why are white cats white, and how is that related to them being more prone to deafness than felines of other colors? The reason cats have white fur is because of the dominant white (W) gene, which disrupts melanocytes, resulting in full white color. The W gene is also the gene responsible for blue eyes and deafness. So, if you have a white cat, it has the W gene, making it more likely to also have blue eyes, which increases the likelihood of your pet being born deaf.
White Fur & Blue Eyes
Now that you know why cats are white and how the gene that causes white coats also results in blue eyes and deafness, let’s look at how many white cats with blue eyes are actually deaf.
According to studies, white cats that don’t have blue eyes are only born with deafness 17–22% of the time. However, white cats with single blue eyes are born deaf 40% of the time (though they may only be deaf in one ear). And oddly enough, when cats with a single blue eye are deaf in a single ear, that ear is on the same side as the blue eye.
Then, we get to felines that are white with two blue eyes—65–85% of these cats are born deaf. Again, sometimes only in a single ear. And long-haired white cats are more likely to be blue-eyed and deaf than short-haired cats. However, if you have a white cat that also carries the cs Siamese dilution pigment gene, then it is capable of having a white coat and blue eyes without being deaf. This indicates that white purebreds with blue eyes are less likely to be deaf than mixed-breed felines of the same coloring.
So, cats with white fur and blue eyes are much more inclined to be born deaf, but not 100% of these cats are deaf.
How to Tell If Your Cat Is Deaf
There are several ways to tell if your cat is deaf or hard of hearing. One big sign is your cat being unresponsive when you give it commands or call its name. Another is your pet being on the noisier side; deaf cats can’t hear themselves when they vocalize, so it’s more difficult for them to regulate their voices. Your kitty may also startle easily since it can’t hear when people or other pets enter a room, making it a surprise when someone appears.
If you suspect your pet is deaf, you’ll want to have it tested to be sure. Talk to your vet about what tests you can have done.
Living With a Deaf Feline
Living with a feline that’s deaf will be a little different from living with one capable of hearing. You’ll have to adjust a tad to compensate for that loss of hearing. Here are a few tips on making life the best it can be for your deaf pet.
It’s a myth that all white cats with blue eyes are deaf. However, the chances of a blue-eyed white cat being deaf are much higher than if the feline was another color. If you think your white cat might be deaf, you’ll likely see signs such as it being unresponsive to your voice or getting startled easily. You can find out for sure if it’s deaf by visiting your vet, though, to have tests run. And if you are living with a deaf kitty, you’ll need to accommodate the lack of hearing in certain ways to keep your pet happy and safe.
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