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C2009-08

Dear Christopher Cat

When we took our new cat -– who is white with blue eyes -– to the veterinarian for his initial wellness exam, the vet told us that most blue-eyed white cats are deaf. Since then, we’ve determined that our cat can indeed hear. How common is deafness in cats like ours?

Christopher Responds

Cats born deaf are most often white with blue eyes.

Congenital deafness in blue-eyed white cats is believed to be inherited as a dominant trait, linked to the white coat color.

White cats comprise only five percent of the total cat population, and they have a variety of eye colors. Just 20 percent of white cats whose eyes are not blue are born deaf.

The risk doubles in white cats with one blue eye.

Approximately 65 to 85 percent of white cats with two blue eyes are born deaf, though some are deaf in only one ear.

Interestingly, if a white cat with one blue eye is deaf in only one ear, it probably will be the ear on the same side as the blue eye.

That’s because the embryonic cells that form melanocytes, which produce color in the hair and eyes, also make inner ear cells needed for hearing.

Sadly, no treatment is available for deaf cats, and feline hearing aids haven’t been developed.

Therefore, deaf cats must live indoors, where they’re protected from dogs, cars and other threats they can’t hear.

Your cat is fortunate to be among the few blue-eyed white cats who can hear his family members’ voices -– along with my favorite sound, the rustle that accompanies the opening of a bag of cat treats.

 

 

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