Let me begin by saying, I am a dog person and have never owned a cat before. I had never met a “cool cat” so I didn’t know what I was missing out on. My Pomeranian, Osita, whose name means Little Bear in Spanish, on the other hand, has it absolutely twisted and thinks she is a Cat Mama and continuously guides strays and kittens back to our house and attempts to nurse them. I usually give everyone my One Day Rule which means they get shelter and food for a day and then either send them on their way or contact our local animal rescue, DAR (Defensa Animal Rescue) foundations to find the felines homes. One tiny kitten in particular had a very special circumstance that allowed her to slip her tiny way into my heart before I even knew what hit me.
When this kitten first showed up on my balcony I watched it from a distance wondering what on earth was wrong with it. It was screeching non stop and pacing back and forth in a wobbly pattern while making harsh jerking motions with its head and entire body. I have seen a cat get high and trip out after biting a gecko of some sort in the woods and I thought maybe something like that had happened to this kitten as well. I kept my distance and hoped it would just go away but it didn’t, nor did it ever stop screeching and pacing all over my balcony. I decided to give it my One Day Rule and dropped some food on the porch for it and stepped back to observe. Watching this kitten eat was an even more bizarre scene. The jerky head motions were extremely exaggerated to the point where it looked like the kitten’s head and neck was just flopping around on its tiny body. No way I wanted anything to do with this thing, so I contacted DAR to come take it away.
On the day that DAR was coming to pick up the kitten I noticed something that changed my mind instantly. It was sitting on the edge of a step facing away from me and when I approached her from behind she didn’t budge. I stomped my foot, clapped my hands, whistled, and yelled at her and she sat completely still simply gazing peacefully out at the street below. She couldn’t hear me at all. She was deaf. She was special and she would need a special home and family. I couldn’t allow her to go anywhere else than here with my partner, Jibby, and I. Jibby has experience with interpretative sign language and I have recently had a set of beautiful experiences with fostering cats that had tougher than average personalities and special needs. We were both perfectly equipped to give this baby girl a happy and safe forever home. When the Universe speaks how dare you not listen with an open mind and heart. So I cancelled the pick up call and informed the rescue group that I would be adopting her myself. The kitten was given the name Toque, which means “touch” in Spanish and we call her Toquita at times because she is still a wee thing and the name suits her.
Jibby & I had just discussed a month prior our exact prerequisites for “the perfect cat” for our new family, and ironically this kitten held them ALL. We wanted a female cat that was a tough cookie but still let us snuggle her when we wanted who was primarily an outdoor cat that liked to come inside to visit from time to time and was ok with a bath when it was needed. I don’t know much about how cats are supposed to act, but so far she’s not much different than my dog Osita. Although that could possibly be because Osita thinks she is a cat and is currently help raise her new kitten and Toquita now thinks she’s a dog. Their bond is adorable to witness and I love watching our new kitten mimic her dog sister and mock her movements.
Even before we began reading up on what special things were required for raising a deaf cat we were able to notice a lot of little quirks she has and figured out ways to help her cope. We read that cats can’t tell us that they’re hard of hearing, and they compensate by paying more attention with their other senses and are startled a lot more easily. They sleep more, meow loudly (because they can’t hear themselves), watch owners and other pets more closely, and cue off of their behavior to know that somebody’s at the door, for example. Deaf cats also pay closer attention to vibration, air currents, and lights. We learned how to utilize those sensations to teach her instead of scare her. I can blow on her fur or tap the ground for vibration to get her attention or get her to move in the direction I want to. Flickering the lights will initially get her attention and shadows can guide her towards where to actually look. Other times the shadows can just distract her like they are doing right now, as I type this she is chasing her own shadow all around the room, pounce rolling across the floor to tackle it, then jumping and hissing when she bumps into something she didn’t see coming. Life will never be the same with this one around, I can already tell. We read that a laser pointer is actually a helpful tool in training and signalling deaf cats so we’re looking forward to getting one soon and testing that theory out. I absolutely love learning about her special needs and teaching her new things. Jibby taught me to try to stay consistent with my hand motions and keep them slow and direct so as not to confuse her. Since Toque is mainly an outdoor cat with a dirty rough and tumble tom boy personality, I began giving her weekly baths to get her used to water and just like her sister, Osita, her favorite part of bath time is the towel snuggling that follows. We got lucky that we were able to introduce her to bath time at such a young age and make it an enjoyable experience for her.
I love all animals and I have such a tender spot for anything that has special needs. Everything that I have read has mentioned that indoor life is much safer for deaf cats, but Toquita began as an outdoor kitten and is comfortable with that. I am extra vigilant since she can not be for herself at times, but I am also aware that she was a feral animal and anything can happen out there. We have only recently began introducing her to indoors, and at first it stressed her out incredibly. Over time she has gotten comfortable coming inside to play or nap for a moment, but she still fights her arch enemy in the mirror every time she enters the room and makes herself dizzy watching the fan blade shadows play tricks across the ceiling. She trusts us completely and because we are slow, patient and loving with her she is learning to cope incredibly fast. I might be a biased first time cat mom, but I do believe she is a baby genius. I am so grateful that the universe worked it’s magic and brought us all together, I truly feel like it is a perfect match and Jibby, Osita, & I are looking forward to all the silly sweet love that Toquita will add to our family. If you have a deaf cat or know anything about them, please send us advice!