It usually becomes apparent to the breeder when the kitten reaches about four weeks of age; the main difference is that the deaf kitten tends to sleep more soundly, and does not run away from the vacuum cleaner. (I have had other cats who do not mind loud noises however -particularly Honeysuckle, who was a hoover-riding tortie!) By the time the kitten leaves home, s/he is often so well-adjusted that it is difficult to tell whether or not s/he can hear, except by scientific tests. There are so many other ways that alert a cat to its environment - vibrations on the paws, guard-hairs and whiskers can tell the deaf cat so much that their reactions are almost exactly the same as those of a fully hearing cat. In order to BAER test the hearing of our breeding stock, we used the laboratory at the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket, Suffolk.
I have on several occasions come across cases where members of the public have bought white NFC kittens having been mislead about their hearing status. All I can say is, if a breeder sells a deaf kitten without explaining this to the new owner, either they are being dishonest, or if they are genuinely ignorant of the fact they must have not had sufficient interaction with the kitten whilst s/he was growing up. In either case it is shameful and should be reported.
It is difficult to "breed out" deafness as deaf parents are no more likely to have deaf kittens than hearing parents, and vice versa. Here at Vieuxtemps we generally asked that owners keep their white kittens/cats indoors, regardless of whether they are deaf. This is because they are so stunningly beautiful and clearly pedigree, that there is a risk of kidnap!
|Grand Premier Vieuxtemps Maja Gradnos - photo by Alan Robinson|
(Thanks to Heather Bird!)
Living with a deaf white cat is no less rewarding than living with a cat of normal hearing ability. Deaf cats are, if anything, extra magical. It is usual for a cat to be fully hearing or completely deaf in one or both ears, not partially deaf or partially hearing within each ear. We kept one of our deaf kittens to see what it was like to live with a deaf white cat. It was a moving, marvellous experience and Vieuxtemps Avedine (at the top of the page) is one of our most precious memories.