DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 15-year-old orange tabby. He is in good health, with no issues other than a couple teeth extractions over a year ago.
Several months ago, we noticed that if we walked up behind him, it would startle him. When we call him, he looks all around because he doesn't know where the sound is coming from. When he wants our attention, he gets right at our ankles or at the base of our chair and either meows or sits. It is beyond sad.
Our vet examined him, and his ears and everything else checked out OK. Would you please discuss feline hearing loss, including the causes and any tips for us owners? -- C.M.C., Cumberland, Maryland
DEAR C.M.C.: My first experience with this issue was years ago, with a kitten I named Rocky, whom I found wandering on the street where I lived in St. Louis. He was deaf, and the condition was no doubt congenital. He taught me a lot about communication and orientation by observing how he had learned to adapt.
As with deaf dogs and humans, cats will learn to respond to our body language signals. We can use hand and arm movements to communicate, or try stamping or tapping on the floor so the animal can feel the vibrations and orient toward you.
While Rocky was born deaf, older cats can learn to adapt to hearing loss. Deafness in both ears can be caused by chronic untreated ear infections, a stroke and/or infected teeth and gums (especially post-dental surgery). Regular aural and oral care are essential for all cats.
Loss of hearing can cause animals considerable anxiety because they are more vulnerable. It is imperative that you never let your cat roam outdoors. I also recommend that you provide him with extra physical contact to reassure him -- maybe even an evening massage, as per my book "The Healing Touch for Cats."
See below for more on cats' ear health.
EAR MITE INFESTATION
Ear mites (Otodectes cynotis) are a common cause of chronic ear infections in cats and dogs worldwide. The mites cause much itching, suffering and even loss of hearing if the infection is left untreated. Scratching and head-shaking can result in blood clots in the ears, which eventually crumple into "cauliflower ears." Some cats with ectopic mites present with generalized alopecia and pruritus similar to flea allergy dermatitis.
This common parasite can be transmitted to and from other wildlife, such as foxes and coyotes. All animals at trap-neuter-release cat colonies and all indoor-outdoor cats should be regularly examined and treated as needed, since mites are such prevalent parasites.
UKRAINE WAR: STEEP COST FOR WILDLIFE
As well as the toll on human life, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is affecting rare animal and plant species in the north of the country, according to a BBC report. Polissia, a region that extends into Belarus, Poland and Russia, harbors species such as moose, wolf and lynx that have disappeared from most of the rest of Europe. Shells fired into northern Ukraine have sparked fires that have burned more than 5,000 acres of forest, destroying rare plants and scattering wildlife. Landmines planted by Russians in Polissia have also made it dangerous for rangers to patrol.
Clearly, the insanity of war involves more than human victims. An end to such actions is ultimately enlightened self-interest, since the "victors" ultimately become the victims. Crimes against humanity and nature leave their stain on those who remain.
QUESTIONING BILLIONAIRES' JOURNEYS INTO SPACE
Most of us are guilty, to varying degrees, of selfishness and indifference. But I wonder about the billionaires who are taking pleasure trips into space (how they made their money aside). What of their carbon footprint and pollution from rocket fuel adding to climate change? Why not put those billions into planetary CPR -- conservation, protection and restoration -- for the common good? I also wonder about the billions in public funds being spent exploring Mars to see if there is, or was, life there, while ignoring the plight of life on planet Earth.
Some billionaires wear the emperor's new clothes of philanthropy, putting money back into a planet they have plundered, even with a record of opposing clean air and water legislative initiatives. No other species poisons its own nest and pollutes its environment under the banners of progress and profit, let alone reaps more money from treating anthropogenic diseases.
Part of the problem, aside from empathy deficit disorder, is the all-too-common attitude toward other species. Wildlife are regarded variously as pests, harvestable resources or, when protected under the Endangered Species Act, obstacles to land development and "progress." These attitudes are in large part responsible for the climate crisis and its socioeconomic consequences, which we all face today.
Mega-rich individuals, along with the more affluent nations, need to assume greater responsibility. Ultimately, they are stealing from the future and limiting the quality of life for the generations to come -- of our own species and all others.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)