Do Your Cats Help You Hear?

Happy New Year and Happy New Decade! There’s something catchy-sounding about ‘2020’, don’t you think?

And speaking of catchy, that reminds me of my cats – who love to catch mice. And on the very rare occasion a mouse does break in, I find out about it only when I see the true-life game of cat and mouse, a gruesome but fascinating ritual. The cat catches mousey, bats it around, tosses it in the air and then lets it run around a bit before catching it again. It’s not as fun as it sounds, but it does tell us to find out how the darn thing got in.

Recently, the cats heard a mouse before they saw it. Nickie and Charlie were looking at the wall strangely, following some unseen sound on the other side, their heads turning in unison. The Hearing Husband put his ear to the wall and heard the mouse, scratching and squeaking. Then I put my head to the wall and heard – nothing. Typical. But since Doug heard it, he had to deal with it.

Nickie and Charlie are useful at filling in other hearing gaps for me. When a cat’s ears prick up, you know that some sound, somewhere, has occurred. But how do I judge how important that sound is? I don’t want to push the cat off my lap, get up and go looking, if I don’t have to.

The cat’s next moves will tell me. If the cat’s ears prick and then turn towards the alleged sound, I know the direction it’s coming from, but this is still not enough information for me to actually move. But if the cat then shoots off my lap like a cannon, flying out the room towards the sound, that’s when I get up, thinking “this better be important”. Sometimes it is but sometimes it’s the Hearing Husband opening the fridge and the cats think it’s lunchtime. Or it could be the doorbell, which I can usually hear, confirmed by the cats heading towards the door in anticipation of someone interesting coming to call. The downside is that they can’t tell the difference between the real doorbell and one on the TV. Neither can I, apparently, because for my entire life I’d go to the door or answer the telephone, before my hearing family decides to call out, “It’s on the TV, Gael!” (They found this hilarious every time. I, however, did not and this is the first time I’ve shared this embarrassment with anyone.)

Charlie and Nickie also alert me to wild animals. Since they are indoor cats, this skill is not useful to me when I’m hiking in the woods. However, we live in a forest and when the kitties plaster themselves to a window, it’s a sure sign that wild animals are outside the house: savage squirrels, terrifying bunny rabbits, fearsome racoons or horrifying deer. Feeling safe behind the window, the kittens and I enjoy watching Bambi or Rocky Raccoon which two out of the three of us can hear.

Charlie’s listening post

With my cochlear implant, I am now able to hear the cats using their litter box in another part of the house. This is my sound cue that it’s time for some housecleaning (litter likes to spread itself around). I can also hear the cat howling…not howling, exactly, more like a huge meow. This usually only means that one of the cats is lonely and would someone please come and throw a ball for some excitement, or to please go under the couch and retrieve what turns out to be every cat toy we’ve ever bought. Another sign the house needs to be cleaned. Another perk of my implant is hearing Nickie’s purr – which is as loud as an idling car. It’s nice to know she’s happy, but when she’s lying on my pillow as I’m reading, it’s LOUD.

My cats have taught me a big lesson about my hearing loss: there are sounds that I will never, ever hear. And I accept that. As long as someone else hears the elusive sounds, that’s good enough for me. Even if it’s a fur-baby.


Photo Credit for cat at the door: Kenneth Allen

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.


  1. Too funny and *so* relatable, Gael! My little lion will perk up and sit or stand at attention looking in the direction of the noise, but then, more likely than not, will run to hide under my bed, leaving me to face the intruder alone!

  2. Yes! I have almost always had dogs. They act as a canary in the coal mine for me. Someone arriving at the gate is one of their most important roles. Also I have a “puppy cam”, so when I”m at work I can see them nestled in their beds (usually). And I can see them perk up when there is activity in and around the house. Garbage truck come by? Check. Mailman? Check. Also, loud booms at night and many other useful goings on.

    I’ve often thought a dim sound level chart recorder would be interesting to have, mounted on the wall of the bedroom. With my hearing aids out I hear very, very little. Why did I just wake up suddenly? Was there a noise? The chart would clearly show a spike if there was. But for now, the dogs will have to do. No retirement for them yet. Either.

  3. Oh, I remember very well that when my husband was away for a few days, I woke up one morning, with one cat meowing very loudly and the other cat on top of me, meowing in my ear and ticking very gently on my face with his paw to wake me up for their breakfast …

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