Lincoln Pet Culture is honored to continue its series on trick cats. In addition to being a therapy cat, Rainy also knows tricks. She sat down to do an online interview with Tee, whose Mom took classses from Allison Helps Cats. When Rainy asked to interview Tee, he said that was so happy that he climbed to the top of his scratching post and jumped on top of his side kick Tizzy. He also told her that the interview might be a little long, and he promises to give her “the best answers Meowver.”
RAINY: Have you always been deaf? Or at what age did you go deaf? Tell me the story of how your mom got you.
TEE: These are great questions!
I have always been deaf. When I was just a wee kitten, maybe three weeks old, my brothers, sisters, and I were found alone and cold. Thankfully, the person that found us brought us to Osceola County Animal Services.
Dr. Beth, the veterinarian, and her staff checked us all over carefully. She decided to take us home with her to make sure we had the best overnight care. Dr. Beth kept us healthy by feeding us every few hours, and by keeping us warm, safe, and clean.
When we were about five weeks old, the vet asked my mom to foster us and take over our care. She said, “Watch the black one, there is something different about him.” My foster Mom made sure to take good care of all of us and kept a very close eye on me.
A few things happened that caught her attention. When she vacuumed all of my siblings would run away at the loud noise. Not me. I would chase after the vacuum thinking this was a new game. Other things happened too. If there was a loud noise, I would not run and hide like my other siblings, I would just look at my Foster Mom waiting to see what game we were playing. I would sleep so soundly that even the can opener would not wake me up.
Mom decided to take me to her vet because Dr. Beth was on vacation. The vet thought my Foster Mom was a little crazy because I was a black cat. Normally, white cats are the ones who are deaf. He checked my ears and didn’t find anything. He also performed a few simple tests on me, clapping his hands, shouting behind my back, and banging on the wall and tables.
As you can figure out, I did not respond. The ve““t was very shocked because this was the first deaf black cat he had ever treated. Of course, by then my Foster Mom had fallen in love with me and adopted me.
RAINY: What’s it like being a deaf cat?
TEE: Being deaf means that I have to rely a lot on my other senses. I watch my Human Mom and siblings very closely and sometimes mimic what they do. I especially watch Mom when she goes into the toy drawer. I make sure she knows I’m there by meowing very loudly. Other than a few things, like jumping in the tub and meowing loudly to hear the vibrations, and running around the house like a mad cat, I am just like other hearing cats.
I do not feel any different because I still play with my siblings; bat and carry around my favorite toys, plastic straws, and fuzzy Pom Pom’s; and sit in the window watching birds and other animals. I have adapted to not hearing, probably in most part because I do not know any other way.
RAINY: Why did your mom start teaching you tricks? How did your mom get you started on tricks?
TEE: Communication! My Mom found the purrfect way to communicate with me by using Sign Language. She spent a lot of time on the computer researching and watching videos to learn which specific signals that would be just right for me.
The best thing that happened to help Mom teach me tricks was meeting your mom in a Zoom meeting last year. Your mom sent Mom several articles about deaf cats. She also connected Mom with other cat resource people that provided information about Deaf Cats. After a few more virtual meetings and sessions, Mom and I signed up for your Mom’s Beta Training Class along with a Socialization class. My Mom wanted to create the best way for me not to feel or frustrated, and also a way for both of us to be able to communicate with each other.
RAINY: Why do you like doing tricks?
TEE: For the treats of course! I discovered quickly that every time I completed a trick like jump and sit, I’d to get an extra taste of my favorite wet food. Mom used her finger to direct me to a certain spot or area. I’ve learned that following her finger also gets me a special treat.
Mom is so proud of me, especially with how quickly I was able to connect the tricks to the sign language signals. Because Mom was giving me this type of enrichment, I was becoming more confident with myself.
Another reason I like doing tricks is because I like to follow the laser that Mom will sometimes use when we train. The laser makes me feel like I’m hunting for prey. She always points the laser on the floor a little in front of me, so it will not hurt my eyes.
RAINY: Tell me more about your family members.
TEE: My Mom volunteers at our county’s shelter and also fosters kittens and so all of my siblings are rescues.
Phoenix is the oldest and also the coolest torte cat ever. She has a mark on her face that looks just like a flame. Phoenix taught me the trick of jumping over the baby gate upstairs, so I could go downstairs and hang out with Tina Marie the dog.
Tina is a Labrador/Dachshund mix and likes to play hide and seek.
Tizzy is my sidekick who always wants to be around me. She is a little on the wild side but is my BFF.
Wyatta acts like an old grumpy lady, and she doesn’t like me at all. Every time I come into the room she is snarls at me. The reason is because when Wyatta was only six months old she was attacked by at big black cat and had to go to the emergency vet. I remind her of that cat, and she thinks I’m going to hurt her. I would never hurt Wyatt but would love to play with her and be friends.
RAINY: What ways do you cause your mom trouble at home?
TEE: Don’t you know that like all cats I’m an angel? Ha!
Seriously, I do love to roughhouse with my fur sisters. Sometimes I play too hard and they run and hide from me. They know that I can’t hear so they stay very quiet. My Mom says I like to play rough because I get bored and don’t understand why they do not want to play.
One of the best ways that I cause trouble is to wake up Mom at 4:00 am demanding to be petted or to play fetch with straws. She gives me the “No” sign language symbol, but loves me so much that she will pet me and play as long as I want.
RAINY: What ways do you make your mom happy?
TEE: I know that I make Mom happy because she will laugh always and sign “Good Job.” The sign language signals are a special way that Mom and I communicate with each other.
I love to play with pom poms and straws and carry them around in my mouth. Mom enjoys watching me and my BFF Tizzy play. Tizzy tries to take the pom pom’s away from me and sometimes I let her just to be a nice big brother.
I love to lie on Mom’s chest because she will talk or read to me and if I’m really tired she will sing my favorite song, “You are My Sunshine.” Mom will put her ear up to my neck to hear me purr. I always purr a lot when on lay on her chest.
Another thing that makes Mom really happy is when I look up and follow her finger. This is an important part of our training and tells her that the training techniques we use are working.
RAINY: What adaptations has your mom made for you?
TEE: Touch and Vibration are both great adaptations that Mom uses. Mom will stomp on floor, so I can feel the vibrations.
She always gives me special pets when come over to where she is standing. She waits for me to approach her and never rushes towards me.
Mom will also flash the lights on and off when she enters the room. If I’m sleeping and do not see or feel Mom she will gently touch the bed or area where I am sleeping or blow lightly on me.
These techniques help Mom not to startle me because I will run and hide from her for a long time. If you research and watch videos, making simple adaptations for a deaf cat is not difficult at all.
RAINY: What challenges have you overcome?
TEE: Avoid starling a deaf cat: Walking up behind or waking up a deaf cat may cause them unnecessary stress. The best way to approach a deaf cat is to stomp on the floor or pound gently on the wall. You can also stand on the other side of the room, and Mom will wait for me to look at or approach her or gives me a few seconds to response
Safety: There are many things outside that can be very dangerous for a deaf cat. These things include loud vehicles, people making loud noises, barking dogs, birds of prey, snakes, and livestock such as horses or cows. We live out in the country so there are not a lot of vehicles or traffic but we do have small airplanes that sometimes fly overhead. Never let a deaf cat outside unless they are trained to walk on a reliable harness. I’ve seen you, Rainy, in videos and so I know training a cat to walk on a harness can be done. Mom is trying to harness train me, but so far all I do is act silly and fall on my side. I love to see my cat friends on social media and all of their adventures wearing a harness. One day I plan on having my adventure posted too.
Daily Routines: Create a daily routine and stick to it. These routines include, but are not restricted to, meal time, play time, nap time, cuddle time, talking, or singing time.
RAINY: What’s your favorite trick?
TEE: My favorite tricks are “Jump” and “Sit.” These were the first and easiest tricks that I learned. I can do them so well that I get lots of rewards.
RAINY: Which trick was the hardest to learn?
TEE: The hardest trick so far for me to learn has been the “Weave.” This is one part of the agility course that you see a lot of dogs participate in on TV. The technique requires me to weave in and out or around poles. (Mom uses Dr. Pepper 2 liter bottles). I have not been able to understand why weaving is so important and it makes me kind of dizzy.
RAINY: What advice do you have for cats with special needs who aspire to do tricks?
TEE: The key to training a deaf cat is communicating effectively. Sign Language is a wonderful way to train and connect with your deaf cat. With almost 300 different types of sign languages, the possibilities are endless!
Training a deaf cat helps unwanted behaviors and you can find out how smart he/she is
Training a deaf cat is an effective way of teaching your cat better manners
Play (Training) is a great way to communicate with your cat.
A cat is a cat, and deafness doesn’t change that.