Cat Breeds With Congenital Deafness

Very little information is available documenting deafness in various cat breeds. Deafness can result from effects of the dominant white (W) gene. A dominant piebald or white-spotting gene (S) is also found in various cat breeds (Pedersen, 1991; Searle, 1968), but there has been no report of deafness associated with its presence. Cats carrying the W gene are not always solid white, often having colored spots on their heads that may disappear with age. Unlike dogs with the merle gene, homozygous white cats do not have visual or reproductive defects, but they are more prone to the occurrence of blue irises and deafness, either unilateral or bilateral, and deafness occurrence increases with the number of blue eyes (Delack, 1984). Long-haired cats have a higher prevalence of blue eyes and deafness than short-haired cats (Mair, 1973). White cats carrying the underlying cs Siamese dilution pigment gene can have blue eyes without deafness, and it has been suggested that the presence of this gene explains why purebred white cats are less often deaf than mixed-breed white cats (Pedersen, 1991). Data supporting this is not available.

From studies of mixed-breed white cats (the W gene):

Pure cat breeds carrying the white (W) coat pigment gene (Gebhard et al., 1979) and at risk for congenital deafness (no prevalence data available):

It is obvious that much more research needs to be performed before deafness in cats is well understood. I would welcome further information from those who may be aware of resources I have not discovered. If you know of a cat breed with pigment-associated congenital deafness that is not listed here, please let me know at: Thanks.

References (see also Bibliography of Publications Related to Deafness in Cats):

Dr. George M. Strain
Louisiana State University
Comparative Biomedical Sciences
School of Veterinary Medicine
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803
Phone: 225-578-9758
Fax: 225-578-9895

November 5, 2009

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