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Let me begin this article by stating that I am neither a doctor nor a man of science. Some may even argue that I am barely a man. But, sometimes, one must rise to the challenge and ask the hard questions.

Today, I confront the following question: Is my cat deaf, or does she just not give a [expletive deleted]?

Introducing Pumpkin

The cat that is the subject of my query is Pumpkin, born in October of 2003. She will be seventeen next month, and is no longer defined as “senior” but “geriatric” (which is 15 or older for cats). When we adopted her, she was just over a year old, but looked significantly younger due to illness and undernourishment. (We met her when she walked into our backyard and howled, “I heard you have a vacancy.”) The vet we brought her to encouraged us to put her down, saying “this cat won’t last more than a year or two.” Spite can be a powerful motivator, believe me.

Victor V. Gurbo, pictured holding his likely-deaf cat, Pumpkin.
Photo of Victor with Pumpkin, taken by Summer Lee.

Pumpkin is in good health for a cat her age, despite her “kitty osteoporosis” – and even though she takes the stairs one step at a time, she will bolt when the subterranean hell beast known as “Chickpea” approaches. During her last visit to the vet, the doctor noted she has “unusual muscle mass for a female cat of her age.” All she wants in the world is to go out in the backyard and sit next to me on the swinging bench like the old lady that she is.

Is Pumpkin Deaf?

Last week my mother mused that she thinks Pumpkin is deaf. This gave me pause, because there is actually no definitive evidence that Pumpkin can hear. She has not had to go for want, and has been walked around, catered to, and not experienced fear or pain for over a decade and a half – how would we know if she is deaf? Normally, loud sounds would cause an animal to run in fear, but if you’ve lived your whole life hearing a loud noise and not getting hurt, eventually you wouldn’t care, no? I have very fond memories of carrying my father’s 50 pound tool chest, clattering with an amalgamation of all the tools and gadgets he’s picked up through the course of his life, and finding Pumpkin under my feet. Despite the volume, my cursing, and the teetering box, I always find myself walking around her.

During a house fire years ago – my mother asked one of the responding firemen if they’d seen any of our pets. The firefighter, in full battle armor, responded “the loud one walked up to us in the kitchen. I think she wanted to be fed. I picked her up and locked her in the bathroom.”

In the Name of Science: Experiments to Test Pumpkin’s Hearing

Out of pure scientific curiosity, I conducted a series of studies to see if Pumpkin is, in fact, deaf, or just doesn’t give a [expletive deleted].

Pumpkin Hearing Test 1

Study: Yelling “Pumpkin” on the top of my lungs
Result: Inconclusive.
Reason: While this could be taken as reason to believe she’s deaf, she also may be aware that (generally speaking) I don’t have anything interesting or relevant to say. I tried the same experiment with my younger brother, who responded just the same as Pumpkin. I will conduct a deaf study on him next.

Pumpkin Hearing Test 2

Study: Dropping a loud metal dish behind her.
Result: Inconclusive.
Reason: Why would she be afraid of the metal dish? A metal dish has never hurt her before. Why would a metal dish hurt her now.

Pumpkin Hearing Test 3

Study: Yelling and making noise while she’s sleeping.
Result: Inconclusive.
Reason: The girl is sleeping – the girl needs her sleep. A loud noise has never had an effect on her well-being while she slept before, why would it now? She may as well sleep through it.

Pumpkin Hearing Test 4

Study: Playing music next to her.
Result: Inconclusive.
Reason: Now, mind you, this is probably proof that she’s deaf, as our other cats roll their eyes and run away every time I reached for a guitar – but for the sake of my ego, let’s just say she enjoys my guitar playing.

We May Never Know the Answer For Sure – But My Cat is Probably Deaf

In conclusion, while she probably is deaf, I have no real way of knowing. Loud noises should at least make her flinch, but again, she’s never even been stepped on – so who knows. However, all things considered, is there really much of a difference between her not hearing and her not giving a [expletive deleted]? She wasn’t afraid of the vacuum before, as the vacuum never hurt her – she isn’t afraid now. Her quality of life seems unaffected.

Aside – she’s been screaming at me for the entirety of this article, because she’s annoyed I haven’t been paying enough attention to her.

Victor's likely-deaf cat, Pumpkin, stepping over a hose.
Revisit Pumpkin’s first cameo appearance in The New Leaf Journal.