Animals have always been a part of my life. Growing up, we always had a dog around and at least one cat. We also had rabbits, a horse and a goat and whatever else I found broken and wanted to help/fix. To this day, I love my animals.
Assistance dogs are great but house pets can be great about giving us hard of hearing people clues too. Years ago when my kids were small, if Rusty the dog barked, I checked around the house because my basset hound only barked when strangers approached. His deep ‘woof-woof’ grabbed my attention right away and I’d check the yard and street since the kids were usually playing outside.
After the basset hound, I only had cats and cats are just as good at ‘hearing.’ Mine have clued me into noises I didn’t hear their meow but by watching them, they let me know when there’s something going on in the house.
My black cat, Midnight, slept with me each night. Even if she looked asleep, her ears twitched towards normal noises. While reading in bed, she laid close to my thigh so was in my line of vision. If her ears turned a certain direction like radar, I knew one of the kids was up. The kids who were in their early teens, knew they could get away with more because mom didn’t hear everything but no matter how quiet they were, the cat gave them away. Each time I saw Midnight’s ears twitch, I put down my book and listened intently. If I didn’t hear bathroom noises which was near my bedroom, I got up to investigate.
“How did you know I was up,” one of them asked.
“I have my ways,” I replied mysteriously.
We lived in a busy apartment complex. Some nights there were loud noises. If I head the noise and the cats head popped at the same time, I knew it was an unusual sound so got up to check things out. Just in case. Midnight was a great cat and she stayed with me as long as she could and I miss her. She’s the one who started me using cats for hearing.
A year or so later my youngest son and I paid a visit to a friend who worked at a vet. She knew I wanted another cat and invited me over to see some of the ones that needed a home. My idea was to rescue an older cat which would hopefully be more tame and trained.
Cutler and I looked at several and played with a few but I kept saying ‘no.’ Our last stop was a batch of kittens before going empty handed. I wasn’t thrilled with a kitten but took a look anyway since none of the older cats felt right. About four kittens looked up at us from their wire and metal home. Cutler reached down to pick one up and the little gray fur ball managed to climb up Cutler’s arm, sit on his shoulder and look at me.
That’s the cat! I wait for animals to pick me and this kitten won my heart. This cat started out being a cat for the boys, young teenage boys, probably not a good mix. Two weeks later he was in my room and sleeping next to me, curled up at my side. His ears were also good at cuing me into sounds around the house. Did I hear something or was it my tinnitus? If the cats ears were pricked forward, I knew it wasn’t my imagination.
We named him Squeaker, rather I named him and everyone went along with it. I thought his meow sounded like a squeak toy. After a few months, the kids told me he meowed fine, it was my bad hearing. Too late, he stayed Squeaker since it was my reality and right as the mom. A few months later, my hearing took a big drop and I couldn’t hear him meow at all unless I brought him up to my ear and squeezed him.
As a kitten, he learned other ways to get my attention since meowing didn’t work. He nipped my ankle (never drawing blood or biting) which made me look down immediately. Most of the time he just wanted a little attention and felt I had ignored him too long. He grew from a tiny, little, gray fuzz ball to 19 pound cat and he’s not fat, he’s just a big cat. He’s my constant sidekick when I’m home.
Now that he’s bigger, he’s learned other ways to get my attention dropping the ankle biting. He stretches up to touch door knobs, which he can touch, when he wants out. When he’s outside, he stretches up to my office window waiting until I look at him. Then his lips show a great big “MEOW” meaning he really wants inside now. At night if he wants my attention or to wake me up, he sits on my chest and believe me, nothing wakes you up faster than a 19 pound cat sitting on your chest. While we stayed with my parents, he got up on the back of the porch furniture to look in the living room window and I could lip read his big MEOW.
While we lived together alone in a cabin in the middle of nowhere for about five months, I really depended on his ears and his constant companionship. I knew if he heard something he would let me know. One morning while reading at the couch, he jumped away from my lap onto a lounge chair and stared intently at the door. He jumped down and went about three foot from the door and sat down again listening. He faced forward, his ears twitching back when I got up without turning his head, then went back toward the front door.
After putting on some clothes and shoes, I sneaked a peak out the kitchen window and didn’t see anything. Moving to the door, I cracked it open and still didn’t see anything out of ordinary. Stepping out onto the deck, I still didn’t see anything unusual so I went back inside wondering what the heck he heard. Squeaker stayed near the front door for the next hour or so. I don’t know if he wanted out, I wasn’t about to let him out anyway in case some wild animal was out there waiting for him, javelina or coyote. When I went out to start the generator after breakfast, a stray orange cat shot out of the pump house and sprinted off to the trees and gully. A-ha! That’s what he heard.
Another night, I sat alone at my parents house which is also out in the middle of nowhere. They went to visit my sister over night and I made myself comfortable on the couch with a good book enjoying the peace and quiet. Squeaker filled my lap to over flowing and I absently pet him as I read. All of a sudden, he moved sideways off my lap to sitting on the other side of the couch. Crazy cat!
I watched him. He sat up on his haunches and peered intently out the living room window as weaved a little keeping his balance. I didn’t shut the blinds so it was a big black square from where I sat. Okay, I’ve never seen him do that before. My heart picked up a few paces and I tried my very best to hear what he was hearing. I got nothing but he still heard it because he jumped off the couch and went to a recliner chair closer to the window and did the sat up the same way trying to look out the window. I started freaking out. What was out there?
My mind conjured up aliens on the deck, people with guns around the house…something waiting to get me. How many doors did this house have? Ack! It has six doors. Did I lock them all before I sat down to read? No because I’m used to things being peaceful out here in the middle of nowhere. Now my mind conjured up horror movies with chainsaws.
With my heart racing, I got up checking the front door first, the one nearest the living room window. Squeaker jumped down running back to the kitchen table, far away from the front door making my heart pound a little harder. As quiet as I could, I locked the front door. Should I shut the blinds now or is it too late? They know I’m here. Going to the door in my moms room, I glanced at Squeaker sitting by the table, still looking towards the front of the house and his tail smacked the floor restlessly. At least I knew the two sliding glass doors around the table were locked.
Next I moved to my mom’s room to lock the door there. I wanted to close my eyes, didn’t want to see whatever was out there but made myself look anyway. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a shadowy world of juniper trees and stars in between. It would be a moonless night. Did Squeaker hear another cat again, I hoped. The only other door to check was the back door out the washroom. I was sure I locked that one earlier but needed to double check for my peace of mind and it was locked. I dared to look out the window there too seeing only dark pinon pines and open driveway.
Back out the living room I felt a bit better but the Squeaker continued to act just as strange keeping me on edge. I sat down, picked up my book reading the same two sentences over and over wondering what was out there. Fifteen minutes later, Squeaker was back on my lap. Whatever it was, went away and we must be safe now.
It’s a mystery what he heard but my guess is coyotes which would spook him. A few months before when I had company at the cabin, coyotes were in the driveway howling and yipping. It woke the other three adults up but not me. I didn’t hear them at all. Another night I sat around a fire pit outside with another friend who told me he heard coyotes. Not even with my hearing aids in could I hear the coyotes. Squeaker hears them. He hears them too well. All that freak out for nothing probably. It might have been cool to see aliens though.
So the cat can’t protect me like a dog might but he does let me know when something is going on. Since we are buddies, we do take care of each other in our own way. He’s been my best cat ever, adapting to my needs. He may not realize it because this is his normal, my normal. And what is normal anyway?