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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28033
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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My cat (8 yrs) is acting scared, fearful, confused and

Customer Question

My cat (8 yrs) is acting scared, fearful, confused and appears to have suddenly lost his hearing. His personality and interaction has changed and he just lays on the couch or chairs as if he is depressed. All this came about 3 nighhts ago following a thunderstorm . which he reacted strongly to. I would greatly appreciate it if you could please give me some insight into this - he was perfectly fine before this situation.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. I can understand his acting fearful and anxious secondary to thunderstorms but this behavior rarely lasts more than 24 hours in phobic pets. I don't expect confusion (a change in mentation/mental status) nor hearing loss from such an event. These are symptoms of encephalopathy (brain disorder) which would be an unusual finding unless Leo had traumatized his brain while "reacting strongly". Can you please clarify what "reacted strongly" implies for me?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Re clarification of "reacted strongly" - I have seen Leo respond to claps of thunder by .running for the bedroom, and under the bed he would go. But this time be jumped down off the couch, looked back over his shoulder(like he heard something/ something startled him) and then bolted and hid under the bed. This was different than I had observed in the past. Not sure if this has any bearing on the situation, but It might be worth noting that my husband and I had spent two night away from home last week, returned on Friday afternoon, left again for an overnight on Sunday night returing on Monday late afternoon. The thunderstorm we observed happend on Monday late afternoon when we came home and was preceeded by the loud buzzzer announcement on the TV of a pending thunderstorm...it could have been the storm alarm on the Tv that really scaredhim. Leo is one that always pays partiuclar attention to suitcases or overnight bags being readied for a trip - and then goes and lays in the bag. He doesn't like us to leave. My husband I talked about some of the changes we have noticed of late with Leo e.g. he has reacted to a plasticbag being shook to open; he used to answer to the call of his name but now, if he is looking away from you, he doesn't respond (that's what made me think there is a problem with his ears - could it be wax? and if so, what can I do to relieve that). We have been watching him more today and do see some improvement in his willingness to interact not be so jumpy etc. - but when I was vacuuming and didn't see him nearby he fell backwards off the top of the couch - landing on the windowsill. Obviously the loud sounds bother him.Although he is quiet he doesn't seem to be confused ashe had been.
Sorry to be so long- winded on this - and hope the information I have provided is helpful in sheding light on what is going on with Leo.
Thanks for your inisight/input, Dr. Salki.
I await your reply.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for the additional information. Feline deafness isn't seen very often unless there's a history of ototoxic drug use - both topical and systemic drugs have been known to be problematic. An accumulation of wax isn't a likely cause of deafness and geriatric deafness shouldn't be considered at 8 years of age. An inflammatory polyp in the middle ear is a consideration but usually causes intractable ear infections until it's removed. His change in behavior is worrisome but it's not pathognomonic (specifically indicative) of any one disorder. I would continue to "watchful wait" and make a list of his behavioral quirks for Leo's vet who will need to perform a thorough physical exam possibly including blood and urine tests in an attempt to clarify what those quirks signified. The vet will need all the information you can garner with such a puzzling presentation. Please continue our conversation if you wish.