Cats act as ears for deaf woman
Betty Macaluso holds her cat, Tom 2, at her Lawrenceville home. Macaluso is deaf, and the cat wakes her up in the morning and functions as her ears.
Betty Macaluso doesn’t need an alarm clock; she has cats.
The Lawrenceville woman is awakened each morning by Tom 2, a wide-eyed orange and white cat, who gently paws at her arm about 6 a.m. wanting his breakfast. If Tom 2 happens to sleep through his job or gets distracted, Tiger, a heavier gray and black tabby, steps in.
Since Macaluso can’t hear the ringing of an alarm clock – she has been deaf all her life – her cats serve as her ears. She adopted Tom 2 and Tiger, both now about a year old, from PetSmart in Lawrenceville when they were 3 months.
“They know I can’t hear,” Macaluso, 68, said through a sign language interpreter. “They do hear for me.”
Macaluso recalled one morning when Tom 2, whose predecessor, Tom 1, she said was also very smart, stood on her stomach gazing up at the ceiling above her bed. A week went by and she noticed Tom 2 often staring up at the same spot. When Macaluso shined a flashlight over the area that held the cat’s attention, she saw a thin, round line of clay on her ceiling and immediately called pest control. Tom 2 had detected termites.
“(Pest control) came to check up and … found out termite(s) (were) inside (the) wall and asked me how I (heard them),” Macaluso wrote via e-mail. “He was puzzled (how I knew if) I am deaf and can’t hear. I smiled and pointed to my Tom 2.”
The exterminator told Macaluso she was lucky to have a cat like Tom 2; she could have lost her home if he hadn’t detected the termites.
Tom 2 seems especially sensitive to insects in his home.
“He notices the smallest things,” Macaluso said, “a spider on the ceiling, an ant crawling on the floor.”
Tom 2 and Tiger also notice the flashing lights that signal the doorbell or video phone is ringing and alert their owner.
Since Macaluso can’t hear her cats’ meows, whenever the two want to play, they know to gently paw at her leg to get her attention.
Macaluso, whose parents were also deaf, grew up in a home with cats. She remembers one evening when she was a young girl, sitting down with her mother on the swing on their porch, when their family cat began acting strangely.
“We were puzzled why,” Macaluso wrote.
Until the cat began fighting with a rattlesnake that lay five feet away from Macaluso and her mother.
“He saved me (from being bitten) by a rattlesnake,” she wrote. “I will never … live without two cats because they always helped me by (hearing what I cannot).”