White cats with blue eyes have about a 50 percent chance of going deaf shortly after birth. For white cats with green eyes, the chance of deafness is about 25 percent.
Fortunately, deaf white cats are spectacular pets--under the right circumstances. Raised in a good home, they are frisky, friendly, pettable, and affectionate. Obviously, they can't be allowed to roam out of doors because they can't hear cars and predatory animals. They do well with other cats and dogs if they are introduced to the other animals while they are still kittens. Adult deaf white cats, however, can be extremely aggressive with other cats and dogs, so if you get a adult DWC, things will be far more peaceful if it is the only animal in the household.
I speak from experience, as we have a five-year-old DWC (Sheba), and I was a member of a now-defunct online DWC owners group. People shared tales of DWCs' fascination with water (one cat turned on the shower every time her owner left for work, flooding the apartment); yowling (they're loud); and desire for domination of multi-cat houses (several of us had divided our houses into zones to protect our other cats from the DWCs).
We finally negotiated a truce among our four cats (one of them actually likes Sheba) but we caved to Sheba's insistance on going outdoors. We moved to a dead-end street and we take her out several times a day, employing a transmitter system, the Innotek Puppy Trainer/Locator, to keep tabs on her. The system, formerly sold by Drs. Foster and Smith, but now discontinued, consists of a transmitter carried by the owner and a collar receiver worn by the pet. The owner uses the transmitter to make the receiver give off either a clicking noise or whooping siren sound. For a hearing pet, this could be used a signal for training. With Sheba, it serves two purposes: It warns all the other cats in neighbor that she's out and they need to hide before she spots them and attacks, and it enables us to find her--under shrubs and porches, inside tarped boats, in the bathroom of a neighbor's house (she dropped in through an open window) and on the roofs of houses and sheds (she's a climber).
These Trainer/Locaters, which we call "Sheba beepers," are about $50 a set, and the tiny battery-powered receiver mechanism, in a plastic sphere housing, is fragile. Sheba doesn't help matters by dipping it into our outdoor fountain when she takes a drink. We go through two or three receivers a year, and try to keep an extra on hand. Sheba without a beeper means hours of patrolling the yard until she takes pity on us and emerges from wherever she's been hanging out watching us. Keeping her in the house is not an option, as the claw-carvings on our kitchen door attest.
We were down to our last beeper, living dangerously, when the new Drs. Foster and Smith catalog arrvied with the Trainer/Locator on sale for $19.99. We ordered four of them.
If you have a deaf white cat, or know someone with one, we highly recommend the Sheba beeper. We've used it to locate Sheba in the heater ducts, trapped in the dresser, or just plain sleeping somewhere obscure. (Calling "Here, kitty, kitty" isn't an option with a DWC.) The only downside is when my husband is looking for Sheba in the basement or garage and she's peacefully asleep in bed with me. The beeper shrieks, he can't hear it, he keeps beeping, it keeps shrieking, I wake up and start yelling "Stop it! She's here! Upstairs! Stop!" Sheba, of course, sleeps through it all.
[NOTE added April 19, 2006: Here is some information on a new type of cat beeper from Cat Locator.]