It can be devastating when we see our furry family members suffering, and if our kitty suddenly seems disoriented or confused, it’s possible something worrisome is going on. It’s possible that the issue is blindness.
But how do you know if a cat is blind? And what causes blindness in cats? What's the best way to care for them? Pawp talked to a vet about signs and causes of blindness as well as what you can do to make sure your cat is comfortable.
Sometimes it’s obvious that a cat's vision is impaired. For example, cataracts will turn the eyes' lenses a milky white color. However, some eye problems that can lead to blindness result in only subtle symptoms, explains Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pet News Daily.
It’s also possible of course that some cats are born blind; however, others can become blind later in life due to a couple reasons. This may include symptoms such as dilated pupils or a cat behaving more cautiously than normal. You may notice bumping into things or misjudging jumps they were able to do before. However, cats tend to adapt to being blind so well, particularly if the blindness develops gradually, that pet parents may be unaware of their cat’s new situation at all.
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Blindness in cats can happen for all sorts of reasons, and some are actually pretty similar to why it may happen to human adults — this may include issues from old age to cataracts to glaucoma, or hypertension to some kind of eye or head injury. Some diseases like Diabetes can lead to eye issues as well.
“The most common reason is a burst of bleeding in the eye’s interior due to a sharp blow to the head. In the rare occasion that a cat ingests enrofloxacin (a common antibacterial medication), this can also cause sudden blindness,” says Dr. Georgina Ushi DVM and veterinary writer at WeLoveDoodles.com.
Caring for your blind cat requires a lot of patience, especially if your cat goes blind later in life. “They will, over time, learn to rely on their other senses; but, during the learning curve you need to be patient while they adjust to their vision loss,” says Dr. Ushi.
You also need to stay consistent with their routines, and be consistent about where you place things around the house (ie. their food and water bowl, their litter box, your furniture). Making your house safe for your blind cat is a fairly simple process. You can do this by keeping the toilet lid closed, using barriers for stairways and around pools, and removing/covering all sharp objects.
The most important takeaway here is that your cat can live a fully enriched and happy life, with or without their eyesight. So have fun, be patient, and pour all your love into your sweet little kitty!
With these few simple lifestyle changes, blind cats can live long and rewarding lives. For their safety, blind cats need to live indoors. “They can still get some supervised time outside on a leash or in a secure catio,” says Dr. Coates.
Do not make any unnecessary changes to their home environment. Keep their food, water, litter box, bed, scratching post, and toys in the same location and don’t move furniture or leave objects on the floor that they might stumble over. Never sneak up on a blind cat. Make noise as you approach so you don’t scare them.
It may be a good idea to get a medical alert tag to keep your cat’s collar that states she is blind. Keep your contact info on this tag.
There are a number of special toys you can buy for your blind cat to keep them entertained and safe. “Wand toys are great because they’re interactive and make sounds when they move,” explains Ushi.
You can also spoil your cat with catnip toys; since they rely on scents and sounds, this is the perfect toy for them.
It could be a good idea to buy toys that stimulate the other senses, maybe give them a toy or pet bed with lots of texture, or toys with bells or squeak, to stimulate their hearing.
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Cats are incredibly adaptable and can still have a happy, enriched lives, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still need all the love and comfort you can give them.
Make sure to speak gently to your cat so they feel encouraged and also can follow your voice, and always talk to them before petting or scratching them so they don’t get startled by the sudden movement.
Try to keep the cat’s water and food bowl in the same place so they know where to find it.
Pet-proof your house. Eliminate any potential hazards in the house, e.g. furniture with sharp edges. “Tuck away any loose electrical wires and make sure hot or dangerous e.g. fireplaces are not on his path,” advises Dr. Maureen Murithi (DVM), veterinary spokesperson for doggiedesigner.com. Adding padding to sharp corners such as tables can also go a long way in avoiding injuries.
Time spent outside should be supervised. Look out for any objects that may be a danger to your cat. “One can try to put a wind chime next to the door that will help guide them back into the house,” says Dr. Murithi.
Keep the layout of your home the same. Cats that lose their sight gradually manage to maneuver their way around the home. The best thing you can do for blind cats especially if this is a new development is keep everything the same. Cats will remember where all the steps are and where the litter box and food is kept, but not if it keeps moving.