How to Help Our Blind or Older Cats That Have Lost Their Sight
9 March, 2015
As our cats age, they can lose their hearing and sometimes their sight. Or maybe you adopted a kitten or rescued an older kitty that is already blind. There are many ways you can make your kitty feel comfortable and still have a fulfilled life. In fact, blind cats are not nearly as concerned about the loss of sight as we, the pet parents are. When your cat becomes blind, your kitty will become reliant on his sense of smell and hearing and, in older cats, the loss of vision is gradual and your cats make adjustments fairly readily.
What is blindness in cats?
Blindness in cats is a partial or total loss of vision that can be present from birth or occur suddenly due to injury or illness, or gradually from old age or progressive diseases such as hypertension, cataracts or glaucoma.
How to determine if your kitty is losing his sight
Since cats usually compensate and adapt successfully to whatever they encounter, a gradual loss of vision can be difficult to detect. Sudden loss of vision may cause more obvious signs. Below are some signs that your cat’s vision may be failing (and only you know your cat, so you can tell what is or isn’t normal for them):
Misjudging heights and bumping into walls, furniture or other objects; confusion in new surroundings; reluctance to move from one spot; general clumsiness and disorientation; easily startled; eye rubbing or squinting; cloudy, discolored, inflamed or tearing eyes and/or larger pupils that don’t respond to light.
How does a vet know if your cat is blind?
Your vet will perform a preliminary exam of your cat and may run diagnostic tests such as blood work, and blood pressure measurement. If necessary, your vet will recommend a veterinary ophthalmologist who will perform a more detailed assessment.
How to help your blind cats feel safe and secure for the long term
You can help your cat feel secure in his or her surroundings by providing a stable, obstacle-free environment. Most cats can adapt very well with their other senses.
It’s important to keep the food, water bowls, litter box, and cat beds in the same spot, so your kitty can easily find his or her belongings. It can also be helpful to “scent” important objects for your cat with strong odors such as peppermint to help his nose “see” what he’s looking for.
Avoid rearranging the furniture. Blind cats memorize your house and moving things around will confuse him or her. It’s not at all unusual for a blind cat to still insist on making floor-to-counter leaps with confidence as long as her memory remains fresh and accurate.
It’s also a good idea to safeguard danger zones, particularly if unavoidable changes must be made. For example, pad the sharp edges of furniture with bubble wrap until your cat learns to avoid the danger. Block off steep stairways with baby gates to prevent falls.
Your cat’s personality and behavior may change a bit as vision fades. Some cats become more dependent on you, the pet parent and act clingy as they treat you like a guide, stand very close, and follow you around. Get in the habit of speaking to your cat when you enter or leave a room to help her keep track of your whereabouts.
In multiple pet homes, another cat or dog may serve as a guide for the blind pet. Help your blind pet by attaching a bell or other noise maker to the other animal’s collar.
Very social cats may become standoffish once vision fades. They’ll want to avoid contact with houseguests to avoid being stepped on. Blind cats also startle more easily, so always speak to your cat before petting him or her to avoid being accidentally nipped or swatted in reflex.
Your cat will adjust without his or her sight and this will become the new normal for your kitty. However, if you are mindful not to shift his or her belongings and speak more often to your cat as a warning and guide, your kitty can and will live a fulfilled life.
Can Blind Cats Ever Get Their Vision Back?
Loss of vision in cats can be reversible, depending on the cause. Cataracts, which cause mild to total vision loss, can be removed by surgery. Check with your veterinarian to find the most appropriate treatment for your cat’s condition.
How Can Blindness Be Prevented?
Pet parents should not let eye infections go untreated and any signs of diabetes, although a rare cause of blindness in cats, should be investigated. Examine your cat’s eyes regularly, and take him to the vet if his eyes look cloudy or if you see any changes in his overall activity or attitude. A regular visit to the veterinarian, even if no problems are noted, can help to detect any early problems and keep your cat in the best of health.
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