Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
It can feel overwhelming to think about taking care of a cat with vision-impairment or full on blindness. A lot of times cats with disabilities don’t get adopted, even though with proper care and knowledge it isn’t actually that much harder to take care of these cats. Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t certain disabilities or long-term illnesses that aren’t harder to understand and give proper care to, however, blindness is very manageable when you do a bit of research. Whether you’re adopting a cat who is blind or your cat is becoming blind, it’s important to gauge how much sight your cat still has or if they have any sight at all. Remember, most cats and humans who are blind can still see shadows and shapes.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF BLINDNESS?
- Illness such as Herpesvirus, FIP, FeIV, FIV or Uevetis
- Cataracts (treatments available)
- Glaucoma (treatments available and necessary)
- High Blood Pressure, hyperthyroidism or kidney disease
- Trauma or a physical accident
- A congenital disease (blind from birth)
- Lead, Ivermectin or Enrofloxacin toxicity
- Taurine Deficiency
- Retinal detachment
HOW DO YOU TELL A CAT IS BLIND?
- Your cat gets startled easily
- Your cat bumps into furniture or walls
- Your cat may vocalize more frequently
- Your cat misses platforms they try to jump to
- Your cat rubs or squints their eyes more frequently
- Your cat’s eyes are cloudy, inflamed or discoloured
- Your cat may walk with their whiskers to the ground
- Your cat’s pupils do not shrink when in immediate or direct light
- Tests from a vet including bloodwork and blood pressure tests
MY CAT IS FOR SURE BLIND, HOW CAN I HELP THEM?
- Make sure you initially arrange your home in a more “open-space” manner. What I mean by this is it’s best to keep things tidy around a blind cat. While many people tell you not to rearrange a home once cats become blind because they won’t be able to find anything, this is not true. Yes, it will take more time for your cat to discover where certain things are, it’s much more important that there aren’t hazards for your cat to trip on or bump into. Again, this is highly going to depend on how much sight your cat has lost. If your home is fairly tidy and things are in a good layout keep it this way from then on and try not to buy new furniture/move things around.
- catnip toys to make sure that they can easily find their toys through smelling around. Other than catnip, blind cats are more prone to play with loud toys such as crinkle balls, bells, rattles, electronic chirping (our personal favourite), or even mechanical toys. Try to use your cat’s other senses to let them know about certain things like feeding. When one sense is impaired, your cat’s other senses will become stronger and stronger. Using sounds like bells for feedings, or calling out to your cat to let them know where you are will become very helpful. If your cat is blind and loves catnip, try to buy more
- Try your best not to move your cat around too much. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t move your cat around from room to room, however, try to make sure your cat is aware of what room they are in. You can do this by placing them on certain textures that they recognize (like the sofa, or a basket, or your bed, etc.) so that they have an idea of what their surroundings are. In rooms with litter boxes, always place your cat in front of the litter box so that they are aware that this is a room where they can use the facilities if they have to.
- Try to schedule all of your cat’s activities. Our cats are actually in the habit of eating at the same time each day, however, we haven’t scheduled their playtime (although we should.) Cats are creatures of habit and making sure that you feed your cats at the same time each day has been proven to be beneficial for them. It’s even more beneficial for blind cats. After some time your cat will get into the routine and you will notice that they stop crashing into walls or other miscellaneous furniture.
- Warn your cat that you’re coming. I remember the first time I met a blind cat I kept scaring her because I have a large booming voice. I walk fairly quietly, but as soon as I opened my mouth she would fall off the couch or run away and crash into a wall. It was not fun for either of us, especially because I really didn’t mean to do it. So always make sure you greet your cat when you enter the room they’re in, especially if you are about to pick them up.
- Never let your blind cat outside. This should be common sense, but I can’t tell you how many folks have let their blind cats out. This is not safe for them at all! Blind cats are at more risk of losing battles or fights and may run into the street without knowing (especially if they are scared.) Make sure that you’re keeping a close eye on your kitty because unfortunately, they won’t be able to keep an eye out this time.
- Give your cat lots of love! This is a hard time for your kitty, especially if they are in the early stages of losing their sight. Some cats begin feeling ashamed of their loss of sight and may hide, and others start becoming more and more dependent. Give your cat many cuddles (if they let you) and let them know that you’re there to help them. Over time they will become more independent, especially as they start learning how to use their other senses to get around.
- Incorporate more litter boxes in your house. While not absolutely necessary, it is very helpful to include more litter boxes into your home. I would personally get low cut litter boxes that are unlidded. I say this because many lidded litter boxes have flaps that can terrify a blind cat, as well lids tend to hide the smell of litter more than unlidded litter boxes. I know, I know… that also means the smell of poop will be stronger, but you will thank me in the end.
- Get a cat fountain. There’s nothing worse than a dehydrated cat and unfortunately, dehydration commonly leads to death, so do yourself a favour and get a cat fountain. Fountains tend to make a bit of noise and having your blind cat hear water flowing will entice them to drink more. Not only that, they will be able to find the source of water a lot easier. I cannot recommend water fountains enough, blind cat or not!
- Fence off certain areas until your cat is comfortable around the house. Please, please, please fence off stairs at least in the beginning while your cat is memorizing the layout of your home. In general, cats are prone to fall down stairs when they run too quickly or are scared, however, the risks are much higher when a cat is blind. The same should be said about toilet bowls and other open spaces where your cat can fall in. Think about your cat as a toddler for now! I promise it won’t be forever!
- If you are in a multi-pet household put bells on the other animals. Not only is it important to make sure that your cat knows when you’re around, but it’s also very important to make sure that they know that other animals are around.
Although it will take some getting used to, having a blind cat around the house isn’t as difficult as many would worry. It’s true that things will have to change, however, a lot of the things that do need to change would be beneficial for any cat and not just blind cats. Being blind is not a death sentence and many blind cats live long and healthy lives as long as the proper care is facilitated and any underlying illnesses are treated, maintained or handled. So, did this article help you? Do you feel ready to take care of a blind cat? Let me know in the comments below!