What do you do if your cat loses their sight?
Firstly, it’s important to know that cats usually adjust well to blindness, whether they suffer a partial or a complete loss of vision. That’s because a blind cat quickly learns to rely on their other senses and compensate.
Of course, you will need to make some adjustments to your home environment and it may take a few weeks for your cat to adapt, but with a little help from you and plenty of TLC, your cat will cope.
Signs of Blindness
Some cats lose their vision and their guardian isn’t aware. . . until the furniture is moved and their cat walks into the sofa. Others lose their sight overnight which is much more obvious because the cat seems disorientated. So what are the signs to be alert for?
- Dilated pupils: Fixed round pupils even in bright sunshine are a sign something’s wrong
- Easily startled: The cat jumps when you approach from behind.
- Bumping into things: The cat walks into objects placed in her path.
- Altered behaviour: This may be a shift in the hierarchy between the cats in a household or a cat who seems withdrawn and reluctant to go outside. An obvious indicator of blindness is urinary accidents indoors.
If you suspect your cat is blind, the first response should be to get her checked by a vet so the cause of the blindness can be investigated. One major cause is high blood pressure (fluid leaks behind the retina, pushing it away from the eye). With prompt treatment of hypertension, a small percentage of cats may recover their vision.
Also some of the causative conditions need managing on their own such as kidney disease, diabetes, or overactive thyroid glands. Treating these underlying conditions will help to protect the cat’s overall health.
Safe Lifestyle for a Blind Cat
If a vet confirms your cat is blind and treatment hasn’t worked, don’t despair — a blind cat can still lead a happy, content life. But first things first: keep her safe.
An outdoor cat needs to change her lifestyle and become an indoor only girl. This is to keep your cat safe from predators, other cats, and cars.
Of course, this means giving your cat a litter box and showing her where it is. If your outdoor cat has problems adjusting to a tray, try putting soil (or a similar substrate to what she used outside) in the box so it feels more familiar to her.
It’s obvious, but worth saying none-the-less, that you should not move the furniture around. Now is not the time for a major interior redesign as your cat will quickly become disorientated and bump into things. In the same vein, keep your home tidy (it’s a great excuse to get the kids to tidy away their stuff) so that objects on the floor don’t trip her up or spook her.
Make sure your leave your cat’s food and water bowls where they’ve always been, so she knows exactly where to go. If she’s hiding more and you want her to have food close to her bolthole, then give her an additional plate rather than move the one she already has.
If you have other cats, consider putting a bell on their collars. Even better, have each cat wear a different sounding bell. This alerts the blind cat to who’s around and makes her less vulnerable to ambushes and attacks.
And finally, a blind cat feels more vulnerable. Take a look at each room and make sure there’s a safe place she can hide if she feels the need. If not, provide a cardboard box with one of your T-shirts inside to rest on, and then show her where this is.
Signals and Sign Posts
Cats are blessed with sharp senses such as hearing, touch, and smell. Help your cat to make the most of these to orientate herself around the house.
When your cat wakes from a deep sleep she may feel confused as to where she is. In each room you can try leaving a radio on low volume, tuned to a different station. Thus you may opt for news channel in the kitchen, popular music in the lounge, and classical music in the bedroom. This way when she wakes, she has sound to let her know where she is.
If you don’t like the idea of leaving a radio on at night, then leave some scent signposts instead (or in addition to the sound!) This is a similar idea, but putting a different scent in each room. A few drops of essential oil placed in pot pourri or on a cushion, will help your cat recognise her location. In addition, when you choose soothing scents such as chamomile, lavender, or clary sage, these send out a message of tranquillity in addition to being a sign post.
A cat’s paws are sensitive to the surface she walks on. Place mats or rugs with different textures on the threshold between rooms. For example put a coir rug between the kitchen and dining room, and a rag rug between the hall and lounge. Thus as she pads around, her paws tell her which room is which.
Your cat needs more fuss and attention than ever before. A great way to do this is to groom her every day. This makes her feel super spoilt and will strengthen the bond between you.
And finally, don’t forget your blind cat still wants to play. Provide toys with bells inside so she can locate them in order to pounce.
Lastly, it’s not the end of the world if your previously sighted cat goes blind, but there will be a period of adjustment which you need to prepare for. You can help your cat transition to her new world by following some of the suggestions above which encourage a cat to rely on her other senses to feel comfortable in her home environment and easily navigate her way around.
Do you have experience with a blind cat? What steps have you taken to help your cat adjust to life without sight? Please share in the comments.