Looking after a blind cat or considering adopting a blind cat? Here’s our guide to looking after them.
Are cats born blind?
Whether your cat is blind from birth, has lost sight over time or you are adopting a blind cat, you’ll no doubt be thinking of how best to care for them. While they need a little extra attention, blind cats can live a full and happy life and provide plenty of affection to their owners.
Some cats are born with no vision, or limited vision, while other cats may become blind as they age. For most cats, loss of sight is very gradual and many owners aren’t aware of how bad their pet’s eyesight has become until they are checked over by a vet. However, blind cats can adapt well to their loss of sight and will tend to use their other senses, such as their whiskers to judge distance and the scent glands on their paws to help them navigate
What are the common causes of blindness in cats?
The most common causes for blindness are:
- damage caused by feline herpesvirus
- as a consequence of untreated high blood pressure, resulting in detachment of the retina and often caused by an overactive thyroid gland or kidney disease
- glaucoma or an increased pressure in the eye, as a consequence of an injury, tumour or inherited disease
- cataracts (when they eye lens becomes opaque) – as a result of an injury to the eye, diabetes or an inherited problem
- degeneration of the retina – this can be caused by dietary problems, toxins, infection or an inherited disease
- tumours within the eye or eyes
- scarring to the clear surface of the eye from trauma or infection
Can cat blindness be reversed?
Eye infections, such as conjunctivitis or viral or bacterial diseases, can cause sudden onset blindness that can sometimes be reversed if you contact your vet in good time. For example, conjunctivitis is the most commonly diagnosed eye infection in cats, resulting in inflammation to the conjunctiva and is treatable in most cases.
Other disorders in cats, such as hypertension and cataracts, can also be potentially treated to prevent further deterioration of sight. If you’re worried that your cat may be going blind, seek your vet’s advice as soon as possible.
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What are the symptoms of a cat going blind?
If you’re concerned that your cat might be going blind, keep a look out for the following signs.
- Bumping into things, particularly furniture that has been moved – this may be apparent at night or in low light
- Disorientation or change in normal behaviour
- If your cat is blind in one eye, a cat may be startled by sudden movements on their blind side
- A change in appearance of your cat’s eye, it may become enlarged, cloudy or change colour
- Swelling or discharge from the eye
- Pain in the eye – your cat may resent stroking on the head or face or may squint and try to keep the eye closed
Looking after blind cats
If your cat’s blindness is caused by disease or injury and is permanent, it may be necessary to remove one or both eyes on veterinary advice. A cat that becomes suddenly blind can easily become disorientated and this might result in some usual behaviour – they might toilet out of the litter tray, for example, or be unwilling to leave their sleeping area in fear of not being able to find their way back. To help keep your home accessible for your blind cat, try our tips below.
How to look after blind cats
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- Keep your blind cat indoors, ensuring they have access to a safely-fenced garden or run if necessary. Making sure they are microchipped is essential in case they escape. For cats solely indoors, keep things interesting with toys and puzzle feeders to keep boredom at bay.
- Encourage your cat to walk around on their own and avoid carrying them. The scent glands on their paws allow them to leave a trail of scent that they can follow to keep their setting familiar. Beware of lifting your blind cat onto raised surfaces in case they fall.
- When you approach your cat, talk to them as you approach them to avoid startling them.
- Avoid moving furniture, toys and litter trays. Don’t leave obstacles in unexpected places where your cat could walk into them. If you have stairs, place a barrier, like a child’s stair gate, across them until your cat knows where they are and learns how to use them again.
- Moving house with a blind cat? You’ll need to take extra care to introduce your cat to your new home. If they seem disorientated, guide them back to a familiar space by using your voice.