Sudden Onset Blindness in Cats

blindness-in-cats

Is your cat suddenly bumping into furniture? Does she have trouble finding her food bowl? Is he becoming unusually withdrawn or fearful? These sudden behavior changes can be an indication of a condition called “sudden blindness.” Causes for can include sudden trauma, high blood pressure, or a neurological event. In rare cases, the antibiotic enrofloxacin (brand name Baytril) can cause sudden blindness.

The difference between “sudden onset blindness” and “suddenly noticed blindness”

It is important to understand the difference between true sudden onset blindness, and suddenly noticed blindness. True sudden blindness usually occurs within hours, whereas suddenly noticed blindness is a condition that has been developing gradually over the course of weeks or even months, and often goes unnoticed by cat parents because cats are so good at adapting.

Signs of vision loss can include any of the following:

  • cloudy, discolored or inflamed eyes
  • large pupils that do not contract when hit by light
  • cat startles easily
  • confusion if a piece of furniture has been moved
  • bumping into walls or furniture
  • misjudging heights when jumping

Early treatment is critical for sudden onset blindness

Depending on the cause for the blindness, early treatment may be able to reverse the condition. For example, if the blindness is caused by high blood pressure, treating the cat with medication may allow a retina to reattach itself and the cat will regain some of his vision.

Unfortunately, even prompt care may not reverse blindness, whether the onset was truly sudden, or just suddenly noticed.

The good news is that, with a little extra care, cats can adapt well to being blind.

21 Comments on Sudden Onset Blindness in Cats

  1. Kathy Elliott
    December 20, 2017 at 7:37 pm (3 years ago)

    I appreciate your site! My 13 year old has hyperthyroidism and developed high B/P. Bilateral retinal detachments were the result. I was so pained to think she was blind. My sweet Tabby Two. She is so special to me! Thank you for educating me on how I can make her more comfortable and help her find her way. God Bless You.

    Reply
  2. Tamra
    July 5, 2017 at 9:56 pm (3 years ago)

    Our cat, Kita, experienced sudden blindness about 2 weeks ago. She had been given Baytrilmycin for an infection/fever. We were asked to leave her over weekend so she could be watched and receive the antibiotic over the weekend. I feel that maybe the weekend workers were given task of dosing the Baytrilmycin and may have given too much…or it could be she just reacted negatively to the medication. At any rate, we are just sick about the whole thing. She is only 3 and can’t see a thing…we are all working on the adjustment. Thanks for the good posts on helping a blind cat adjust. Anyone else have story like ours with the Baytrilmycin?

    Reply
    • Kathy
      September 18, 2017 at 10:13 am (3 years ago)

      My cat was given Baytril on top of Convenia. He had several seizures and then went blind. All side effects of the Baytril, which should be used with “extreme caution” in cats. It took me less than an hour to discover that, so why don’t vets know?! It is heartbreaking. Our cat is a shadow of his formal self. One week ago he was fine but for some blood in his urine. His blood work was good.

      Reply
      • Debbie
        September 20, 2018 at 7:00 am (2 years ago)

        We had the same problem with our 11 year old precious boy one minute he was ok next minute he was blind, and the vets said nothing about potential side effects which are well documented

        Reply
        • Jenny
          October 11, 2018 at 10:57 am (2 years ago)

          Our 4 year old boy Bruster was prescribed Baytril to treat a upper respiratory infection. He only received the medication for 3 days at the recommended dose before he showed signs of acute partial blindness. I reported to the vet his dilated pupils and she did not even recognize this as Baytril toxicity. I am sick about it because you are all correct….it is well documented. I have contacted the drug manufacturer, Bayer, to report and will continue to insist that this drug no longer be given to cats. My sweet boy seems to have some vision and we are currently trying a treatment that was recently presented at a veterinary ophthalmology conference. We are keeping our fingers crossed that his vision will be restored but realize we are lucky that he seems to have some vision at all. He will be examined by veterinary ophthalmologist in 10days.

          Reply
    • Yvonne Rochester
      October 18, 2017 at 3:40 am (3 years ago)

      I really feel for you. Our dear little 14 y/ o went completely blind virtually overnight though it may have been longer as the first signs we had was her bumping into walls. She is fine now. Knows her way around the house and outside of a day too. Knows where her food and water is too. She is able to get up on the bed and lounge now unaided Its heartbreaking to realise they cant see ANYTHING any more. She follows our voices, the tv, music, radio and even knows where our bird is on the verandah. Dont give up- perservere and you will be rewarded with much love and lap sitting.

      Reply
    • Emily Michelle Sledge
      November 19, 2019 at 9:41 pm (1 year ago)

      My baby, who is 6, was given baytril for what my vet believed was a uti, but was actually a urethral blockage. He was given an injection and received antibiotic baytril. Max dosage of this drug is 5 mg/kg. At his weight this would have been 37.5 mg per day total at maximum dosage. He was prescribed 68 mg 2 times per day. It was 3 days in when I noticed how afraid he was and his pupils has dilated. He now has complete vision loss that is irreversible and it was that quick. Watch your vet as they prescribe. My vet didnt know, but this is widely documented. I feel completely devastated for my cat that has had a complete personality change.

      Reply
      • Jenny walton
        November 24, 2019 at 11:04 am (1 year ago)

        This exact same thing happened to our cat last year. We were able to reverse the blindness. There was a study performed in Germany that showed the medication will cause photo receptor toxicity in some cats. You can reverse this by confining your cat to darkness for 2 weeks and giving them a antioxidant, Ocu glow We purchased the Ocu glow on Amazon. I know it sounds crazy. I was skeptical but it worked. I can forward the study that was given to me by veterinary ophthalmologist that was presented at a conference she attended last year. It won’t let me share in this space but I can forward to you by email.

        Reply
  3. Libby Seaver
    May 19, 2017 at 1:59 pm (4 years ago)

    My cats eyes were leaking fluid, which i thought was allergies. WRONG. I told my vet how much money i had, and they performed a full check-up for far less! The liquid streaming from her eyes is bacteria. One eye is blind, the other following shortly behind. I live alone, so i moved my top mattress into the living room so i could watch her and let her teach me what she needs. I have placed a couple of safe “hidden” areas around the apartment for her to run to for safety from loud noises. She finds her food well, and i set out 2 bowls of water in case i am stuck in traffic and dont make it home as expected. I always announce “mommy’s” arrival to keep from startling her. Because she can still see the color white, i place folded white gift wrap tissue on her beds or around her litter box. I sleep with 4-5 dim lights on to help her find her path. Thinking about setting up an extra litter box, just in case, but dont want to confuse her either – will just have to try it out and see if it helps.
    I love how she teaches me what to do!
    I tried mini outdoor lights from home depot that run on battery, but so far cant tell they have helped much.
    I paid. $23.00 for her a fresh bath and nail trim at my vets- she really prisses around now; i know it made her feel better and very special!
    I keep all her areas fresh and clean every other day. She loves to be gently stroked and touched when we nap together. That way she always knows where i am. I hum songs while doing work in the next room – just to orient her where i am at all times.
    Hope my tips help someone else with a precious angel kitty like mine! Kitty Kat is 17 years old now. Each new day is specially loved by me.

    Reply
    • Melanie novak
      December 18, 2017 at 8:40 am (3 years ago)

      I just read this as my cat is 15 and suddenly blind…..I must say you are an outstanding pet owner the lengths you have gone thru for your kitty is incredible I have worked many years rescuing cats and in the medical field and don’t think I have come across a more devoted loving person!!! If the world had more people like you in it ….it would truly be a better place…..you cat defiantly feels honored to have you.

      Reply
  4. Lou
    May 4, 2017 at 2:45 pm (4 years ago)

    I have a 17 yr old cat he had a cataract and seemed fine.. Only just recently has he started bumping into things but he still manages the stairs to the bed.. My son doesn’t want him to go away yet they have been friends all his life.. Gibson cat seems comfortable eats well and finds the cat litter tray.. I am glad I found this site as I thought I was being cruel keeping him alive. Thanks. X

    Reply
  5. Linda A.
    June 15, 2016 at 12:40 pm (4 years ago)

    Good info to know! I’ve seen how well cats adapt to blindness. I saw some blind cats on “My Cat From Hell” a few weeks ago, and if I hadn’t known going in that those cats were blind, I NEVER would have guessed! :^)

    Reply
  6. Ginger Stevens
    June 10, 2016 at 7:56 am (4 years ago)

    I had a cat that went blind one day. A few weeks later he began having seizures. Probable dx was a brain tumor. I had to let him go across the bridge. I miss him very much. An amazing soul.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 10, 2016 at 3:36 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m so sorry about your kitty, Ginger.

      Reply
  7. Sometimes Cats Herd You
    June 6, 2016 at 3:54 pm (4 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing this! Having had a cat with high blood pressure before, this is something that was a real concern until it got under control. This isn’t a “wait and see if it gets better” condition, so the more people who know that immediate treatment can potentially save a cat’s sight, the better.

    Reply
  8. Eva Burnett
    June 6, 2016 at 10:47 am (4 years ago)

    I am trying to get some info. My cat very recently lost an eye traumatically. Other than the common sense things that I know I should be doing, keeping the floor clear, not approaching on his blind side without some audible cue, what else should I be doing? Blind Cat Rescue has not responded to me. I’m concerned about his having become very needy amd requiring more reassurance, which he is getting. But are there other things that I can be doing that will help him as he adjusts?

    Reply
    • TMay
      June 16, 2016 at 1:45 am (4 years ago)

      Someone I know wore a consistent perfume on her ankles so the cat would know when she was near. I guess one could wear bells too. Get toys with bells. Get catnip stuffed toys.

      Reply
  9. Glogirly
    June 6, 2016 at 10:38 am (4 years ago)

    I’d never even heard of sudden onset blindness before. How very scary! So good to know what to look out for and how important immediate medical attention is.

    Reply
  10. Janine
    June 6, 2016 at 7:46 am (4 years ago)

    I had a cat that had a stroke years ago and went blind. It was so hard to watch him trying to make it around the house bumping into things. But I was told to let him do it and not help him as it was how he would learn his way around the house again.

    Reply
  11. Sue Brandes
    June 6, 2016 at 7:01 am (4 years ago)

    Very important information. Thank you.

    Reply

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