Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: July 9, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Blindness is a partial or total loss of vision. It can be congenital, or occur suddenly as a result of illness or trauma. It can also come on gradually from progressive diseases such as high blood pressure, cataracts, or glaucoma. Since cats are extremely good at compensating and adapting, complete or even partial loss of vision can be challenging to detect.
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
If you notice any of these signs, take your cat to your veterinarian.
How is blindness diagnosed?
Your vet will perform a thorough exam, which may include diagnostic tests such as bloodwork and blood pressure measurements. Your vet may also recommend a referral to a veterinary ophtamologist.
Is blindness reversible?
In some cases, depending on the cause, blindness may be reversible.
How to help a blind cat adjust
A cat’s sense of hearing and smell is much more developed than ours, and even though sight is important to them, these highly developed “alternate” senses can help them adjust to being blind.
If the blindness came on suddenly, affected cats may need a few weeks to completely adjust so be patient. Cats who lose their vision more gradually tend to adjust better since they’ve already compensated over time for reduced vision.
1. Make your home blind cat friendly
- Blind cats should never be outdoors unless under close supervision.
- Keep your cat’s home environment consistent. This is not the time to move around furniture or favorite objects.
- Block off stairways and access to balconies or decks.
- Keep the toilet lid closed.
- Don’t leave anything lying around on the floor. The neater your home is, the fewer objects will startle your cat as she makes her way around.
- Keep food and water dishes in the same place.
2. Special considerations for the litter box
If your cat’s blindness came on suddenly, reintroduce her to the litter box by placing her in it, and letting her find her way back from there to the rest of your home. She will remember the box’s location when she needs to go. You may want to consider adding additional litter boxes if your home is large or has more than one level.
3. Stimulate your cat’s other senses
Buy toys with bells or rattles (make sure the toy or rattle is safely inside the toy and can’t be chewed off and ingested.) If your cat responds to catnip, catnip-scented toys are a great way to engage her sense of smell. You can even use catnip to by sprinkling a “path” for her to follow to certain favorite areas around the home. Guide your cat to favorite sun puddles or spots by open (screened) windows so she can enjoy the feeling of sun and a soft breeze on her fur.
Blind cats can live full and happy lives, and unless your cat has a concurrent condition that impacts her quality of life, blindness by itself is not a reason for euthanasia.
Do you have a blind cat? How have you helped her adjust?
Photo of Snickers via Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary’s Facebook page. Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary is a North Carolina based rescue for blind, FIV and FeLV positive cats that were deemed not adoptable by regular shelters. The cats have a permanent home at the sanctuary. You can sponsor Snickers or any of the other cats by making a donation to Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary.
Featured Image Credit: Jana Shnipelson, Unsplash
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.