Coping With Cats’ Blindness

In a story about pet lovers coping with blind dogs we had good news that most dogs and their people perform better than satisfactorily. The story on blind cats is equally encouraging.

Today we have interviewed Renee, who lost her kitty Buggy recently.

Buggy-notice the large, dilated pupils, typical of blind patients
Buggy-notice the large, dilated pupils, typical of blind patients

Buggy first lost her vision on a weekend in a surprise episode. She had always been healthy and her physical examination findings had always been normal. As a routine, we evaluate corneas, lenses, retinas and optic disks on every annual and semiannual examination, so no previous eye problems had appeared.

On the day of the event Buggy saw the doctor on duty at the Gulf Coast Veterinary Emergency Hospital, who diagnosed a stroke secondary to high blood pressure. Excessive blood pressure is common in cats with kidney disease because of hormonal and electrolyte imbalances. Buggy not only suffered a stroke that day but high blood pressure detached her retinas. If the retina is not attached to the underlying sclera it soon deteriorates. When we see detached retinas during ophthalmic examinations they have a folded appearance.

Renee says that even with detached retinas Buggy sometimes exhibited vague visual responses. Opening blinds and increasing lighting in a room seemed to allow her greater mobility.  Therefore, it is likely that she still had slight visual function.

Buggy adjusted quite well after that date. We started her on medication to control her blood pressure and monitored her eyes for evidence of new bleeding and retina changes. Periodically we took her blood pressure to determine whether to change her medication dosage.

Buggy also adjusted well on the home front. Any adjustment involved was mostly human. As with blind dogs’ environment, stability was the key for Buggy. Any movement of furniture or rearranging was met with anxiety and confusion. Even after things were moved back to their proper position it would take her a few days to calm down.

Even though it’s not “furniture,” the most important object not to move was the litterbox. Renee tried to move it once, but Buggy wasn’t catching on to the new location, so back it had to go. Buggy had a perfect record in the litterbox, too. She could still control her “aim” and never missed, even though she couldn’t see.

Buggy was always exceptionally easygoing. Even with two small children in the house she didn’t mind their noises. Even after she lost her sight she could figure out how to get out of their way when they ran and played. Of course, Buggy was never allowed to be outdoors, as no blind cat should be. If you feel your kitty misses being outdoors she can be allowed strictly supervised trips to a safely enclosed area so that there is no danger of the kitty having to encounter other animals, wild or domestic.

Amazing as it sounds Buggy could still find her way to a couch or chair to visit and lounge. She would use her whiskers to navigate, put her front feet onto the furniture she wanted to get onto, then “measure” how hard she needed to jump. Occasionally she would miss, but she didn’t let that keep her from trying again. After all, few things besides food are more important than time curled up on a couch.

As you can see, Buggy had a good life for over a year after she lost her vision. Eventually age-related kidney disease took her life.  With your pet’s doctor’s help your kitty, too, can have a long and happy life even after her eyesight is gone.

Readers, do you have experiences you would like to share with us about your blind pets? We would love to hear from you and publish some of your comments in a future article.

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