Cats are precious bundles of joy that make us all smile with their unique quirks and antics. On top of their cute, fluffy appearance and affectionate nature, they are also known for their self-reliance and independence.
But, life can be full of surprises, and a once-perfectly-healthy cat can suddenly become very ill or disabled. This can be both frightening and devastating for any cat parent.
So, what happens if your cat suddenly loses its vision? Should you put down a blind cat?
Cats are highly adaptable creatures, and thanks to their excellent sense of hearing, smell, and touch, blindness should not be a barrier for a cat to live a healthy and happy life. You only need to be willing to make a few adjustments to make life easier for your sightless companion.
Causes of blindness in cats
There are several possible causes of blindness in cats. Some cats might have developed this condition due to a disease when they were kittens, while others might lose their sight due to injury, a serious medical condition, or old age.
Some of the common illnesses linked to blindness in cats include:
- Feline cataracts or glaucoma
- Eye tumors
- High blood pressure that causes detachment of the retina
- Eye inflammations
- Trauma that causes eye damage
- Degeneration of the retina
Certain underlying issues can also cause cats to go blind, such as diabetes, kidney problems, thyroid disease, and inherited medical conditions. Aside from a well-balanced diet, regular visits to the vet are also essential to monitor your cat’s health and spot early signs of disease.
Should you put down a blind cat?
Euthanizing a blind but perfectly healthy cat is not necessary. Additionally, veterinarians will strongly disagree with the idea as the act is clearly violating animal rights, unless the cat’s life is endangered by other serious and incurable diseases.
Blind cats, like any other cats, are still capable of giving lots of love and living the best life possible. They can still enjoy playing, cuddling, climbing on cat trees, and bonding with their sighted siblings. With the help of their other senses, blind cats can still navigate their environment almost as well as any normal cat would.
From time to time, you might find them running into walls or furniture, but this is completely normal. With a few adjustments, they will adapt to their sightlessness. Remember, they have only lost their sight; not their sense of hearing, taste, touch, or smell. Most importantly, your cat will remain the same adorable fur-ball that you used to cuddle and play with. So enjoy the deeper bonds and cuddles as you help your blind friend relearn to navigate the world around them.
How blind cats manage
Unlike blind humans, blind cats do not need to walk with a cane to know and navigate their surroundings. Their senses are naturally sharper and their memories are excellent, so you do not need to worry about how your blind cat will survive the remaining years of their life.
Here are some ways your blind cat will explore their surroundings:
1. Through the sense of smell
Cats primarily identify their humans and other objects using their acute sense of smell, thanks to the millions of sensors in their little noses. These extra-sensitive olfactory receptors can help them pick up new and different scents in the air. So, for example, your blind kitty is sure to know whether you are home or not.
2. Through the sense of hearing
Just like their sense of smell, cats also have an excellent sense of hearing. In fact, they can hear other frequencies that we, humans, can hardly discern. Experts have also revealed that a cat’s hearing range goes beyond that of a dog’s. They can also distinguish between different pitches and tones, which helps them locate potential prey or determine an approaching predator.
3. Through their whiskers
Cats’ whiskers are more than just cute facial accessories – they are there for a very good reason. Imagine these thick, tactile hairs as feline antennae. With the help of their whiskers, cats can easily evaluate their environment, chase their prey, determine their orientation in relation to the ground, and have better spatial judgment. Hence, a lack of vision will not completely restrict your cat’s speed, agility, or acrobatic prowess.
4. Through good memory
Cats also possess strong memory skills. As solitary hunters, it is extremely important for cats to remain in familiar territory to avoid dangerous confrontations with predators. This is how they survive in the wild. Hence, even if they are not blind, cats rely heavily on their memories to navigate their territory.
5. Through another feline friend
Having another, sighted, cat at home will help your blind cat move around the house easily. It will also make your blind pet feel less lonely, especially when you are away from home. If you are a busy fur parent, all the more reason to consider getting your blind cat a furry companion!
What should I do if my cat goes blind?
A blind cat is really not very different from a normally-sighted cat. You can play, bond, and cuddle with them, just like with any cat. However, you might need to pay a bit more attention since your kitty can no longer see. Expect more bonding, purring, and cuddling in return – blindness will not stop Fluffy from loving you and making you smile.
Ways you can help a blind cat
Just because your cat is blind does not mean they are no longer capable of living a healthy life. Remember, your kitty has only lost their sense of sight; not their taste, hearing, smell or touch. However, you might need to pay them more attention and make some slight adjustments to make their life easier. Here are a few tips to help your blind cat cope:
1. Get rid of the extra obstacles in your home
Keeping your house free of unnecessary obstacles will make it easier for your blind cat to play around without running into random things, and reduce the risk of injuries and broken whiskers. If you have young children at home, teach them to put their toys away once they are done playing. Also try not to rearrange your home, so that your cat can use their memory to navigate around the house.
2. Try to maintain a calm environment
Sudden loud noises can easily frighten blind cats as they are no longer able to see their environment and find out the source of the noise. To avoid exaggerated reactions, make sure to keep your home calm and noise-free as much as possible. In situations where loud noises are beyond your control, such as thunder and fireworks, always give your cat comfort and reassurance.
3. Speak softly to your cat
For blind cats, nothing is more soothing than to hear the voice of the humans they love. Thus, you need to establish the habit of talking with your cat to let them know they are not alone. You can hum or call their name softly – your presence will make your fluffy friend feel safe and loved.
4. Keep your blind cat indoors
The outdoors can be a dangerous place for cats, especially those that have lost their sight. Keeping your feline friend indoors is the best way to protect them from animal fights, catching diseases, or road accidents. But, if your cat is used to going outdoors, you can continue to let them out if you make sure they are kept within an enclosed space. Walking your blind cat on a harness might also help to ensure that they do not go out of your sight.
5. Play with your cat
Even blind cats need to have fun and exercise! If you are used to playing with your kitty in the evenings, there is no reason to stop these regular play sessions just because the cat has become blind. It is a good idea to purchase toys that make chirping or squeaking sounds, or anything designed for blind cats.
6. Care for your cat as you used to
Blind or not, we want to provide our furry friends with the best life possible, and to ensure that all of their needs are met. This includes nutritious foods, clean drinking water, proper grooming, a clean litter box, regular vet checkups, and updated vaccinations, among others.
Is it cruel to keep a blind cat alive?
Keeping a healthy blind cat alive is not cruel. In fact, all blind animals have the right to live for as long as there is no unbearable suffering involved. Euthanasia should only be considered if the cat is suffering from pain or serious diseases that are impossible to treat.
Putting down a healthy blind cat is a violation of animal rights. If your kitty is born without eyes, or has lost sight due to illness or old age, you do not need to consider euthanasia. Cats are known to be adaptable and self-reliant, and a lack of vision is not a hindrance for a cat to live a normal, happy life.
So, learn to trust your blind cat’s acute senses. With enough time, your sightless friend should learn to navigate the world around them with minimal supervision.
Image: istockphoto.com / kicia_papuga