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“Is My Cat Blind?”: How to Tell and What It Means for You & Her

If you’ve noticed your cat attempting to jump up on furniture and missing or tripping over objects that are part of her everyday life, it’s time to visit the vet. These could point to impaired vision or blindness. Blindness in cats most often occurs gradually, although it can come on suddenly. Learn what causes blindness in cats, the symptoms, and what happens next for a blind cat.

What Causes Cats to Go Blind?

There are many reasons a cat can experience worsened sight or sight loss, ranging from disease to damage to the eyes. Common causes of blindness are:

– Cataracts

– Trauma to the head

– Ingestion of an antibacterial medication (enrofloxacin) that damages the retina

– Chronic hypertension that causes the retina to detach

– Glaucoma

Optic neuritis (inflammation of optic nerve)

Nuclear sclerosis (vision loss due to old age)

Inherited causes can also occur, but they’re less common in cats than in dogs. Unfortunately, they do happen more often in purebred cats.

one cat eye through white blinds

How Loss of Vision Is Diagnosed

Blindness Symptoms in Cats

The first signs of blindness that most cat owners notice are behavioral, and even these can be tricky. Cats are generally very good at coping with blindness. They compensate for a lack of one sense with their others. Some owners are shocked when they find out from a vet that their cat is blind in one eye!

Keep an eye out for a cat that:

– No longer attempts to jump onto furniture or high places; or if she does, she misses.

– Falls from familiar places

– Doesn’t move around the house as much as she used to

– Is more vocal – This could be because she’s calling out to you for your whereabouts, or she’s uncomfortable. (Glaucoma, for instance, can be painful because of increased pressure in the eyeball.)

– Trips over objects on the floor

– Bumps into objects or furniture that have always been there

– Won’t run if she’s startled, but instead freezes in place

But often physical symptoms are there as well. Dr. Kern, associate professor of ophthalmology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, urges cat owners to regularly check their cats’ eyes for:

– A hazy appearance

– Trouble focusing on objects in close range

– Cloudiness or opaqueness

– A change in the color of the iris(es)

– Two pupils that don’t look like each other.

Diagnosis by a Vet

If you’re not sure how to check your cat’s eyes, ask your veterinarian. They can show you what to look out for.

If your cat is showing signs or symptoms of vision impairment, take her to the vet for an official diagnosis. They’ll also give you important information about caring for a blind cat.

To determine what’s going on, first your vet will ask about your cat’s history, then they’ll administer vision assessments.

Your Cat’s History

These are some questions you should be prepared to answer about your cat:

– Do you think she’s partially or completely blind?

– Has the change been gradual or is it sudden onset blindness?

– When did you start noticing signs of vision loss?

– If the appearance of the eyes is different, when did that happen?

– Is she on any medications?

This will help the vet understand whether the blindness might be related to an underlying condition.

Vision Assessments

There are lots of tests that help a veterinarian determine whether a cat is blind. Most are done twice—once for each eye.

– The cotton ball test – Your vet will throw cotton balls (or something else without a scent or a noise) into your cat’s field of vision to see if he flinches or reacts.

– The pupillary light reflex test – In a dim room, your vet will shine a bright light into your cat’s eyes to gauge how his pupils react.

– Blood pressure test – This can help determine if hypertension is the issue.

– Brain scans – These look for tumors.

– Blood tests – These detect diseases, like kidney disease, that can cause eye problems.

How to Care for a Blind Cat

The diagnosis of partial or full blindness is scary, but in some cases, blindness in cats can be treated. For instance, the drug amlodipine is often used to treat high blood pressure. This is why regular check-ups are so important; catching issues early can prevent blindness!

If your cat has cataracts, take her to a veterinary ophthalmologist right away. This specialist may be able to perform cataract surgery and restore some sight.

If your cat’s loss of sight is permanent, don’t panic! Blindness in cats is manageable. Cats are incredibly adaptable. With a little help from you, yours can have a very fulfilling life.

Adopt some of these changes to make your cat as comfortable and capable as possible:

– Don’t allow your cat to roam by herself outdoors – If you’d like your cat to experience the world outside, consider training her to walk on a leash. And don’t forget to have your cat microchipped!

– Restrict your cat to a small, familiar space at first or if she’s in a new environment.

– If you need to introduce your cat to a new space, scatter treats on the floor. She’ll use her nose to find them and move slowly, familiarizing herself with the area.

– Don’t rearrange the furniture – Your cat has a “mind map” of your house. She may even attempt to leap from the floor to that counter or bookshelf she loves, confident in her surroundings!

– Add bells or tags to yourself and other animals in the house, so your cat knows where you are.

– Keep the floor clear of small objects, so your cat doesn’t trip.

– Highlight tricky spots like the top of the stairs with a scent with strong pheromones. Keep the scent consistent, so your cat knows what to expect when she smells it.

– Speak to your cat as you enter and leave a room, so she knows where you are – You may notice your cat becomes more clingy after losing her sight; she’s using you as a guide!

– Speak before you pet your cat to avoid an aggressive startled reaction.

– Keep her food and water bowls, litter box, and bed in the same places as usual.

– If your cat has glaucoma, speak to your vet about pain management.

If you think your cat is going blind, remain calm. She’s likely feeling anxious and scared, so keep your voice low and your movements predictable. Reach out to your veterinarian to schedule official vision assessments. They’ll be able to give you helpful tips as well.

And make sure to visit the vet for routine care, so they can spot and treat illness or disease before they cause blindness.

Ready to make an appointment for your kitty? Contact Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital today!

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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