If you’re a long-time supporter of special needs cats or brand new to the world of disabled kitties, chances are you’ve stumbled upon a blind cat among the ranks of the deaf, epileptic, or Cerebellar Hypoplasia cats up for adoption.
Whether they’ve lost their vision due to an injury or a genetic predisposition to blindness, there are thousands of these extraordinary kitties who are looking for their forever home right now.
Blind cats can live just as exciting, happy, and full lives as their feline counterparts who have their vision intact.
Should I adopt a blind cat?
If you’re in the position to adopt or foster a new kitty companion consider adopting a blind cat or kitten!
Far from needing sympathy, these special needs cats can have as fulfilling lives as felines with sight. They can experience happiness, health, and love.
Blind cats like any kitty have their own personalities, wants, and needs. They’re resilient, brave, and clever. They’re able to map out locations and adjust to whatever life throws their way.
All they need is a little extra care. Like being mindful about putting protections in place to make sure they’re safe from harm.
When you open your heart and share your compassion, you’ll realize that when you adopt a sightless kitten or cat that their blindness is far from being a disability. It’s as simple as being a part of who they are, like ginger tabby markings or having tufted ears.
Above all, blind cats are just that. Cats!
What causes blindness in cats?
There are six major factors that cause blindness in cats.
Blindness can be inherited by cats who have the gene for it. Also known as congenital blindness, some cats are born without vision while others lose it later on in life.
Certain breeds of cats are more likely to have risk factors to be born blind or develop blindness.
Chronic illness and disease
There are several chronic illnesses that can lead to cats losing their vision as a secondary side effect of the illness.
High blood pressure, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism are all severe chronic illnesses that can lead to your cat’s retinas being damaged or even start to detach. Diabetes and ocular tumors can contribute to the formation of cataracts or glaucoma which cause limited vision or full blindness in cats.
Lymphoma, a particularly aggressive cancer in cats, can cause what some vets refer to as “sudden blindness”, which can strike cats who’ve developed this lymphatic system cancer in a matter of days of being diagnosed.
Short-term illnesses and disease
One short-term illness that can lead to blindness is a Herpes virus infection. Known as feline viral rhinotracheitis, or FVR, this is an upper respiratory disease that has serious complications for cats.
This cat-specific virus can cause three major eye problems that could cause limited vision, and partial, or full blindness. They are:
- Conjunctivitis: as with humans, this is when your cat’s eye tissue and eyelid lining, and third eyelid are inflamed and begin to become encrusted with and leak out thick green-yellow pus.
- Keratitis: this is when your cat’s cornea becomes inflamed and infected. Corneal ulcers and scarring can result.
- Chronic “dry eye”: also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS, this condition is known for being especially painful and often goes along with corneal ulcers and scarring as well as frequent discharge.
Parasites and fungal infections can also lead to blindness.
The Toxoplasma gondii organism, also known as the cause of “toxoplasmosis” and Cryptococcosis, a fungal disease that comes from breathing in the infectious Cryptococcus gattii organisms directly affect your cat’s vision.
Toxoplasma gondii damages cats’ corneas, lens, and retina, causing inflammation and blindness. While Cryptococcus gattii attacks the central nervous system and causes blindness and seizures among other irreversible conditions.
Cats who face injuries to their eyes, like scratches on their cornea (corneal ulceration) and head trauma from road accidents, attacks from other animals, or physical abuse from humans are seriously in danger of partially or entirely losing their vision.
Felines who lack taurine, an essential nutrient and amino acid are at high risk of becoming blind in a very short amount of time.
Taurine deficiencies could be prevented by feeding your cat complete and balanced foods with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seals of approval.
As with human beings who could notice a decline in their vision, some senior and geriatric cats also experience a gradual loss of vision as they age. Part of this could be due to developing cataracts.
Do blind cats need constant supervision?
Blind cats that need the most supervision are kittens. Because of how daring and active kittens are they may unknowingly put themselves in dangerous situations. Say, unintentionally scurrying into a tight crawl space in the basement where they may get stuck and you’re unable to reach them.
When cats who are born blind reach adulthood, chances are they’ll need much less supervision, especially once they’ve mapped out your house and have a regular routine.
Cats who became blind after years of having their sight will likely need extra attention and care to become comfortable with their new normal.
As a whole, it’s a good idea to be aware of where your blind cats and kittens are, even if you don’t need to supervise them around the clock.
Do blind cats scare easily?
Not all blind cats scare easily. Shyness and timidity are emotional traits, not physical ones.
The personality of your kitty companion along with the length of time they’ve been blind is the largest influence in whether they’re prone to get spooked or not.
Kittens who are born fully blind or who lose their vision in their early weeks of life will know nothing but blindness. Being unable to see is normal and as such, they’ll be just as playful, energetic, and exploratory as any other kitten.
Cats who lose their vision later in life may be more reserved and cautious. They may take a longer period of time to adjust to their new condition and potentially be prescribed anti-anxiety medications to help them through the process.
Are cataracts and blindness the same thing?
While cataracts and blindness have a lot in common they aren’t the same thing.
Cataracts in cats are a medical condition that can be treated with surgery and potentially reversed. The top cause of cataracts is Uveitis which is also known as inflammation of tissues in your cat’s eye. This inflammation can lead to a painful autoimmune response where your cat’s immune system attacks the lens of their eye.
Cataracts may also be caused by:
- Nutrient deficiencies or an improper diet
- High blood pressure or diabetes, as a secondary condition
- Inflammation and head trauma
- Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections
Are certain cat breeds more likely to go blind?
There are some cat breeds that have genetic links to certain conditions that cause blindness.
Persian, Abyssinian, Burmese, and Siamese cats have been known to have a risk of developing Progressive Retinal Atrophy, or PRA.
PRA, also known as retinal dysplasia, is a disease in which a cat’s vision slowly breaks down, or degenerates, leading to blindness.
PRA can appear in kittens as young as two or three months, or in adult cats aged five and older.
Are white cats blind?
No. The saying that all white cats are blind and deaf is only partially true.
While white cats with blue eyes are at higher risk of developing deafness than cats of other coats and eye colors, white cats are not more susceptible to being blind.
Special care for blind cats
All cats are creatures of habit. This is especially true for blind cats who rely on knowing their surroundings to get what they need. Here’s what you need to know about caring for a blind cat.
Be a tour guide
As with blind humans, cats without vision create “mental maps” of their environment. Help your cat navigate around your house, leading them from room to room and pointing out the places they’ll be using on a regular basis– their food and water dishes, their litter box, places to play with toys and climb, and of course, a cozy bed to sleep in!
The more times your blind cat walks through each room, the stronger their mental map will be and the easier it is to navigate.
Make it a point to keep your blind cat’s food and water bowls in the same place. Consistency with the times you feed your cat breakfast and dinner and the types of wet and/or dry foods you serve them is also key.
Consider using a cat water fountain. The sound of the gurgling water from the fountain will help your blind cat navigate to its hydration station as well as provide enrichment to her environment.
Litter box placement
Making your blind cat’s litter box readily accessible and easy to use is key. Open pan-style litter boxes with low entry points are a good option because of their spaciousness and lack of confined space.
Having multiple litter boxes, especially if you have a multi-cat household, is also a good idea. The standard rule of thumb is to have one litter boxes for every cat.
Scent-based games like food puzzles, catnip mice, and treat-dispensing toys are a great way for your blind cat to engage in their “hunting” instincts and to give them a cognitive workout.
When it comes to engaging your blind cat’s sense of hearing, jingle balls and wand toys with bells are often blind cat favorites.
Touch is just as important as your blind cat’s hearing and scent senses. Collect toys and cat furniture with a variety of different textures for your blind cat to explore.
Some great ways to enrich your cat’s home environment and stimulate your blind cat throughout your house include:
- Laying out cardboard scratchers
- Using crinkly toys
- Tennis balls
- Carpeted scratching posts
- Providing coir doormats to scratch on
Cat-specific furniture, like cat trees, cat scratching posts, and catios are all beneficial additions to a home with a blind cat.
Cat trees for large cats can provide more surface area and a stable platform for blind cats who need the extra space to feel secure. The larger size may also keep them more engaged and provide them with greater opportunities to stay physically active.
Make use of pet stairs and ramps to help your blind cat reach taller spaces like beds, couches, or cat towers. Without their vision, some blind cats are hesitant to jump or climb.
Avoid rearranging your furniture or the layout of a room
Because your blind cat will have a map of each room in its head, try to avoid making any major changes to the layout of furniture in your home.
Even something as simple as swapping out a coffee table or switching the chairs in your dining room can affect how your blind cat makes their way through the room. It could lead to accidental injuries or cause them stress and anxiety.
Baby-proof your home
Just like human parents take a safety-first approach when preparing for a new addition, you’ll want to make your home equally as safe for your new blind cat.
Look out for anything that may be hazardous to your blind kitten or cat, including:
- Sharp or pointed edges
- Loose wires
- Thin or slippery rugs
- Hot objects
- Long strings, like from curtains or corded blinds
- Toxic plants and flowers
Steps you can take for a seamless transition are to:
- Use non-skid pads under rugs
- Tape or tucking loose electrical wires out of your cat’s path
- Bring cords and curtains out of reach, or switch to cordless blinds
- A baby gate or block off areas that are off-limits
- Gather up small objects that may be a choking hazard
- Pad corners and sharp edges of furniture, or remove them entire
- Make sure your blind cat has a clear path to navigate from room to room
How you can help blind cats
If you’re unable to adopt a blind cat but still want to help special needs kitties, here are four ideas to get you started.
Advocate for them
Speaking up for blind cats and spreading the word about how wonderful it is to share your life with one of these extraordinary kitties is one of the most powerful actions you can take. Many people still believe that blind cats are condemned to a sad and empty life.
By sharing the facts and real stories about blind cats thriving on your social media accounts, in blog posts or online magazines, and even in newsletters or op-ed pieces in your local newspaper, all make a difference.
Educate your friends and other cat lovers
Talking to your friends and communities of other cat lovers is another way you can help blind cats. If you see any blind cats up for adoption in nearby animal shelters or rescue organizations, encourage the people in your life to consider adopting one of these kitties.
Even if they don’t opt to adopt, there’s a good chance they’ll pass the word on to their friends, relatives, and community.
Donate to and volunteer at special needs cat rescues
Many special needs cat rescues rely on donations in order to give their blind cat charges the most enriched and healthy lives. Here are some commonly asked for items:
- Blankets and towels
- Cleaning supplys
Check to see if they have Amazon wish lists or have lists of the items they need most on their website. Or, consider hand-making toys and blankets.
You can easily make catnip fish out of old socks and if you’re up for some sewing use old tee shirts or blankets to sew mice with crinkly plastic, a bell, or catnip inside of them.
Volunteering also makes a world of difference. Even just dedicating one hour a week will be so rewarding for the blind kitties you play with and hang out with.
Host a fundraiser
Whether you set up a birthday fundraiser on your Facebook account or physically set up tables for an event, fundraisers are a fantastic way to get the word out about blind cats.
If you’re a student, many schools offer opportunities to host fundraisers like bake sales, food drives, car washes, and raffles for tee shirts and accessories.
If you’re religious, ask your place of worship if you could host a small fundraiser on their property, put a call for donations in the newsletter, or put donation boxes out.
Many local small businesses are also more than happy to help you out. Ask if you could leave jars for monetary donations on their counters, or if you could set up a small box for donations.
Should I put down my blind cat?
If you had a blind human child or an elderly relative who lost their vision would you “put them down”?
The same goes for blind cats and kittens. While the first emotion that may come to you when you meet a blind cat is to feel sadness or pity for them, more likely than not their condition is just another part of their life and who they are.
Just like how some cats have short hair vs long hair, or long tails vs no tails at all, blindness is a physical quality.
While blindness alters their appearance –there are many sightless cats who actually have their eyes removed entirely — it doesn’t necessarily impede or harm their quality of life.
The only time humane euthanasia ought to be considered is if your cat becomes so ill or injured that there is absolutely no way to treat them or care for them. Putting a cat down is a last resort and a way to avoid making your cat go through unnecessary pain and suffering.
Can you leave a blind cat alone?
The length of time you can leave a blind cat alone depends on both the cat and the period of time you’ll be away. If you’ve just adopted a new blind kitten or cat that also comes into play, chances are they’re still learning the lay of the land as it were.
Also, consider the duration of your absence.
Are you about to embark on a two-week trip hiking in Scotland? Or maybe you just have a long commute to work and will spend several hours in traffic a day.
In some of these situations, like the wedding and hiking scenarios, you’ll need a reliable cat sitter to, preferably, care for your blind kitty overnight. Whereas with work and commuting, you may just be looking for someone to check in on your cat once or twice a day while you’re gone.
The bottom line
Blind cats are an extraordinary bunch of felines who are deserving of love and companionship.
Cat parents who adopt one of these kitties often report how sharing their lives with a blind cat is a special experience for both them and their furry friend.
It only takes a few quick changes around your house to make your home accessible for your blind cat or kitten, and some creativity on your part when it comes to playtime and indoor enrichment.
If you’re unable to adopt one of these special needs cats, you can advocate for them online and debunk myths about blind cats as you spread the word to your friends. You could also run food and blanket fundraisers and volunteer your time at rescues and nonprofits that provide temporary and forever care for blind cats.
If you choose to take a stand and take action for blind cats know that you’re making a tremendous difference.
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