What causes feline blindness?
This is a condition that can affect cats as they grow older. Injuries, of course, as well as eye infections, can both cause the cat to lose sight or go completely blind. There are also a number of disorders associated with aging that can cause it in cats - glaucoma being the largest cause, along with cataracts. Additionally, if you feed your cat improperly (feeding it only dog food, people food, or trying an unapproved vegetarian diet) your cat may go blind from taurine deficiency, a nutrient that is inserted into normal cat food by the manufacturers.
There is also a condition with cats called sudden blindness. This is usually caused by hypertension and stress, along with the resulting high blood pressure, but there are other causes such as cat diabetes. Many owners, however, mistakenly think the cat has suddenly gone blind when in reality it has been a gradual process. Cats are very good at compensating - cat whisker can be used to find their way around even when the cat cannot see, and if the cat is kept indoors it will likely have memorized the environment. In these cases, a cat will gradually lose sight and the owner will only notice suddenly when the environment is changed or when the loss of sight becomes complete.
How do I tell if my cat is blind?
There are basic symptoms to look for, such as clumsiness, running into things, being easily startled, and not seeming to be interested in play. If you aren't sure, it is fairly easy to tell by changing around the cat's environment. Move the food bowls, the water bowls, the furniture, etc. - if the cat has trouble finding its way, it is losing sight. Don't be cruel about it (and I don't recommend moving the litter box for obvious reasons) but you can find out and then move everything back.
Is there a cure?
It depends on what is causing it. Some things, like cataracts, can be treated with surgery in some cases. Others are permanent.
Do I need to put my cat to sleep?
No. Putting your cat to sleep is something that should be reserved for painful diseases where the cat will have very little quality of life. Blindness does not have to be this way. You will have to change your cat's life in some ways, but it can still be very happy:
1) The cat MUST be an indoor cat. You can take it outside into a garden or controlled area on a leash for cats, but the cat cannot be allowed to wander on its own.
2) The cat can still play around - it just won't like the same kinds of toys. You will want toys that make noise for the blind cat to focus on - anything with a bell attached is a good idea.
3) Don't move around the furniture frequently. Keep things in the same place in general for the cat, and keep pathways to food and the litterbox clear of temporary objects such as boxes. The cat will use memory to get around, and you want to keep the environment stable.
4) If your cat insists on getting up on things, or has a spot it likes, get a ramp. This will let your cat walk up instead of jumping - something that can cause injuries if the blind cat attempts it frequently.
Cats with blindness do not lead unhappy lives. They have more trouble getting around, but they will still enjoy affection from you and will be able to recognize you by smell. They will have difficulty doing things they used to - but this will not stop them from being around for some time to come.
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