Caring for a blind cat isn’t as difficult as you’d imagine. In fact, it’s not much different from caring for a sighted kitty—you just need to have a few extra considerations. Whether you’re thinking about adopting a new cat or your resident kitty is facing vision loss, there are many ways you can accommodate a blind cat in your home.
What causes blindness in cats?
Some kittens are born without eyes or with eyes that do not function. More commonly, cats lose their sight as a result of trauma, illness, or conditions like high blood pressure, toxoplasmosis, glaucoma, cataracts, or scarring caused by untreated in-turned eyelashes.
A blind cat may display symptoms such as:
- cloudy, discolored, or inflamed eyes
- large pupils that remain dilated even in bright light
- startling easily
- confusion if a piece of furniture has been moved
- bumping into walls or furniture
- misjudging heights when jumping
If you notice your sighted kitty displaying any of these symptoms, get him to a vet right away for analysis. The good news is cats are generally very adaptable to life without sight. Felines’ sense of hearing and smell is advanced enough that most cats are able to function normally and live a very happy life.
How to introduce a blind cat to your home
The approach to introducing a newly adopted blind cat to your home is very similar to introducing a sighted cat. First begin by setting up a main room or “safe room” where the kitty has food, water, and a litter box, and is apart from other pets in the household. Spend time playing with him and providing him with treats and noisy toys.
Once he seems comfortable in this room, slowly allow him to explore other areas of the home. Make sure to supervise, cover sharp edges, and block off stairs for the time being. Remember, you’ll want to take things slow and steady. Keep the setup of rooms consistent and the house clean, and avoid moving furniture. Eventually your cat will feel more confident with the layout of the house.
If you feel comfortable letting your cat navigate stairs to another story of the house, consider “tagging” the area with a consistent smell. For example, mark the top of the stairs with a lavender scent and the bottom of the stairs with a vanilla scent. This will help your cat know when he can expect to start climbing up or down and when he will be on level ground.
How to introduce a blind cat to your other pets
Again, you’ll want to slowly introduce a blind cat to other pets—just as you would with a new sighted cat. Keep them separated initially, allowing them to smell and hear each other through the door. When they meet face to face, make sure to supervise; consider keeping the sighted animal on a leash or harness until your blind cat seems comfortable. Bestfriends.org explains that “sighted pets often know that something is different about a blind cat, and many will take on the role of a ‘seeing-eye friend.’” (How sweet is that?!)
Do’s and don’ts for caring for a blind cat
- Give him noisy toys (like squeaking/chirping toys and those with bells or crinkly effects) and catnip-filled toys
- Provide a “safe” place like a cozy bed in every room
- Microchip your cat and have him wear a collar with an ID tag with “blind cat” noted on it
- Use a water fountain to audibly remind him to drink
- Add a ramp to your Litter-Robot or traditional litter box for easier access
- Bubble-wrap or add padding to sharp edges that are at your cat’s eye-level, at least until he is used to navigating
- Keep the toilet lid closed
- Block off staircases with a baby gate until he is ready to navigate
- Attach a small bell to the collars of other pets in the house so your blind cat can hear them (attach one to yourself, if you’d like!)
- Announce yourself when you enter the room so as not to startle him
- Guide him gently with your voice if he seems lost or disoriented
- Let him go outside unless he is leashed and supervised
- Move his litter box and food once you’ve established a place for them
- Rearrange furniture or leave clutter around (at least, don’t do it often)
- Lift a blind cat and put him on a raised surface—he may become disoriented and fall off
- Carry a blind cat around the house unless it is to a designated, familiar area like where his food and litter box are
- Light candles or leave open flames unless supervising
- Grab or pick up your blind cat without giving him an audible sign that you’re nearby
- Trim his whiskers—he relies on them to feel his way around narrow spaces
Above all, be patient. Adopting a blind cat may mean slower progress at first, but in all likelihood you’ll hardly notice the difference from having a sighted kitty! If you can find room in your heart (and home!) for a cat that has lost his vision, you’ll be repaid in full with love and gratitude.