Signs My Cat is Going Blind
Cats have remarkable eyesight that allows them to see clearly at different times of day. However, eye injuries and numerous disorders or eye infections can substantially damage or even cause blindness in your cat. If you can detect early signs of blindness in your cat, you may be able to help salvage their sight or manage their condition. If your cat becomes blind, you'll want to be able to assist them. Look for behavioral or physical changes that may signal that your cat is losing their sight so that you can help provide them with the best care.
Almost all cats over the age of six begin to experience changes in their vision, similar to how people over the age of 40 can need reading glasses.1 This natural, known as nuclear sclerosis, results in diminished lens flexibility, a hazy appearance, and a reduced ability to concentrate on close objects. Despite the blue hue of their eyes, pets can still see rather well.
Blind cats are usually extremely cheerful. They are still able to live happy lives and be involved with their families and environment. Kitties do not have to see you to adore you.2
What Are the Causes of Cat Blindness?
Your cat's vision may begin to deteriorate due to a variety of factors, including old age. Inherited causes of cat blindness are less prevalent than in dogs, although they do occur more frequently in purebred cats. If you have a wonderful, silky Abyssinian cat, for example, you are more likely to see blindness caused by progressive retinal atrophy. Other reasons for blindness in older or elderly cats include trauma, neurological issues, and excessive blood pressure.
Cats adjust for their decreased vision by depending more on their other senses, particularly their sense of smell.
What Are Some Signs That Your Cat is Going Blind?
1. Keep an eye out for clumsiness.
Examine how your cat moves around or climbs onto furniture. Are they bumping into the couch or struggling to climb or jump onto it? Take note if your cat walks into walls or furniture that it was previously able to avoid. Another sign that your cat might be having trouble with their vision is tripping or slipping when going down the stairs, or avoiding climbing down the stairs entirely. Also, if your cat has difficulty finding familiar things, such as their food and water dishes, this is another sign they may be having issues with their vision.
2. Pay attention to your cat's gait.
Observe how your cat walks. Are they crouching closer to the ground? Your cat might be navigating using its nose and whiskers. This is one reason why a cat's whiskers should not be clipped.
3. Is your cat vocalizing more than normal?
When cats can't see well or are blind, they tend to make more noise to express their unhappiness. You may also notice that your cat is acting more nervous or fearful as it adjusts to its blindness.
4. Determine whether your cat is being more clingy than normal.
Keep an eye out for signals that your cat is less confident than normal. Take notice, for example, of whether your cat is acting more clingy than normal or is spending more time at your side. Also, keep an eye on whether your cat sleeps more or walks about less than normal. Here are a few other reasons your cat is being clingy.
Noting Changes to the Eyes
1. Look at your cat's pupils.
If you suspect your cat is blind or is going blind, examine its pupils. Do they stay the same size in both bright and low light conditions? Are they different sizes? Both of these are indicators of or precursors to blindness. Keep an eye out for your cat squinting or seeming to not notice variations in light.
2. Examine the color of your cat's eyes.
One of the changes you may notice is a shift in eye color. In addition, watch for increased redness in your cat's eyes. Look at the tissue surrounding your cat's eyes, is there excessive redness? Don't be concerned if this is a lighter pink since this is common. Alternatively, you may notice that your cat's eyes appear milkier, cloudier, or whiter. If your cat's eye lenses are opaque, this might indicate cataracts.
3. Test your cat's reflexes.
Move your fingertip toward your cat's eye without touching the cornea. When you move your fingertip closer to a sighted cat, they will flinch or blink, but a blind cat will not react. Avoid getting too near to your cat's whiskers so they don't notice your finger approaching their face.
4. Drop a ball of yarn in front of your cat.
Take note of whether your cat follows the ball with their eyes. The majority of sighted cats will watch the ball drop. A blind cat will be completely unaware when the ball passes in front of them. Again, avoid dropping the ball too close to your cat's whiskers so they do not detect you.
5. Check for glaucoma by measuring the size of the eyes.
Take your cat to the vet if one eye appears to be bigger than the other. This can be an indication of glaucoma. While this does not necessarily imply that your cat is blind, uncontrolled glaucoma can result in blindness. Cloudiness may arise in one or both eyes.
Taking Care of Your Blind Cat
1. Scent marking
It may be beneficial to "scent" significant items with strong pheromones to help your cat locate the item. Essential oils should not be used to mark items; they are highly irritating to a cat's lungs and many are harmful.
2. Guide your cat with your voice.
As your pet's vision diminishes, his or her personality and behavior may change. Some pets become more reliant on their owners and become "clingy"—basically, they will consider their humans their guide, standing next to them, and following them around. Talk to your cat as you enter or exit a room to help them keep track of your movements.
3. Tie a bell to the other animals in the home.
In a multi-pet household, your other cat or dog may act as a guide for your blind pet. Attach a bell to the collar of your other pet animal to help your blind pet locate them.
4. Keep their home the same
Don't make any drastic changes to the arrangement of your home. Your blind pet will eventually learn to navigate around your furniture, but changing the layout will confuse them, and force them to re-learn their routes.
If you need to change the layout of your space, walk your cat through the new layout multiple times to help them learn the new paths they should take. It can also help to play the radio where they sleep; the sound will help them orient themselves and 'map' the house.
5. Keep their food and water dishes together.
Moving their food and water dishes to a different location may confuse your pet. The same is true for litter trays. Keep these items in the same place. This will help prevent accidents and help make sure your pet can find their food.
"8 Ways to Help a Blind Cat..." The Spruce Pets, https://www.thesprucepets.com/how-to-help-a-blind-cat-553892, June 17, 2020.
"Blindness in Cats," People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/symptoms/blindness-in-cats, Jan. 2021.