Blind and visually impaired cats are often seen as unadoptable. They may look strange or they may be seen as too much of a burden — and why "waste" valuable cage space that could be used for a cat who’s more likely to find a home? They and other special-needs cats are often the first to be put to death at open-admission shelters for that very reason.
But the tides are turning. Gwen Cooper’s bestselling memoir, Homer’s Odyssey, captured the hearts of cat lovers all over the world, and organizations like Blind Cat Rescue & Sanctuary have done great work in raising awareness about just how wonderful, and how "normal," sightless felines are.
That said, there are some special considerations involved in taking care of a blind cat. Here are some tips you can use if your cat is losing his vision or if you’re thinking about bringing a blind kitty into your family.
Cats who can’t see still have the use of their other senses. They can perceive the world through hearing, smell, taste and touch, so take advantage of those other senses to help your blind kitty find her way around.
It’s said that you should never rearrange your home if you live with a blind cat. But according to Blind Cat Rescue & Sanctuary, that’s not true: Blind cats can figure out the new locations of items, even if they do need a little extra time to reorient themselves. Keep the important stuff like litter boxes and food dishes in the same places, though.
Since blind kitties orient by scent and touch, if you need to pick your cat up and carry her to another room, place her near a litter box, her food dishes, her bed or a place where the floor textures change.
Even though blind cats can’t see, they love to play and hunt just as much as any other cat. There are lots of toys available to stimulate a cat’s hearing and sense of smell. Crinkly toys and catnip-stuffed kickers are a big hit with blind cats. Interactive toys can be moved and manipulated to make noise, allowing a blind cat to track his "prey" with his ears.
Blind cats can be more easily startled than others, particularly if they also happen to be losing their hearing. Be sure to let your blind cat know you’re coming, and don’t sweep her up off the floor without an introductory "hello" and some gentle petting.
Cats often react to weakness by hiding that weakness, perhaps by becoming more standoffish or aggressive. Others may become more dependent or clingy. However your cat reacts to his changing vision, be kind and compassionate and imagine how you’d feel if you were going through the same thing. Also, talk to your cat as you’re coming or going in order to reassure him that you’re nearby.
Even though blind cats navigate their indoor world perfectly well, there’s no point in exposing them to the risks of outdoor life. However, an outdoor enclosure or a walk on a leash, if your blind kitty is so inclined, could be a wonderful boost to her quality of life.
Do you have a blind cat? Do you have any other tips for making a blind cat’s life easier? Please share your suggestions and stories about your life with a blind kitty in the comments.
Read about some blind cats on Catster:
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.