A blind cat or a visually-impaired cat is often seen as unadoptable. Blind cats 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 cat into your family.
1. Use a blind cat’s other senses to orient her to her home
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 cat find her way around.
2. You can move your furniture if you have a blind cat
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: A blind cat 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.
3. If you pick up a blind cat and move her, place her somewhere she can orient herself
Since blind kitties orient by scent and touch, if you need to pick your blind 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.
4. Noisy toys are best for blind cats
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. Blind cats love crinkly toys and catnip-stuffed kickers. Interactive toys can be moved and manipulated to make noise, allowing a blind cat to track his “prey” with his ears.
5. Let your cat know you’re coming
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.
6. If your cat is losing his vision, be patient with him
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.
7. Don’t let your blind cat outdoors unsupervised
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.
Tell us: 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 cat in the comments.
Thumbnail: Photography by Warapatr_s/Thinkstock.com.
This piece was originally published in 2014.
About the author
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.
27 thoughts on “7 Tips for Living With a Blind Cat”
I would recommend finding a rescue
Hi there. If my outdoor cat got suddenly blind due to unknown reason that I don’t know of, can he survive outdoors still? My family will not allow indoor cats.
Try a product called Feliway. There are different formulas for different problems. In expensive and works very well.
my cat lost both eyes through an ulcer in her head 4 years ago she is 12 next month and goes in the garden with me just like my dad who went blind they can adjust but make sure their food smells so they can go to it when they want
My senior cat, Dickens, recently became blind due to complications of the herpes virus. He has other health issues as well but he is very precious to me and I would like to make his life as easy as possible for as long as possible. Any suggestions as to how I can help him within a safe indoors environment would be very much appreciated.
So sorry to hear that you are and your cat are experiencing this! In addition to this article, you may want to check these pieces out:
I’ve looked at a lot of articles and still have questions. My best buddy has always been afraid of strangers and hides under the bed whenever someone comes over. He is super loving to me but recently went blind at 15 years old. He seems frantic so I’ve confined him to the restroom with food water and litter. He was doing his business in other rooms which is just not like him I leave the door open so he can come out when he wishes but he has made a mess in the room. The vet checked him out thoroughly and other than performing an mri, ruled out any illnesses. I think he is simply terrified now and need some ideas to comfort him
I have another cat who was patient in the beginning but is getting cranky with his brother.
He stuffs his head anywhere he can “hide” but that’s not safe. How do I help him adjust please? He doesn’t seem to relate t9 me although he lets me hold and groom him m
buy smelly treats put them in same place don’t follow him and give him them and get him a little bell and collar in case he gets stuck behind furniture when you are out
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Have you tried Music for Cats?
My one year old kitten is now blind and has some brain damage, he cannot jump up at all and falls over when he sits very upright. I found the advice on this website very helpful since I have never had a blind cat before. The shock of shocks was that the vet wanted to euthanize him even though he has a reasonably normal life. He lives with 9 other feline brothers and sisters of various ages and two dogs, who clean him and lead him around the garden (don’t worry my garden is walled on all sides and he cannot even jump on the bed) so he plays outside and comes inside to sleep and eat and be pampered and loved. The biggest challenge is getting him to drink water – he can’t seem to smell it. Thanks for all the tips. In Italian a woman who cares for cats, especially strays is called GATARA. If there was a personal noun for someone who rescues anything living, that would describe me.
You could try a water fountain. Your sightless kitty could then hear the trickle of the water.
My cat is 16 he has gone blind over the last year, so I’ve worked to adapt him to the environment. Picking him up and dropping him from 1 foot, 2 foot, and 3 foot heights with praise and comments has caused him to feel more confident getting on and off my high bed, my lap, and the chair. Taking the time to pick him up and put him in new for his ‘head’ areas, means he has started exploring the spaces again. Because he has lived here for years he still goes outside anytime with an open yard. BUT I need to take care if it’s raining OR windy to make sure he’s inside so he doesn’t get lost. Additionally the inside living means he uses the litter box more often. My trouble with him is he never enjoyed toys, he loved hunting, so I’m trying to locate a toy that he will like like he enjoyed hunting. I’ve had to move his treat dish, because of a new refrigerator, so I practice patience with the dish relocation, and by putting the food containers in another dish can rattle those to make noise. He’s starting to familiarize himself with the new location, it’s been 3 months, but other than his sight most else has remained the same.
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I just want to second the suggestion of considering meds for Bubby. I have a cat that loved to pee on fabric, especially the bed, upholstered furniture and rugs. He once even peed on my pillow while my head was on it! I tried every imaginable natural remedy, tried multiple litter boxes of different types, with every different kind of litter, placement, etc. I lived this way for two years and was at my wit’s end. A vet finally suggested generic Prozac, and he immediately stopped peeing outside the box. He’s now been on it for 10 years, which definitely isn’t ideal – but I’ve tried weaning him off it many times, and each time he reverts to peeing outside the box. Different drugs work on different kitties – if Prozac doesn’t work, there’s Buspar, and others, so keep trying! I understand the reluctance to “drug” our cats, but sometimes there’s no alternative…
my 17 year old has gone blind i discovered to help her navigate around the house i wrapped her litter box and food dishes in christmas lights and put night lights around the house also it has helped her tremendoulsy
I recently adopted a bonded pair of kittens, one of whom has a pretty severe visual impairment, although most of the time, it’s hard to tell. My mostly blind boy is Ianto, and his seeing eye kitten is Siobhan. She keeps him adventurous and playful, and he’s more comfortable in any situation if she’s close by. When I adopted them, I got the huge variety pack of toys, just trying to figure out what they like. In typical kitten fashion, Siobhan will play with anything, but my hair ties are better than anything else. However, Ianto went insane for crinkle balls. He bats these things all over the place, tracking by sound. When it gets stuck in a crevice and he can’t find it, Siobhan sees, and gets it back out for him. He hears it, picks it up in his mouth, and growls at her for daring to try and steal his toy. He’s a well adjusted, happy kitten (he purred through his booster shots at the vet yesterday). He does take a little longer to feel comfortable in a new place, and prefers a small, enclosed space, until he gets used to the smell and his curiosity kicks in.
Adorable, yes. But, now I’m looking for advice. The vet thinks there is a 50/50 chance of restoring his Vision. The impairment comes from a layer of tissue attached by ligaments to his corneas (caused by an infection just after he was born). Has anyone else had this situation? Part of me is super excited that this might be possible – what pet owner wouldn’t do everything possible for a fur baby to see again? However, I also worry. Putting a kitten through anesthesia and surgery. It seems cruel if it doesn’t work. If it does, it could be traumatic to change the entire way he interacts with his world, although I know he will adjust (he is currently 13 weeks old and quite resilient). I guess I’m hoping someone will share experience so I have some idea what to expect and how to help him through. Or, more likely, help Siobhan to help him.
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Sorry I meant to say Best friend!!!!
I have a blind kitten named Gorge who is blind with no eyes! Yet, he is my best friend????
I found a kitten with an empty eye socket and the other glazed over. He was living under a trailer with 10 other cats, so since I figured he had little chance, I scooped him up. He will be 10 this August and is the sweetest, smartest, and most fun animal I’ve ever known. I call him Diego (el ciego). Blind cats are a blessing. – Billy
Blind cats are definitely a blessing…I just adopted mine a few days ago…he has been with us for 2 weeks he came after surgery of eye removal…he gets his stitches out tomorrow…him and my cat have a lot of fun together but we have tried to get them to take it easy so the surgical areas can heal
My husband and I have two Bengals. Our beautiful TICA Champion Riddick was diagnosed with PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) at 3 years. He became entirely blind by 4 years. We should have named him Daredevil, he is so amazing, people do not believe he is blind when we tell him. All the suggestions you have listed are things we have done. Riddick uses his ears, nose and whiskers to make up for his eye sight. We have also sprayed some favorite toys with catnip spray so he can easily find them. He can track and hunt (and found out that toads are NOT tasty). He is very well trained to come on command when called which is so important with any pet but especially when blind. We have barriers in the yard, which is fenced – so he knows the perimeter and always has an anchor point. We also help him size up distances for jumps (he is a cat, he is not going to not want to jump up on things). Hardest training was for our younger Bengal to learn that play had to be toned down since his brother could not see and that picking on him was not tolerated.
The blind cat my mom and I rescued from a parking lot, Bubby, has me crying and my mom feeling like strangling him. Having a blind cat is no big deal for us, we end up with a lot of broken cats…too many at the moment, as my parents recently divorced and we need to move out so the house can be sold- otherwise it won’t be fair to my father, (I’m dripping with sarcasm and gagging on this, as he and I have NEVER gotten along. He’s quite mean to me, says he misses the cats, but knows we don’t have the funds to move.). Anyway, Bubby was dumped in a parking lot along route 30, so quite potentially life-threatening. We guessed he was 1 1/2 to 2 years old, he was thin, sickly, and not neutered. As I know my shelter VERY well, I knew he’d be euthanized and probably would still be, immediately. We got him healthy, shots, neutered- and after a short time of the other cats playing pinball with him, everyone settled down and decided to get along as well as they will ever get along. We have been rescuing, fostering, pet-sitting, helping out with various colonies, and TNR- ing for about 21 years. One thing we have little skill with is cats spraying. Odd, or just extremely lucky? He isn’t the first intact male we’ve rescued and I prefer males. In my experience, they are more even tempered, affectionate, and readily bond faster to other cats, especially younger cats and other males. Females are crazy, running the gamut from unsocial to the psychotic tendencies of the calico. That being said, I have one calico and one small, quite round little black girl that lost a eye due to a hoarding situation. Back to the problem at hand…ah yes, Bubby. Being blind, we were quite surprised that he never did spray, albeit one time in the cage we had him in. That all changed when my dear father retired, (early, because he hated working and deserved to…total truth- word for word…more gagging.). He was a truck driver, (the one thing he really knew how to do..believe it or not- no sarcasm.). Bubby knew he was here at odd times and for odd amounts of time. I believe he held in there for as long as possible, after that last time my father was home, stressing in not-so-much secret, he circles, to the point and speed of all but hopping from one foot to another. Upon seeing this, my dad would yell at him. I have had to learn to ignore these small things, (that to the cats are not small, I know), the more I tried to bring up anything that I or the cats didn’t necessarily appreciate, the more he did it… NO LIE, he is a child and has acted like one most of his life. I felt stuck, the cats felt stuck, my mom felt stuck. After moving me back home due to my own health issues, (and my going-down-in-flames relationship), I think, (after a while), I gave her the support, emotionally and financially to finally bring out in the open what she has wanted to do for the last 20 years. The big D, he was devastated, he told the family, the night before, our relationship was perfect, we were so happy, then just overnight! Yes, he is that stupid. I really think Bubby was like, “ok, I can do this, I’ll just practically live outside, (6 foot fenced yard with coyote rollers, sort-of, at the top), he’ll eventually leave…”. Poor guy didn’t start spraying for a couple months. The problem had decided to move out, (when his other daughter bought him a mobile home), it took him forever to, “get all his stuff”, run out of questions, threaten us, spy on us- which he still does, make sure that’s what mom really wanted- it was my fault for awhile, and concede to the point that he has, that yeah, this is happening. Every time he stopped by, called, or, “visited one of his good friends on this street”, we would be sick and the cats would go into hiding. Now the occasional stop, (which is still to many for mom and my liking), doesn’t seem to effect most of the cats much at all, they ignore his presence, unless he’s yelling or talking loud, at which times we walk outside and don’t grant him access to “his house”. But the damage seems to be done with Bubby and continued until we put him back in his cage 7 weeks ago, (oh, he still sprays in the cage, he has his own shower curtain, it’s, frankly, disgusting. I call him a hog almost daily and ask what has happened to your self-esteem, oh right- my dad.). I don’t believe a animal should be euthanized for something they may do naturally, but nor can I justify him doing hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of damage to a house that isn’t mine. I have tried the Feliway spray and diffuser, (he sprayed that more than once), Sentry calming collar and spray, Nature’s Miracle calming spray and No More Spraying, (haha), Bach’s Rescue Remedy, GNC Ultra Mega Calming Formula, and Nature’s Promise products. I feel like I’m missing something, but it is almost midnight, so that’s to be expected. I can’t seem to get my therapist to see him…I haven’t been able to make myself talk to a rescue or shelter, (besides the obvious, hey any new ideas about cats that spray), I’m so afraid they will just hear, “great, someone else that wants to throw their cat away when the going gets tough”, or that I’m just lying. The time I put it at our local shelter has, unfortunately, left me feeling rather jaded, the excuses are quintessentially insincere, ironic and cliche, no? I know there’s not much of a chance of this getting read or replied to, but it’s ok, I’m use to it. I know I talk too much, I’ve been told a million times, but if someone told me they had a cat that sprayed, I would have a million questions before I could give one suggestion. But, I may just be crazy…
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
(Sorry, also a huge Hamilton fan, haven’t seen it yet though :( .
Dr. Eeky is in
I actually did take the time to read your whole comment, and as a person who was raised in a similar environment, I feel great compassion for what your whole family, including Bubby, had to go through. I do have one suggestion: Have you talked to your vet about anti-anxiety medications? My Tara had an inappropriate urination problem, and I tried most of the things you tried. Finally, in desperation, I talked to the vet and I said “let’s do all the things–tests, etc.–just to make sure there’s not a medical issue. It turned out that she did have a UTI, but the other solution we came to was to give her a prescription of alprazolam (Xanax), which has worked wonders not just to stop the inappropriate elimination, but to bring her out of her shell, so to speak, and allow her to be a part of the family. Today she sits on my chest when I’m watching TV and she doesn’t pee anywhere but the litter box–and hasn’t since the UTI was cleared up and the alprazolam went on board. I know the alprazolam makes a difference because I’ve tried to wean her off it and she hides and pees where she shouldn’t once the stuff gets out of her system. Best of luck to you and your whole family.
Whew, I read your comment and I remember having one cat that sprayed a lot but I think we had gotten to the point where it didn’t much matter, it’s just stuff he’s spraying and you can always put some plastic around the things that are important to keep clean. I just think it’s not a good idea to start putting our pets on meds for everything, look what meds are doing to people. I have recently inherited my mom’s cat Cali and Cali is pretty much blind and deaf, so is my mom. So anyway, I won’t have her put down just because her problems causes a little disruption in my life, like having to let her know whenever I’m around and having to lead her to the food bowl and then stand over her because she’s scared to death that my cat, Trooper, is going to sneak up on her. I don’t know how I would feel in Cali’s situation but if I thought putting her down was an option then I would have done that right from the get go. I try to remember that they don’t think like humans and like you said you’ve had many troubled cats so then you know what I mean. I feel bad for my Cali when she bumps into things but that just might be me one of these days, I hope a family of cats will rescue me, lol….