We have had the opportunity to learn about living with a blind pet. Due to age and related health issues my mom’s cat, Jack has recently gone blind. We are happy to report that no one told Jack he wasn’t supposed to lose his eyesight. He is getting around his familiar home very well. He has figured out how to follow mom’s voice and use the foot rest on the recliner as a marker to jump on her lap for some snuggle time.
Although their vision is important, a cat’s senses of smell and hearing are much more developed than ours. Sense of smell is one of the ways in which cats interact with their environment. Cats have 19 million odor-sensitive cells in their noses compared to about 5 million in ours. In addition, cats are equipped with glands that secrete pheromones, which are identifying scents and help them find their way around the house. They leave their scent marks as they rub their cheeks against things.
A cat’s sense of hearing is amazing. They can distinguish the tone or pitch of sounds better than we can and their ability to locate the source of a sound is highly advanced. Blind cats and dogs rely on their memory to help them navigate. It is important to keep things in the same place at all times. Don’t re-arrange your furniture. Keep the normal path clear and don’t leave things lying around that your pet can “bump” into. Maintaining consistent areas for eating, drinking and the litter box are especially important. Carrying your blind pet from one place to another can confuse them. If they walk from area to area they remain more oriented. If they seem lost guide them gently with words. Talk to your pet and use noise to awaken them from sleeping, rather than touch.
We have found that Jack will startle when touched if not talked to first. Cats may scratch or even bite when startled. Because the senses of smell and hearing are important to cats their behavior may return to almost normal once they adjust to their blindness. For pets with a sudden onset of blindness, it may take several weeks to adjust. Pets that lose their vision over time have a chance to adapt as their vision decreases. It is amazing how well pets deal with their blindness.