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Advice from Vet Charity PDSA

A cat losing their sight can be traumatic, both for them and their owners. However, with some adaptation, blind cats can often continue to lead normal, happy lives.

PDSA Vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan said: “Conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma can lead to sight-loss in pets, but these illnesses usually affect older cats. In younger animals, sight-loss might be the result of an injury. Luckily, cats have an extremely well-developed sense of smell and hearing which they use to help compensate for blindness.”

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This is Flash, a blind cat I used to look after (he has sadly passed away now). He was hit by a car and lost his sight and his jaw was damaged too. This meant he needed to be hand-fed. Flash used to be a street cat but had to adapt to being blind, depending on people feeding him and living with people.

Owners concerned about their cat’s vision should speak to their vet. In some cases pets can develop eye conditions if they’re suffering from other diseases, such as cataracts, which can occur in patients suffering from diabetes. Other diseases, such as glaucoma, can be extremely painful and require immediate treatment.

The progression of certain conditions could also be slowed with treatment, so early diagnosis and treatment is very important.

Olivia added: “Your vet will check your cat’s eyes and general health to see whether there is an underlying condition affecting their sight. If a medical condition is diagnosed, they will discuss treatment options and provide guidance and support.”

How cats react to sight-loss depends on several factors. If they learn new skills quickly, then they will often adjust more easily to any impact on their vision. Older cats may already have a reduced sense of hearing or smell, so they may find it harder to adapt, though because their loss of sight is usually more gradual they often learn to compensate well.

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Flash adapted to his new life very well. He loved playing chasing games – though his carers had to be careful about making sure his environment was safe! He also enjoyed going outside and hearing the birds, sniffing interesting scents, walking around in the grass and experiencing the sunshine, wind and fresh air.

Olivia added: “Confident cats may adapt better than more anxious ones, but the amount of support an owner provides is also a big factor in helping pets adjust to sight loss.”

There are several steps owners can take to care for a cat suffering from impaired vision:

  • It’s important to help your cat learn their environment and surroundings, so keep furniture in the same place. It’s worth assessing your home and garden to make sure there are no sharp edges or items your dog could injure themselves on. Access to hazards such as fireplaces, balconies and open staircases should be blocked off and never leave anything on the floor that they could trip over.
  • Keep their bed, food and water bowls in the same place to avoid confusion. This will help your cat feel more confident in the house.
  • When allowing them outside, make sure they’re in a secure area.
  • Talk to them regularly as they will find your presence reassuring.

Olivia said: “Once they’ve adapted to the loss of vision, many pets lead normal active lives.