Tale of a blind cat – Part 2
Having two blind cats of my own, differently abled pets have my soft spot. Yes it takes some getting used to – especially when you have had fully abled pets your whole life, but it certainly isn’t a train smash.
After a period of getting to know one another it’s just like living with a fully abled pet… only better.
It’s not at all uncommon for pets, particularly older ones, to suffer vision loss, like my old boy Kitt, or to be blinded through an injury like the “Princhipessa” Mimmo.
Normal cat vision is close to humans, or perhaps just a little less. Pets have more problems focusing on near objects than people do though, which is why Kitty may have trouble seeing the last few kibbles in the food bowl.
Although their vision is important to them, cats’ senses of smell and hearing are much more developed than ours. Your cat’s sense of smell is superior; it is one of the ways in which kitty interacts with her environment. Cat’s nostrils are working constantly.
Now here’s a really cool fact… A cat’s nose is small and neat, but hidden behind it is a maze of bones and organs. Cats have 19 million odour-sensitive cells in their noses compared to 200 million in dogs and about 5 million in humans.
In addition, cats are equipped with glands that secrete pheromones, which are identifying scents and will help her find her way around the house. These glands are found on your cat’s cheeks, on her lower legs, and under her tail. She deposits her scent marks as she walks and when she rubs her cheeks against something. I first heard about this from watching “My cat from hell” on Animal Planet. Jackson explains that if you rub your cat on the face, activating these hormones gives kitty a sense of affection. Which also explains face bumps.
A cat’s sense of hearing is amazing. Cats can hear high frequency sounds that we cannot. They can also distinguish the tone or pitch of sounds better than we can. *that is why they sing better for their supper – laughs*. Their ability to locate the source of a sound is highly advanced. From metres away, a cat can distinguish between sound sources only seven centimetres apart. They can also hear sounds at great distances – four or five times further away than humans. Which explains why Bart gave Melanie the run around. and why they need to be protected from fireworks
It’s not cruel to allow your pet to function as a blind pet. In fact, blind pets are not nearly as concerned about their disability as owners. When your pet becomes blind, he’ll just rely on his sense of smell and hearing. In many cases, vision loss is gradual, and pets adjust so successfully that owners are surprised to discover that their ageing cat has become blind. Kitt is definitely more wobbly since he went blind in his one eye, although he still jumps and acts pretty much normal.
On the subject of cruelty, whiskers are used by cats to help them feel around in narrow spaces, especially at night time. Therefore a cat’s whiskers should NEVER be trimmed; this is especially true with a blind cat. If their whiskers fit through an opening it is likely that their entire body will too, so if their whiskers are trimmed their sense of their own body dimension goes out of synch.
Here are a few tips to help a newly blind or newly adopted blind pet adjust –
- It may be helpful to “scent” important objects for the cat with strong odours such as peppermint to help his nose “see” what he’s looking for. Provide toys which make a noise or catnip toys which your cat can smell.
- Don’t move furniture around
Food bowls etc.
Feed your cat at the same time every day.
If you do move something, move it back immediately.
Keep the toilet lid closed
Keep the house clutter free
This is so kitty can easily manoeuvre around your home and will always know where her belongings are.
- Avoid startling your cat with sudden noises. If there is a sudden noise, such as a pot being dropped, gently assure your cat. Blind pets memorise and “mind-map” the house, and moving things around will confuse him. It’s not at all unusual for a blind cat, for instance, to still insist on making floor-to-counter leaps with confidence as long as her memory remains fresh and accurate.
- It is also important to safeguard danger zones, particularly if unavoidable changes must be made. For example, pad the sharp edges of furniture with bubble wrap until your cat learns to avoid the danger. Block off steep stairways with baby gates to prevent falls. Block off access to windows & balconies which have a long drop to the ground.
- Your pet’s personality and behavior may change a bit as vision fades. Some pets become more dependent on their owners, and act “clingy”—basically they treat you as a guide, stand very close, and follow you around. Get in the habit of speaking to your cat when you enter or leave a room to help her keep track of your whereabouts.
- In multiple pet homes, another cat or dog may serve as a guide for the blind pet. Help your blind pet by attaching a bell or other noise maker to the other animal’s collar. When I visit the farmers market once a week, the “egg lady” has two little Chihuahua’s. One of these boys is blind. When the fully abled boy barks, the blind boy doesn’t know when to stop barking. They are very attached to each other and I think they in fact guide each other.
- To avoid tripping over the pet, like Kitt that’s always underfoot, provide a safe, comfy bed in each room. Very social cats may become standoffish once vision fades. They’ll want to avoid contact with house guests to avoid being stepped on.
- Blind pets also startle more easily, so always speak to your cat before petting him to avoid being accidentally nipped or swatted in reflex. We adopted Mimmo shortly after her injury and if you approach her from her blind side, the possibility of you being swatted is high.
- Most importantly: Make sure your cat has permanent identification. If your blind cat does accidentally end up outside, it will be harder for him to find his way home. Identification will therefore increase his chances of being reunited with you. Provide your cat with a collar & ID tag which states that your cat is blind.
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