Blindness in White Cats

"He never responds to my barks, but I love him anyway."
i Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images

Many people think white cats, which make up about 5 percent of the cat population, are prone to blindness. The truth is that white cats are no more likely to be blind than the rest of the cat population. Certain white cats have a tendency to be deaf, though.

The Confusion

People might think white cats are more prone to blindness because hereditary deafness is common in white cats. Folks might be mistaking deafness for blindness. A white cat with blue eyes is more likely to be deaf. About half of all white cats have one or two blue eyes. The rest of the white cats typically have orange or green eyes, and they are usually neither deaf or blind.

The Breakdown

About 17 percent to 22 percent of white cats who have eye colors other than blue are born deaf. About 40 percent of white cats with one blue eye are born deaf, and about 65 percent to 85 percent of white cats with both eyes blue are born deaf. What’s interesting is that white cats who are deaf in only one ear usually have only one blue eye, and the deaf ear is on the same side as the blue eye.

Deafness in Cats

If you have a white cat, especially a blue-eyed one, determine whether he shows signs of being deaf. Signs your cat might be deaf could be that he doesn't respond when you speak unless you're facing him or he doesn't realize you're around until you touch him. Deaf cats often walk with an unbalanced gait. Your deaf cat can still make a wonderful pet, but you need to take precautions. Don’t let your cat go outside, because he won’t be able to hear imminent danger approaching. Gently touch him whenever you enter or leave the room he's in so he’ll know you're there. You can get his attention by stomping on the floor -- he should be able to feel the vibrations -- or by throwing a ball or toy mouse in his direction. A flashlight is invaluable night and day for making a deaf cat aware of your proximity.

Blindness in Cats

White cats can be blind at birth, just as any cat can be. Cats of any color can also become blind from illness, injury or old age. A blind cat might bump into walls or furniture, be easily startled, have cloudy or discolored eyes or have large pupils that don’t respond to light. A blind cat can make a wonderful pet and should adapt well by using his other senses. Help him out by keeping your home clutter-free, by keeping the furniture in the same places and by blocking off the stairs. Always keep his food bowl, water bowl and litter box in the same place. Say something to your blind cat before you touch him or pick him up. Don’t let him outside because he won’t be able to defend himself. A blind and deaf cat is at a worse disadvantage; discuss your options with a trusted vet.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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