If your elderly kitty has been bumping into things and looks a bit confused, he may be experiencing partial or total blindness. Just like people, our feline friends begin to slow down, if not suffer from health problems, as they grow older. Many issues in old age can result in vision loss.
As kitties age, they become more susceptible to illnesses such as high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes mellitus, cataracts, glaucoma and eye infections, all of which can cause blindness, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. While sometimes vision loss comes on suddenly, many times a gradual progression of these illnesses slowly reduces your kitty's vision over time. Some breeds, such as the Abyssinian, Siamese and Persian breeds, may suffer from an inherited genetic condition known as progressive retinal atrophy, which eventually results in blindness.
Symptoms to Watch for
If your kitty is losing his sight, you might notice he seems to be spending a lot of time sleeping, even more than usual for an elderly feline. Because he's having trouble seeing, he'll be reluctant to move around more than he has to. He may also have trouble jumping, misjudging distances and bumping into furniture, walls and other things around your home, according to the ASPCA. When you approach your friend, he may appear frightened or startled by your presence. He may have frequent bathroom accidents because he can no longer see his litter box; he might not come running for meals so often for the same reason. Conditions like cataracts may result in cloudy lenses, which you may be able to see by looking at his eyes. Severe cataracts will appear cloudy or milky, possibly with a gray-blue tint.
Visiting the Vet
If you suspect your elderly kitty is suffering from any sort of vision loss, get him examined by a vet. She'll perform a physical exam of your little one's eyes and will likely perform tests, including a blood test, to check for any underlying illness that could be causing your kitty's blindness. With treatment, some conditions like diabetes, eye infections or high blood pressure can be resolved, restoring your geriatric little friend's sight in some cases. Other cases may be more complicated, such as when your kitty's retina has become detached or damaged, and the sight loss may be permanent. There is no cure for blindness caused by progressive retinal atrophy. Kitties with cataracts may require surgery to regain their sight. Your vet may refer you to an veterinary ophthalmologist, who can further examine your kitty and perform surgery on his eyes.
Caring for Blind Seniors
If your kitty's blindness is a permanent condition, you'll need to make some adjustments to your home to account for his lack of sight. Cordon off stairs or other potentially dangerous places with a baby or pet barrier. Keep your kitty's food, water and litter box within a short distance of your furry friend's favorite napping spot. Install night lights around your home to help older kitties deal with partial sight loss. Don't rearrange furniture or leave clutter in your kitty's path. Keep your elderly buddy indoors; he can't see well if at all, and he's more susceptible to injury and disease outdoors because of his age. Before interacting with your little one, announce your presence to him by saying his name calmly as you approach him -- you want to warn him of your presence, not scare him.
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.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Blindness
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Loving Care for Older Cats
- Purina: Coping With Blindness
- VetInfo: Causes of Sudden Blindness in Cats
- PetPlace.com: Blindness in Cats
- Feline Advisory Bureau: Mosschops -- A Case of Sudden Onset Blindness
- VetInfo: Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Cats
- PetPlace.com: Cataracts in Cats
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.