Have you fallen in love with a purring one-eyed cat at the local shelter? Maybe you're wondering whether you'll need to provide special care if you bring this fluffy feline friend home. Luckily, a cat with one healthy eye generally can adapt well, and has few special care needs.
Blindness in Cats
If Fluffy is blind in one eye, rather than actually missing an eye, the vision loss may have occurred suddenly because of an infection or injury, or gradually as Fluffy aged. Vision loss in cats can have widely varied causes, including hypertension, glaucoma, parasitic damage, tumors and cataract. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that can cause blindness in one or both of a cat's eyes. Some genetic disorders, such as retinal atrophy, can cause gradual vision loss. It's important to consult your veterinarian about the causes and future of Fluffy's vision loss.
Signs of Recent Vision Loss
If Fluffy's vision loss happened over time, she's probably well-adapted to it. If it was recent and sudden, the signs are probably obvious. The ASPCA points out some physical and behavioral clues to sudden, recent or ongoing vision failure. Among them are foggy, discolored, watery, or swollen eyes; dilated pupils; rubbing of the eyes; easily startled behaviors; misjudgment of distances to objects such as furniture and walls; disorientation; general clumsiness, and unwillingness to move around.
It's important to learn as much health history as possible when you adopt any pet. Be sure to ask the adoption counselors why Fluffy was surrendered to the shelter. A health history should give you information about the causes of her eye or vision loss, and an evaluation of her current health.
Most cats who have lost an eye will have had surgery to close the eye socket and prevent infection. If Fluffy's eye is missing and the opening is not closed, take her to your veterinarian for an evaluation. Discuss infection risks and whether the opening should be closed. It's important to keep the area clean and infection-free.
If Fluffy has no residual problems from her loss of vision in one eye, you should have few problems caring for her. Because she has just one useful eye, pay special attention to the health of that eye. Check the eye and the area around it daily to make sure it's free of irritation or discharge. If Fluffy's vision loss is the result of an ongoing underlying condition such as a tumor or genetic disorder, it's important to provide appropriate followup care. This can range from applying prescribed eye drops, to regular eye checkups at the vet. Depending on the underlying cause, it may even be that Fluffy's blindness can be reversed. For example, cataract can be removed with surgery.
Depth Perception Loss
Cats normally have better depth perception than people have, but because Fluffy has lost the use of one eye, she has no depth perception. She can't judge distances or heights very well. This is dangerous for a kitty who lives on a busy street or who naturally wants to jump onto or off of high places. For her safety, it's best to never allow your one-eyed kitty to go outdoors. Keep her food and toys on the floor, so she won't feel the need to jump to a high table or shelf to look for them. Once Fluffy has adapted to your home and your furniture arrangement, avoid moving things around. Do your best to keep toys, boxes, and other items out of Fluffy's way. These small accommodations can go a long way toward helping Fluffy feel comfortable in her home.
If she's otherwise healthy and you keep her safely indoors, you can expect that your one-eyed kitty will live the normal cat lifespan of 13 to 17 years. Just take good care of her remaining eye. Call your veterinarian immediately if you notice any clouding, discoloration, or discharge. Fluffy may have some depth-perception problems, but she has every chance of living a long, healthy, happy life with you as her friend.
Hannah Reid has a Master of Education from Harvard University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in English and psychology from Hamilton College. She has worked with children in grades three through 12, providing academic support in the areas of writing and reading comprehension. Hannah also blogs about her family farm and offers tips on everything from chicken coops to kitten care.