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Cats can become blind through illness or injury, or sometimes with age. Kittens are also occasionally born blind. Adopting a blind cat might sound like quite an undertaking. But it is not as hard as it may seem at first. Cats adapt wonderfully well to any disability, partly because they are so accepting. They are not like people who may constantly lament the way things were; they are more likely to just work out ways of adjusting, using their other senses. However, there are some things you will need to know...
As with people, even a little sight can be helpful. So if you are not sure if your cat is completely blind, try to find out if she can see anything at all. You need to cover each eye in turn, then wave a toy or other article in front of the cat's eye, and see if she can follow it. Do this silently, as she may follow even slight sounds with her ears. If she turns out to have any vision at all, you will be able to treat her fairly normally. But always approach a cat with vision in only one eye from the side where she is able to see youi. And bear in mind that one-eyed cats probably have very poor depth perception, and are likely to have trouble climbing and judging heights. You will need to think carefully before allowing a partially sighted cat to go outside, but if she has reasonable vision, she may be able to cope safely with the outside world. However, an enclosed garden could be better for this type of cat. Completely blind cats should probably be kept indoors, but they may learn to negotiate an enclosed garden if it has no obstacles.
Cats which were born blind or became blind in kittenhood usually manage extremely well. They find their way around using their whiskers and other senses, and know of no other way of being. It may even be hard to believe that they are actually sightless, since they are so well adapted. However, you will probably still need to keep such cats indoors, and try to ensure that the home is safe for them.
Cats which become blind later in life may find things difficult at first. A cat which is going blind due to illness or old age may needs lots of comforting and reassurance. I had a cat who became blind when he was old, and at first he was terrified. I would find him hiding behind the settee, wailing loudly. But he soon adapted, and learned how to cope, and so will any other cat.
Having said the above, there are still a number of things you should do to make life easier for a blind cat. Firstly, try not to move your furniture around too much. Your blind cat is likely to work out where everything is by carefully going around the house. Indeed, when I moved house, my blind cat insisted on exploring the whole house so that he knew where things were. But it is a good idea to show your blind kitty where important items like the food, water, and litter tray are, and not move these around.
Be careful if you have to pick up your blind cat and move her to another location. She will easily become disorientated if you do this. It is better if you can put her somewhere which she can easily recognise, such as near the food dishes, for example.
Try to find toys which make a noise or have a definite smell for your blind cat. She will still like to play, but may not know how to play with some toys. Catnip impregnated toys, crinkly foil balls, and some interactive toys which make a noise are perfect for her. She may also enjoy interacting with other cats in the household, but it could be hard for her as she will not be able to see them coming. Supervision may be a good idea at first, particularly if your cat has recently become blind, or you have a new feline addition to the household. And make sure she can hear you coming too; don't startle her by arriving silently and picking her up.
The usual answer to this question is 'no', as stated above. Blind cats will not be able to see dangers, and could easily fall, be attacked by other animals, or be hit by a car. They are far safer indoors. However, there may be exceptions to this rule. If you have an enclosed garden, you may be able to let your blind cat out safely. You will need to help her explore, and teach her where dangers such as steps and prickly plants are. You will also need to ensure that she can find her way back indoors.
Although letting a blind cat in the great outdoors unsupervised is not generally recommended, I did so with my blind cat for a while. I lived in a very rural area, he was old and didn't go far, and he knew the layout of the garden. My neighbours had instructions to put him by the back door if they found him wandering or looking lost. This worked well for a time – until I moved house. My poor old cat could not cope with a new garden, and I had to keep him in. However, I simply put up low barricades, about three feet high – around an area of the garden. He could have jumped over them easily – but he didn't know that! He enjoyed having his own safe garden in this way until he died at the age of eighteen and a half.
Caring for a blind cat is really not that difficult. But you will need to make some adjustments, and above all use common sense. If you do this, your blind cat should be able to enjoy a long and happy life.
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