Rhymes With Fuchsia

Monday, February 19, 2007

Blind as a... Cat?

Since late last week Ed has been wandering around bumping into things. We weren't quite sure what to make of this. Today we took him to the vet, who thinks he may have detached retinas due to hypertension. She gave us a prescription for some pills that may improve his blood pressure but not his eyesight.

We're faced with a hard decision. He still seems to enjoy eating (but eats very, very little and doesn't drink a whole lot either) and being scratched under the chin. He doesn't look at all happy about not being able to find his way around. He has no idea where the litterbox is.

Have you ever had a blind cat? Can he learn to find his way around? Is it time to let go? I'd appreciate any and all advice.

Update: Thanks, everyone, for all the kind words and great suggestions. Ed has figured out where the food and water are, although it seems sometimes to take him several passes to find them. He's definitely still interested in eating. I had set up a bed for him (just a cardboard flat with a towel in it) on the other side of the kitchen near a heater, but he didn't seem to want to use it. I noticed that he was napping in the middle of the floor very close to the food and water dishes, so I thought he might not want to get too far away from them, and I moved the bed close by. He now uses it when I guide him to it.

Unfortunately, leaving the litterbox where it was wasn't feasible: it was upstairs, and the food and water are downstairs. We've moved the litterbox to the downstairs bathroom and shown Ed where it is; with luck he will find his way to it eventually. He's just been going eight or ten feet from the food and peeing on the floor, fortunately not a whole lot at a time. I've had worse cleanup jobs.

We're hoping that as Ed gets comfortable with his new state he will widen his horizons a bit. For now we are giving him lots of stroking and chin scratches, which he still enjoys, but not picking him up so as not to disorient him. We'll see what we can do about white noise — one thing I didn't mention is that he is just about 20 years old and doesn't hear very well either, but it's worth a try.

All the other cats except Fluffy seem to understand that when he blunders into their space he's not trying to be aggressive, just doesn't know they're there. Fluffy spends most of her time outdoors anyway (her choice), and we try to keep them apart when she's in. She definitely wants that promotion to boss cat, but luckily seems unaware that she could beat Ed up with three paws tied behind her back.

We won't give up until Ed does.


  • Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry to hear about Ed. I'm afraid I haven't any experience with a blind cat though Grandma had a blind dog who did quite well. Hopefully someone else will pipe up with something more useful to say.

    By Blogger Julie, at 6:32 AM  

  • if Ed isn't too old I think you will find he learns to get around fine. I had a cat around 6 years old who went blind over a few days and didn't take him too long to find his way round the house. He was only let out in to the garden as we had it fenced though I didn't want him to get on the road and not know where he was.
    Remember he will want lots of cuddles and he will follow your voice
    amber in scotland

    By Blogger ambermoggie, at 8:49 AM  

  • Poor old Ed. Poor Lucia. If he's not suffering, I'd say, wait and see. But if life seems to be a burden for him, then release him. But, (surely I don't need to say this)don't let him outside any more. The litter box thing - Our whole laundry room is lined with newspapers because Jack can't make it into the litter boxes anymore. Yuck! It's a lot of extra work. My eart goes out to you.

    By Blogger Roxie, at 9:21 AM  

  • I don't have any advice, I just wanted to say I'm so sorry about Ed. He looks like a sweet cat.

    By Blogger Martita, at 9:45 AM  

  • Aw, Lucia, I'm so sorry. I don't know anything about blind cats ... but when it's time to let go, you'll know.

    Poor Ed. Poor you.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 10:27 AM  

  • Oh poor Ed. Blind cats can live quite well, his other sense will start to kick into high gear to make up for the loss of his sight, but my best advice is to not rearrange the furniture.

    By Anonymous Lynne aka Witchypoo, at 1:02 PM  

  • Oh, poor poor Ed.
    I've got no sage advice, except that my experience has been that he'll let you know when it's time. You'll know.

    By Blogger christine, at 1:13 PM  

  • Lucia, I adopted a blind cat from the Humane Society. We don't know how long he'd been blind, but you'd never have guessed his handicap from watching him. He learned the smell of the furniture and how high each seat was. Loved it when I moved furniture. Loved to climb (Go figure) and just bounced when he fell. When I first got him I shut him in the kitchen with his essentials, and once he knew his way around he branched out to other parts of the house. He was a wonderful cat -- just the color of your Ed. If you have questions, I'd be glad to try to answer based on my experience. I'm mharrisATkuDOTedu.

    By Anonymous Martha in Kansas, at 1:32 PM  

  • Aw, Lucia, your poor kitty! I saw your comment at CAP's blog. I've never had that experience with any of my cats but it sounds like Martha in Kansas may be able to give you some advice. If he's not in pain or otherwise unhealthy he might be able to adjust fine.

    By Anonymous Leeny, at 2:40 PM  

  • Sorry to hear about Ed. Can you move his litterbox to where he can find it more easily? We had an old dog (who had a fair amount of sight and sound but still got around)that got repeated vestibular syndrome (though I still think it was something else since it atypically responded to antibiotics). The first time, she couldn't stand at all, so we'd lay her outside to toilet and hand feed her mushy chicken and hand feed her even water. She stayed in a room with linoleum on the floor which helped with the incontinence. But she still had spunk. And got better, more or less. But the last time? She just gave up. Didn't want food. Wouldn't let us pill her. I had to go off to mom's in FLA. dh called, the dog just got much worse over a day or two. She had REALLY given up. He made the appt at the vet. I posted a pic of her recently, Maggie the border collie. Best wishes to you and Ed.

    By Blogger knitnzu, at 5:15 PM  

  • Don't know how old little Ed is, but he may adjust. Try guiding him (let him do the walking) to the box, then back to a comfy spot, to his food, then back. He just be frustrated right now and better in a few days. xoxox

    By Blogger Sweet Stitching Betties, at 6:06 PM  

  • Aww...so sad! I thought that blind cats learn to get around, too. Cats navigate alot by using their whiskers. What does your vet say?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:00 AM  

  • I'm so sorry to hear that :o( However, I do agree that he may learn his way around eventually - and he is probably just frustrated right now. Good luck to both of you...

    By Anonymous JessaLu, at 10:39 AM  

  • Hi, I linked over here from the comments in Laurie's blog to give unsolicited advice. How pleased am I to see you actually asked? :)

    My mother has a cat, Gabby, who has had chronic sinus and upper respiratory infections his entire life. Around 3 or 4 years old, this led to severe eye infections that were obviously causing him a lot of pain and trouble seeing. Because his quality of life was pretty good others, my mother opted to have his eyes removed. The operations were done one at a time, plus he had the time with his eyes in poor shape to adjust, but he adjusted to being blind very quickly.

    He adjusted to finding the litterbox very quickly, although sometimes there are (hysterical, I must admit) troubles if he doesn't notice someone already in there. Again, he did have a lot of time with diminished vision to get used to that. However, if he's not hampered in any other way, I suspect Ed will work his way back around to the litterbox soon. Most kitties lurv their litterboxes :)

    Gabby definitely follows voices, as others have mentioned. When there are lots of strangers in the house he chooses either a familiar person or a calm, quiet stranger and parks himself in their lap (he won't abide being shut away for visitors, he's always been very much a part of the action). He'll even still leap from the floor into my mother's arms, but he won't do that for anyone else anymore.

    One downside my mother has observed is that he used to be very playful and now he seems to get bored. He will try to play with his mousies, but if someone isn't there to play with him he loses them and gets frustrated. If that seems a concern with your cat in the long run, you can try one of those circular tracks with a ball in it. This guy is mildly disgusted by those for some reason, but with a less snobby cat it would seem a good alternative. Also, I keep a jingle ball tied to a doorknob with elastic for my fully sighted but clumsy cat. That might be a good option.

    Gabby has always liked to go outside, and after an adjustment period he still likes to poke around the backyard while someone is outside watching him. Watching him being the key factor, there.

    There are definitely bad spells when we wonder if we are doing the right thing with Gabby (he's still chronically sick with the sinus infections in addition to now being blind). However, I can say without doubt that allowing him the chance to have this extra time, even without his sight, has been the right thing. Because of other complications, I seriously doubt Gabby will live past 8 years old or so, but I don't think it's because of his blindness. As long Ed has people who are willing to put forth the extra time and care to help him adjust and to keep company when he gets scared or bored, I don't think blindness should be much of an impediment to a happy kitty. Please feel free to contact me through my blog if you have any other questions or anything at all! I hope this is helpful for you.

    By Anonymous e., at 2:24 PM  

  • Lucia, as an animal professional I am glad to offer you any advice I can give. Animals often adjust quite well to unexpected onset of blindness. Give him a chance, by all means.

    Don't move the litterbox if you can help it. He knows where it is ... he's just having trouble navigating right now. Just like you can find your way around your house in the dark if you really need to, he should be able to adjust in short order. Moving it will only confuse him. Likewise with the food.

    Something you should do is find some little thing that makes "white noise" and plug it in very near the litterbox. An air filter, or a little two-gallon desktop aquarium (under $15 at WalMart), or maybe a little desktop fountain...? Something that makes a little humming and/or splashing noise 24-7. The little hum made by the pump will help him orient himself after awhile. You may want to put another "humming thing" that makes a slightly different noise by the food/water as well. He will soon learn to distinguish which noise is which. These are good navigational devices. You may also want a third, different hum by his soft, warm bed. Make sure you are happy with where these humming things are so you don't need to move them and confuse him. If you use a ofuntain or aquarium, keep the water level constant so the tonal quality stays the same, so he knows which is which.

    Toys: catnip toys with a jingle sewn VERY SECURELY inside will help minimize boredom. Even if he doesn't "go" for catnip (some cats don't), the smell with help him locate the item. You may want to have a few of these toys lying about the house and a few hanging from the doorknobs as well (easy to find).

    I have no doubt that you will spend more interactive, "touch time" with him. Grooming is very important, it helps him do what he can't see and is helps him know you love him and eases his confusion.

    I will repeat the advice to guide him (not picking him up) to food and litter, etc.

    Please feel free to write to me; I am glad to help: dezcrawford AT hotmail DOT com ... just substitute the "at" and "dot" signs.

    Hugs to Ed, he looks like such a sweetie pie.

    By Blogger Dez Crawford, at 12:40 AM  

  • Happy birthday! Do something good to celebrate.

    By Anonymous Laurie, at 7:56 AM  

  • Poor Ed! It sounds like he's beginning to cope, though.

    Happy Birthday, Lucia!

    By Blogger Norma, at 9:22 AM  

  • Happy Birthday! I'm sorry about your kitty. I know it's hard and I wish I had something helpful to say. :o)

    By Blogger flwrhead, at 1:39 PM  

  • hey, i'm way behind in my blog reading (seems to be the norm these days) and so i only now am reading about poor ed. i'm glad you've decided to give him time to acclimate himself. the cat i grew up with, whiskie, spent the last couple of years of her life blind as a bat, and did just fine. once she figured out where everything was and to resort to her other senses to get around, she seemed back to her old self. she lived to be 19 i think.
    also, i was reading the comments on cara's blog and wanted to thank you for the shout out for christine. i honestly do think we sometimes get a little whiny and i can totally empathize with her pain and hurt and confusion. it was nice of you to be one of the few who acknowledged it, instead of flaming her. i thought cara's post was appropriate and very well written. but i wasn't too keen on some of the comments.

    By Blogger maryse, at 2:06 PM  

  • and did i miss a birthday? :o

    happy birthday!!1

    By Blogger maryse, at 2:07 PM  

  • I am so sorry to hear this, although the update sounds promising. I checked with lots of my kitty-loving friends, and none of them had advice. It sounds like you're doing all the right things, and that Ed is adjusting. He's lucky to have such a loving and understanding human.

    By Anonymous Erica, at 4:35 PM  

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