Cats have an astounding sense of sight. They can pick up on the smallest of movements that humans might not be able to. So much so, sometimes our feline friends seem to be staring intently at nothing or seem to be tracking something that we can’t see and we often wonder if our cat has gone crazy or if it can see ghosts!
Since their sense of sight is so strong, it is usually easy to tell if your pet cat is born blind. You’ll be surprised to know all kittens are born blind! Newborn kittens don’t open their eyes until they are two weeks old and even then they can’t see properly, their vision is blurry for another week which is why they don’t stray far away from their mothers.
There could be several reasons for how little kitten ended up blind. Some never gained vision since birth and some lost their vision as a result of circumstances. For some kittens, blindness can be hereditary and for others, it can be a result of an injury or eye infection. Possible explanations can be eye inflammation, roundworms, progressive retinal atrophy, or congenital glaucoma.
If you have a feeling that your baby might be blind, there are some telltale signs to look out for. If you notice excessive squinting, cloudy eyes or discoloration, clumsy behavior, being vocal for no reason, and especially large pupils, these might indicate blindness. Similarly, if your little feline gets easily startled or surprised and doesn’t seem alert to their surroundings that might also be an indication that something isn’t right. If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure you take your kitten to the vet and discuss the situation with them as soon as possible.
Certain breeds of cats are more susceptible to blindness. As per ASPCA, Persian, Abyssinian, and Bengal cat breeds are more likely to prone to progressive retinal atrophy which is a cause of blindness. So if your cat is one of these breeds, make sure to pay attention to her eyesight.
Sometimes your cat is born with a perfectly healthy vision but over time it might end up losing its sight. There are several reasons for this development.
As a result of an untreated eye infection
Eye infections can easily be treated in cats. However, if your cat develops a severe infection or if a regular infection is left untreated for too long, it can cause permanent damage which will lead to blindness in your cat and will also cause your fur baby a lot of discomfort and distress.
Conjunctivitis is the most common eye infection in cats and is when the infection leads to the conjunctiva is inflamed which is basically the pink membrane that lines the inner and outer surface of the eyeball. If left untreated it will lead to damage to the eye, loss of vision, and eventually blindness. Eye infections can also be caused by an injury or a foreign object such as sand getting into the eye.
Viral or bacterial diseases can also lead to an eye infection. Feline calicivirus is a contagious virus that can lead to the “cat flu” which can also lead up to conjunctivitis in cats. Another virus is a feline herpes virus which is also contagious and can lead to conjunctivitis. Less common is keratitis which is the inflammation of the cornea. Damage to your cat’s cornea as a result of this disease is blindness. Other viral infections that cause damage to the uvea such as the feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia can also lead to blindness.
Symptoms of an eye infection:
- Discharge from the eyes that can be clear or yellow and can form a crust around your cat’s eye
- Excessive tearing up of the eyes
- Swelling around the eye
- Redness around the eye
- Constant rubbing
Sudden onset blindness
Sudden onset blindness is a worrisome and confusing disease for both animals and owners alike. Your cat will become extremely disorientated and will start behaving in a strange, unusual manner. You’ll notice that they’ll be wandering around aimlessly and bump into things that are right in front of them. And what makes this even worse is that, unless you’re looking for these signs, you won’t notice this change in their behavior. Most owners find out after a trip to the vet. However, one noticeable sign is that the pupils become dilated when a cat is becoming blind.
Causes of Onset Blindness in Cats:
There are several reasons why your cat has become blind. If the blindness is slow and gradual your cat will learn to adapt to the changes in their vision and they’ll hardly show any signs of difficulty. However, when the blindness is rapid and cats don’t have the time to adapt initially it will be very distressing for your cat. So you need to be well informed about the causes so that you can make things easier for them.
Albeit a rare disease, this is when the optic nerves that are responsible for carrying the visual information to the brain, become inflamed and thus can’t function causing blindness.
Hypertension / Blood pressure
A very common cause of blindness is a result of damage to the small blood vessels in the back of your cat’s eye that can cause bleeding or fluid leakage from the vessels which can lead to the retina become detached and thus causing blindness. In some cats, the damage is clear with blood seen in their eye.
Similar to humans, cats can suffer from damage to the layer of light-sensitive cells in the retina which is what gives the vision. However, this is gradual so cats can learn to adjust.
Diagnoses of Blindness in your cat:
If you notice changes in your cat’s behavior and you take them to a vet, a routine clinical test that is pretty straightforward will confirm if your cat is blind. Then your vet will work on figuring out the underlying causes.
- Through an eye examination using an ophthalmoscope
- Blood pressure monitoring
- Blood and urine tests
- Brain scans
As far as treatment is concerned, it depends on the conclusion of the diagnosis. Sometimes the blindness has just started and has a treatable underlying cause and medication will be prescribed. However, sometimes blindness cannot be treated even if the cause is determined.
If you fear your cat is going blind, the good news is that your cats are resilient creatures and you will be amazed to find how well they learn to adapt. They will rely on their other senses and will use their whiskers to determine if there is something in their way! On your end, you’ll need to keep things like furniture in the same place to ensure familiarity for your cat and make sure food and water are easily accessible. Make sure to avoid loud sounds around them which may startle them and if you want to let them out for fresh air, closely monitor them. Your cat will strive with all your love and care!