Skip to main content

Everything you need to know about caring for a blind cat

With over two million adoptions taking place at animal shelters in the US every year, pet lovers have every reason to celebrate. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. For “special needs” animals like blind cats, the adoption rate is much lower. It takes a wonderfully special kind of person to adopt a disabled fur baby, but those who do give special needs animals a forever home don’t regret it. 

Not only are you saving a life when you adopt a disabled pet, but you’re also setting an example for family members, friends, and neighbors. And, pet parents of disabled fur babies will tell you that their three-legged dog and blind cat rarely act disabled. Are you tempted yet? Here’s what you need to know about how to care for a blind cat. 

Spoiler alert: it’s not as difficult as it sounds!

A closeup shot of a one-eyed orange tabby cat.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What causes blindness in healthy cats?

Did you know that the average lifespan for an indoor cat is between 12 to 15 years? Every decade, the average lifespan of our feline friends increases, which is music to the ears of pet parents all around the world. With certain breeds living as long as 18 years or longer, your fur baby might even live to be 20 years old. If you’re incredibly lucky, your cat might live as long as Creme Puff, a 38-year-old cat who lived to the ripe old age of 38 years and 3 days despite a questionable diet consisting of bacon, red wine, and coffee with you guessed it lots of cream. 

Despite being a relatively hardy species, cats are not immune to injuries or illnesses, some of which can result in scars, hearing loss, loss of limbs, and blindness. But most cats aren’t blinded in accidents or fights. According to Dr. Thomas Kern, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the most common cause of feline blindness is eye disease. Dr. Kern says, “Most of these animals have eye disease as a primary disorder: they have no other health problems.”

Is it hard to care for a blind cat? 

If you’re caring for a cat who recently lost her sight, successfully treating the cause of her vision loss is an essential part of becoming her caregiver. While some cats lose their sight due to an infection that developed as a result of eye injury, Abyssinian and Persian cats have a genetic predisposition for Progressive Retinal Atrophy, also known as PRA. Other causes of blindness include glaucoma, conjunctivitis, entropion (a painful condition that causes the eyelid to fold inward), and uveitis (the veterinary term for eye inflammation). According to Dr. Kern, conjunctivitis is the most commonly diagnosed disorder of the feline eye. 

However, once the cause of your cat’s blindness has been treated or if you’re adopting a cat who’s been blind for a while you’ll find that caring for your feline friend isn’t drastically different from caring for any other cat. Here are a few helpful tips that can help make the process easier for you and your fur baby.

A closeup shot of a blind black and white cat.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Keep your blind cat indoors

While we’re staunch proponents of keeping all cats indoors, it’s especially important to prevent your fur baby from escaping the house. Your cat’s other senses will help him navigate the world around him, but your beloved fur baby isn’t Daredevil. His undeniable olfactory talents and keen hearing notwithstanding, the outside world is a hostile place for a blind cat. He won’t be able to see predators coming, nor will he be able to see oncoming traffic, so please keep him indoors. 

Spend more time talking to your cat

Without her vision to guide her, your blind kitty will need you to talk her through her new routine. Call her by name when it’s time for dinner, and try not to approach her suddenly when her eyes are closed or she’s looking in the opposite direction. Greet her warmly before you touch her rather than sneaking up on your kitty. A startled cat may scratch or bite to defend herself, and we don’t blame her. 

Maintain a stable home

If your cat has recently lost his sight, now is not the time to redecorate your home. Your cat knows where everything is because he’s already marked it with his scent. And if he’s a new addition to the family, don’t worry about him finding his way. A cat’s whiskers are so sensitive that they can pinpoint the location of a toy, their favorite bed, or potential prey using the vibrations created by sounds we can’t even hear. 

(Okay, so maybe blind cats are a bit like Daredevil, after all.) 

A one-eyed gray tabby cat lying on a pale gray sofa.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What does a blind cat need? 

Just like all cats, blind cats need food, water, oxygen, and a loving home if they’re going to thrive. Your blind cat may require a bit more patience as she acclimates to her environment and readjusts to finding her food, water, and litter box, but she’s ultimately more like her sighted counterparts than she is different. Above all, blind cats need dedicated pet parents who will love them for the rest of their lives. 

Editors' Recommendations

Mary Johnson
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
How to cat-proof your balcony before the unthinkable happens
Tips to keep your kitty safe while on the balcony
Cat sitting on a sunny balcony railing

It's tempting to spend some time outside with your cat whenever the weather is nice, and taking your cat outside can give him a nice break from indoor-only life. If you love to spend time on your balcony, it's natural to consider letting your cat join you, but balconies can be dangerous for cats. In addition to the potential for a fall, balconies have several other risks that you might not be aware of. Understanding how to cat-proof a balcony can help you to make the space safer, so you and your cat can spend a little time outside together.

Will a cat jump off a balcony?
Balconies can be very dangerous for cats because of the possibility of "high-rise syndrome." Always Compassionate Veterinary Care explains that high-rise syndrome refers to the occurrence of cats falling out of high-rise buildings and needing veterinary treatment. The term originates when the Animal Medical Center in New York City treated more than 100 cats who fell out of high-rise windows. That occurred during just five months in the 1980s and highlights the fact that cats can and do fall out of high structures.

Read more
How to tell if your cat is a Maine Coon mix (and why you should care)
Should you consider a Maine Coon mix? Here's what you need to know
Closeup of a Maine Coon's face

There are plenty of big and fluffy cats out there, but one of the best-known breeds fitting this description is the Maine Coon. These cats are not only impressive in size, but they also tend to have fantastic personalities that make them beloved family pets. While purebred Maine Coons are a little more uncommon in rescues and shelters, it's possible to adopt a Maine Coon mix that still has some of the breed's distinctive characteristics.

While telling exactly which breeds your cat is can be a little tricky, it's worth doing some investigative work to better understand your feline's background and what that might mean for the care he needs during his life.
Where do Maine Coon cats come from?
You may have heard that the Maine Coon Cate originated from a fantastical cross between a feline and a raccoon. Of course, this didn't really happen, but it could be where they get the name. (Another option, from a ship's captain who brought the first of these kitties ashore.)

Read more
There’s a totally normal reason cats throw up after eating grass – here’s why
Learn about this cat behavior and if there's cause for concern
Calico cat lying on its back in a grassy yard

If your cat throws up after eating grass, there's probably no reason to be concerned. Eating grass is a natural behavior for most cats, and throwing up after eating that grass also is pretty common. There are physical reasons for why your cat throws up grass, and aside from dealing with the inconvenience of having to clean up cat vomit in the house, this behavior usually isn't a problem.

But excessive vomiting and unusual grass consumption can be a cause for concern. If your cat likes to munch grass, then it's best to familiarize yourself with what's normal and what might be a reason to worry.

Read more