How to care for a blind cat

You want to adopt a blind cat or your existing cat is going blind. The good news is: blind cats handle their blind life way better than you think! The bad news is, there are many articles out there telling you outlandish things and making blind cats sound severely disabled and high-maintenance.

I have been sharing my life with two wonderful blind cats since June 2021 and chatting to other blind cat guardians on Instagram since July. Our experience has been nothing like those articles describe. I’m willing to bet yours will be much better, too. So here are the things that you really need to care for a blind cat.

1. Keep your blind cat indoors

Blind kitties like Shadow can enjoy the outdoors in secure areas like a catio or during leashed walks.

Blindness is less limiting to cats than we humans assume. Still, there are many dangers outside that can quickly become fatal even to a sighted cat: roads, dogs, wildlife, toxic substances such as rat poison or antifreeze, etc. For their safety, your blind cat should be an indoor cat.

That doesn’t mean depriving them of all the outside has to offer. You can provide your blind cat with access to a secured balcony or a catio, take them for supervised outings in your fenced-in backyard or train them to walk on a harness and leash.

2. Secure high places

Both blind and sighted cats can and do fall down from unsecured balconies or windows – a net can save a life.

I’m a huge believer in securing balconies, windows, and very high banisters for any cat, blind or sighted. They don’t fall until they do, and let’s face it, cats are idiots sometimes. A chew-proof net is the easiest way to do that. Make sure the net extends high enough – blind cats can climb, and often jump, extremely well.

I personally don’t think tall cat trees and furniture are a problem for blind cats. Vertical territory is very important to a cat’s well-being, and the blindies love being up high as much as any cat. Don’t deprive them of that. From what I’ve seen, most blind cats easily find their way around a high perch.

Concerning stairs: we don’t have any, but I have seen plenty of other blind cats learn to navigate those perfectly well, too.

3. Watch your step

Like any human-loving cat, Shadow can be a real tripping hazard at times. And by that I mean all the time.

I have never seen this piece of advice in other articles, but it’s something we experience daily. If your blind cat is affectionate and likes to be close to you, you are slightly more likely to trip over them or step on a paw than with a sighted cat – although any and all cats love to get underfoot. We have adapted to this quickly and no cats (or humans) have come to harm so far. If you have issues with mobility and balance, this could be a problem – but so could any animal.

4. Know your cat

These three dorks are fearless and they get into anything. What’s your blind kitty like?

This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. The. Most. Important. Why? Because if you follow it, you will not get misled by random articles on the internet. Even this one.

That advice is: know your cat.

Those scary articles I mentioned talk about blind cats as if they’re all the same. They aren’t! Blind kitties are more than their blindness. They run the whole gamut of character, habits, quirks and outright weirdness that makes us love cats so much. Eyeballs do not a cat make.

For example: when we were considering adopting our blind cats, we read that they tend to be more fearful of loud noises. The opposite has been the case. In fact, I have seen a number of blind cat guardians describe their cats as more outgoing, more confident and less scaredy than their sighted counterparts.

That doesn’t mean all blind cats are this way. It just means you should get to know YOUR blind cat. An important question to ask is how long they have been blind. A cat who has gone blind very recently will go through an adjustment period where things might seem more difficult. A cat who has been blind for a while already knows how to get around perfectly well using the senses available to them. Which brings us to our final blind cat tip…

5. Prepare to be amazed

From climbing cat trees to catching flies, there’s nothing blind cats can’t do. You won’t believe it ’till you see it!

Your blind cat will blow your mind on a regular basis. This is a fact. Guests will ask you if you’re sure that cat is blind even if it demonstrably has zero eyeballs. You might even find yourself starting an Instagram account to show the world how amazing blind cats are. 😉 Seriously. They do that well! It’s hard for me to even call them handicapped, and I never call them special needs – because they don’t really have special needs.

Wait, I hear you shout. That’s it?! But what about the litter box? And how will they find their food? Which toys can I buy? Should I put bubble wrap around literally everything? The answer to that is: see point four, follow up with point five.

What that means is: for all intents and purposes, your blind cat will find food and litter as well as your sighted cat, although it might take them a little bit longer. Or it might not! Watch your cat when you bring them home. If you see them struggle with any of that – which is unlikely! – you can take steps to help them. My blindies haven’t missed their bowl or their litter box even once since we brought them home.

So that’s it, folks! Do your due diligence, but don’t be afraid to adopt a blind cat!

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