Living With a Blind Feline
Our four-legged family members can’t tell us when they are having a problem.
Such was the case when Maggie, our 13-year-old lilac point Siamese, woke up one morning and tried to maneuver around the house. She walked into the furniture. My thoughts, “Do cats get strokes?”
The day before this incident, I saw her walk into the fan. The fan had been there for years. It startled her. I dismissed the idea. Maybe her mind was elsewhere. Equal to when we ram the coffee table or corner of a desk. Our reward is another bruise.
So that morning in May 2011, I watched Maggie as she misjudged every few steps of where she was. It was a red flag. I stood in front of her as she plowed head-on into me. Moved again, the same thing transpired. She banged into a chair or a table, as a pinball machine. She kept over- compensating for the incorrect steps.
The harder she tried to correct her position, the more anxiety. Her vision appeared diminished. We picked her up to calm her. She clung on tight. That day changed our lives. No longer able to move items, she counted on to get up or block her path.
After taking her to a veterinarian eye specialist, they gave us the final diagnosis as retinal degeneration in both eyes. “She can sense light and dark, may see large moving objects but has no depth perception or visual acuity. Vision loss is severe and diffuse retinal degeneration. This is not painful, but there is no treatment. Her vision loss eventually will be complete and is irreversible.”
One question I asked the specialist was, “If she can’t see, then why did she step around Molly’s cat toy?” The answer was smell! With vision diminished, their other senses become more acute. She now had to rely on smell, sound and touch.
It has been an education. She put her nose in the air to smell. A few smells I could detect. Her hearing had become acute as radar. I observed where she looked and what triggered her attention. She learnt to walk in the middle of the room, avoiding the tables. There were days she was off course and banged her nose. Reaching out with her paws, she found the sofa. Missed judgement found her reaching and nothing was there, which was comical.
Blind people use their hands or cane to prevent head-on collisions, our pets not as lucky. They can use their whiskers or the side of their bodies to help them navigate. Maggie managed by being attuned to the edge of the carpet and different floor surface changes.
When Maggie became disorientated, I called to her. She learned to respond and correct her position. Sometimes it didn’t avoid a hit to the face, but it lessened the collisions.
Rare for me to rearrange furniture. Now it became necessary to keep everything in place. No Christmas tree on the floor. Unfair to Maggie and dangerous, as the branches were at eye level.
She could find her way around and then one day wake up having issues. We figured in those days she lost more of her vision.
She adjusted fine, much better than us humans. Easy when your activities consist of sleep or vegetating in a sunny window. Holding Maggie made her relax and more secure. Spoiled her to make life as easy as possible.
To live with a blind pet requires knowledge of your pet’s limitations. Then adjusting to fit their needs. What they give us back in love makes it worthwhile.
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