Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Eye of a Cat: Blindness in Cats

Cats, just like people, can go blind. Blindness is defined as the loss of vision in both eyes and may arise from illness, disease, or even an accident. In cats, it is often difficult to detect the onset of blindness because they have such extraordinary and sense of smell. They often compensate so well that the cat owner does not notice at all.

However, when vision is completely lost in both eyes, there are usually signs the cat owner can watch for. If a change in environment confuses your cat, the feline may be dealing with blindness. For example, if you move your living room couch, your cat may walk into it unexpectedly. Often this leads owners to conclude that their cat has suddenly gone blind, but the reality is that the cat has probably been having vision problems for some time, but had memorized his surroundings to compensate. When the surroundings change, memory no longer serves its purpose and little things happen, such as walking into a couch, table, or open cupboard door.

The Causes of Blindness in Cats

There are several things that might cause blindness in cats. Corneal disease is one of the most common, but it's not the only cause of blindness. Cataracts, which can be diagnosed by the white opacity of the lens of the eye, can occur in older cats, though younger cats seldom suffer from this ailment. Other illness and diseases that can result in blindness include:
  • Severe anterior and/or posterior uveitis
  • Retinal inflammation or infection
  • Retinal detachment
  • Glaucoma
  • Diseases of the optic nerve, visual pathways, or the occipital cortex
If you cat has had any damage to the eyes, there is an increased chance of blindness. Scratches due to cat fights might seem like they're no big deal, but have them checked by a veterinarian anyway, just in case. The longer you wait, the greater the chance of blindness.

Symptoms of Blindness in Cats

You'll have to watch your cat carefully to detect vision loss, as cats are quite good at hiding this particular disability. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, take your cat to the veterinarian immediately.
  • Clumsiness, even if it's only occasional
  • Inability to locate food, water, or the litter box if any of these things are moved even a few feet
  • Excessive sleeping or chronic inattentive behavior
  • Suddenly fearful and easily startled
  • No longer plays or exhibits normal hunting behavior
  • Bumps into objects that are plainly visible but not always present
If you even suspect that your cat may be going blind, you should take your cat to the veterinarian immediately. Blindness, especially sudden-onset (acute) blindness, is not something you can treat at home, regardless of the cause.

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