I love cats, dogs, and all other animals—even spiders and insects.
Living With a Blind Cat
A blind cat is a disabled cat and we have lived for 19 years with my little blind cat Kyra.
There's a difference between cats that are born blind and cats that are blind by disease or accident. The latter might experience more difficulties in adapting to their blindness. For a cat that's born blind the world has never been bright and sunny.
Our cat Kyra was born blind and her world has always been dark and formless. She learned to trust her nose and ears. She had a sixth sense for unsafe situations, especially around dogs that came into our house.
I hope my experience with living with a blind cat can help others.
How Kyra Came to Live with Us
Kyra was born at a farm. Her mom got killed in the mowing machine and she came to live with the girlfriend of my daughter. Kyra was only 10 days old. When her eyes opened, they discovered she was blind. She kept bumping into everything.
The vet told them that Kyra had little chance to live beyond her first year. The owners had a driving instruction school. It was too dangerous for Kyra to stay there, because she might get crushed in the busy human trafic. They gave her to my daughter. Every time my daughter came home for a weekend, Kyra came too. Every time she came over we noticed that Kyra loved to roam outside in our fenced garden. One time Kyra had fallen down from the fifth level balcony of my daughter's apartment. My daughter decided it was best for Kyra if she stayed with us for the rest of her life.
Kyra proofed the vet wrong, she didn't die that first year, she managed to live a full 19 years.
I searched the internet on blind cats and found a lot of advices that contradict my own experience. I took some quotes and tell you my experience. As Kyra reached the age of 19 years we must have done something right I guess.
Keep your cat indoors at all times. A blind cat cannot detect danger and run from it, especially if attacked or chased. If you do let your cat outside, never leave her side. A harness and leash can allow your pet to go out and enjoy the outdoors safely. A harness provides better guidance and control while walking. You need to be her eyes and watch out for things she might bump into.
If your cat has gone blind after having been able to see it might be wise to keep her inside for a while. Kyra was born blind, she didn’t know the world had quite a different look than she saw it. She found the cat door by herself and it took only a few times helping her to get back in again. Kyra relied on her ears and nose.
Oh sure, she bumped into things once in a while, but most of the time that happened when she was a bit stressed. We never had her on a harness and we had a fence all around our garden because we had hunting dogs at the time. Kyra often managed to climb the fence one way or other. In moments she got very stressed, she lost control over her movements. On those moments our visitors discovered that she was blind.
Of course we kept stressful situations out of her way as much as possible. Visitors with dogs had to keep them on the lease. If we didn't trust the dog, we put Kyra in a room upstairs for the time being. On the whole, we oftst forgot that she was blind. She got her food on the kitchen counter, otherwise the dogs would steal it.
They Say About Blind Cats #2
Among other things, blind pets strongly rely on their memory to help them navigate through your home. The most important thing you can do for your cat is to keep things in the same place as much as possible. It is important that you be consistent.
We paid attention to not moving furniture at first, but not so much later on. Kyra bumped into things quite often, but never too hard. She has never shown any sign of stress. When she bumped her head she changed directions.
Are Healthy Cats Picking on Blind Cats?
Kyra Is the Boss over All Cats and Dogs in Our House
In our house, Kyra was the boss. She was bossing the Tortoise ‘Red‘ and she was bossing the Border Collie dogs Tipper and Dixie.
The only cat she respected was our big Tomcat Bram, but he passed away, bless his darling soul.
Kyra and the Tortoise were enemies from the start. Whenever the tortoise was getting too close, Kyra would jump her. Then the flocks of hair flew all over the place. The tortoise was so stupid to let herself get caught all the time. The only thing she had to do was to jump on a chair or a table to avoid getting attacked by Kyra.
A cat’s sense of hearing is amazing. Cats can hear high frequency sounds we cannot. They can also distinguish the tone or pitch of sounds better than we can. And their ability to locate the source of a sound is highly advanced. From a yard away, a cat can distinguish between sound sources only three inches apart. They can also hear sounds at great distances – four or five times farther away than humans.
Kyra has always been on guard when she smelled something she was not sure about, like strange dogs. She got attacked twice by a neighbour’s dog. She got into a panic and started jumping a meter high all over the place. That behaviour confused the dog, but it gave us time to rescue her.
She even managed to catch mice and flies too.
Kyra alwas found her way around in our big garden. In summer she hardly came into the house whether it was raining or not. Sometimes she came in soaky wet. I wasn't very thrilled when she jumped into my bed at night that way.
You may feel the urge to pick the cat up and carry her from one place to the next. Carrying her will help her to move safely from A to B, but it does the cat no favours. Studies have shown that cats are literally egocentric – they literally orientate the world in relation to themselves. When you pick up a blind cat and move it to a new location, her navigation system becomes disrupted, resulting in a confused and stressed cat. Put her down in a familiar place.
Kyra has never fallen off a chair or table, she’s very cautious when she’s on strange grounds. What we did was the following: We placed her on the table and then hold her and guided her down to the floor. We did that too with the chairs and the kitchen counter. We only had to do that once or twice and then she knew the distance and she would make the jump herself.
She also found the cat door by herself and could go out and back in. When we connected the house to the barn, she had to go through two cat doors and that took some time for her to learn. I used to guide her from a familiar place in the garden, to where the new cat door was and then pushed her through. She had to push the new cat door a bit harder and in the beginning she refused to do that. But after a few weeks, using the cat doors from the inside and outside was no problem anymore.
Sometimes it took her a bit longer to get used to changes. She loved to climb into boxes and bags and it always amazed me how fast she found them. I found her in the most peculiar places in the house and then I wondered: “How on earth did you know you could climb on that”.
They Say a Cat Has 9 Lifes
Kyra Almost Used Them All
- She once fell from a 5th floor apartment balcony and the marquee on the first floor saved her. It broke her fall and catapulted her into the bushes below. She was not hurt at all.
- The neighbor's dog attacked her. She saved herself by starting to jump up and down real quick and real high. It startled the dog and gave us time to rescue her.
- Once a wasp got stuck in her throat. Lucky for her my husband sat outside and heard her grasping for air. I drove to the vet so fast, that I almost overrun some bicyclists. The vet gave her a shot and that saved her.
- Only once she got lost outside the premises. We kept calling her for hours and hours, determent as we were to find her. She never meows, but in the end my hubby found her in the bushes across the street.
- Once she fell into our rain well. We were draining the well to clean it. It runs about two meters under the kitchen. My hubby was watching sport on tv and heard her screaming. He jumped right into the well and then Kyra swam towards him and climbed up his trousers. I was upstairs and didn't hear anything.
- She got attacked by a big German shepherd and I found her high in the trees. She must have jumped around again.
- She survived her first year and 18 years after that. Clever girl.
Our Little Blind Cat Loved to Climb Trees
They Told Us She Wouldn't Live Very Long - She Proved Them Wrong
As Kyra was not a normal cat in many ways, the vet was sure that she wouldn’t last a year. Not only was she born blind, she was very small too and a bit malformed here and there.
She had the size of a normal cat of 6 to 8 months old, her tail had a kink, her nails were malformed and when she got neutered, her uterus appeared to be malformed too.
All this didn’t keep this lovely cat from growing up and enjoying life.
My Blind Cat Kyra Was Still Having a Ball at the Age of 18 Years
At the age of 18 years she was still doing very well, though I saw some signs of old age appearing. I was feeding her cooked chicken and soft cat food, because she couldn't chew the dried pet food anymore. She very much loved to eat.
Where ever she was, when you happened to eat a sandwich or another snack, she was there in front of you in no time. Our garbage bin stands in front of the kitchen counter. Kyra used that as a step up to the counter. Once I had the garbage bin open when cleaning onions and she jumped right in the bin. Kyra was an amazing cat with a mind of her own.
Kyra's Behavior Started to Change
Around September 2012 we noticed a slight difference in behavior. When we called her she was not coming straight to us, but started to make little rounds on the spot she was in. It looked like that she was losing some orientation ability. It seemed that she didn’t know exactly anymore from which direction the sound came from. We thought she was developing some hearing problems. One new thing she was doing: she would sit somewhere and then started to meow a lot and very loud.
She had been doing that when she had caught a mouse and was telling us to come see what the cat brought in. She never meowed otherwise, so this was strange, like she was feeling all alone or something. So when we heard her hollering, we made sure she knew that one of us was around.
She was still quite playful, especially when she got hold of my long braids.
Recommended for You
Old Cats Can Get Alzheimer Disease
I never heard of Feline Dementia. Yet while observing Kyra’s strange behaviour, it seemed as if she was 'losing her marbles' as the saying goes. I started to wonder if cats could suffer from Alzheimer disease, so I called my vet and asked him. He confirmed that my thoughts were right and that Kyra could be suffering from dementia.
Signs of Feline Dementia
Odd changes in behaviour of your old cat might point to feline dementia. Kyra sat for hours in the middle of the room staring into the unknown. Then sometimes she started meowing very loud. When we called her she started to walk in circles. It seemed that she couldn't trace where the noise was coming from.
We found her in the most peculiar places, just sitting doing nothing.
At one point she couldn't find her standard litterbox anymore. She had several spots where she peed on the floor. We turned a few stackable plastic letter trays into litterboxes. We put them on all those places. She used them most of the time. They're open boxes of course, but if you don't fill them with too much grid and clean them every day, they won't smell. It's a bit of work, but who cares.
October 20, 2014
The End of Our Blind Cat's Life Was Near
Kyra’s fur got all tangled and matted again, because she was often out in the wet grass and she licked herself a lot. She wouldn’t let me cut out the matted pieces so I had to take her to the vet. They gave her a light anesthetic and shaved all the bad matting away. Kyra looked like a mini lion. To keep her from catching a deadly cold, we had put her in the bench of one of our dogs. We installed a lamp to keep her warm and cozy and she actually was quite happy there.
She had developed a habit of finding the weirdest places to take a nap. Sometimes we couldn't find her for hours and had to wait until she appeared again. Calling her name didn't help, because she had gone a bit deaf and couldn't hear us.
Kyra had no urge anymore to go outside. She also had lost the ability to find the cat door. To be on the safe side we decided to keep her indoors from that point on. She slept most of the time anyway, but still loved to eat. We often took her out to cuddle her.
November 21, 2014
We saw a change in Kyra’s behaviour last week. She didn’t want to stay in her bench anymore, but when she was out, she was sittng on the kitchen floor doing nothing. Once we found her in one of my kitchen cupboards. Then she found a small half empty grocery box, crawled in and slept there. If we didn’t bring her to her food/water and litter box, she wouldn’t move at all. Last two days she wasn’t eating or drinking much either.
Despite the fact that she wasn’t in pain, we decided to put her into her eternal sleep. I couldn’t bear the thought of finding her dead somewhere one morning. I'm sure that's what would've happened, within a couple of days.
I brought her to our vet and he said she already was quite dehydrated. He gave her a shot to go to sleep and she went into a coma on my arm and then he gave her the final shot. She was out within a second and I was glad we had made that decision, because it was obvious that she was ready to go.
I took her home and we buried her in the garden on the spot where she so often slept in summer. Reaching the age of 19 years is quite an achievement for a little blind cat. More so because the vet thought she wouldn’t last a year. She has lived a full and beautiful cat’s life.
R.I.P. My Little Blind Cat Kyra
This last photo shows Kyra how I love to remember her. On top of a pollard willow.
Links to Websites About Feline Dementia
- Senior Dementia in Cats: Common Signs of Feline SenilityDo cats get Alzheimer’s? Is it normal behavior for a senior cat, or is there a problem?
- Feline Dementia – VetInfoFeline dementia is suspected to affect 28 percent of cats ages 11 to 14 and almost 50 percent of cats older than that, but it is very hard to detect because symptoms are often attributed simply to “old age.”
- Feline dementia | The Conscious CatCan cats get Alzheimer’s or dementia? What can you do to prevent mental decline in your senior cats?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: We have a two-year-old cat that was given to us at two days old. She was born blind, and is very small. At night she seems very stressed, and scales the walls. Nothing seems to stop her or calm her. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer: I am not a cat behavioral psychologist. Blind cats mainly rely on their nose and ears to navigate, so maybe this cat gets stressed at night because she's not hearing the normal daily sounds. I don't know, it's just a thought. My cat felt very safe and comfy in a dog's bench and we used to lock her in there when we got visitors who brought their dog with them because she got very stressed and panicky by the smell of a strange dog.
© 2017 Titia Geertman
Marko Volodya on August 23, 2019:
Thanks for sharing Kyra's story. She hit the jackpot when she found a home with you.
Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on April 14, 2019:
#Charcoal: You could be right about the malformities being a genetic condition. The uterus of Kyra was totally misformed too the vet said when she got fixed.
Charcoal on April 13, 2019:
Beautiful baby! We have a blind cat that was born blind as well. I find it interesting that you mentioned your cat was malformed. Our cat Charcoal also has a kink in his tail, he has an extra rib, and when neutered his testicles had not descended and the vet said they were very oddly formed inside him. I wonder if there is some kind of genetic condition that causes these malformities and blindness is just another side effect.
Beryl du plessis on January 14, 2019:
A wonderful inspiring life... And such a nice way to say 'put to eternal sleep' instead of clinical euthanasia..
Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on November 15, 2018:
#rasbdrama: Thanks for your comment. It's a tough decission whether to adopt or not adopt this special needs kitten. I'm sure she will survive, but she certainly will encounter stressful moments. It takes time for a blind or almost blind cat to adjust to its environment and moving twice in a rather short time and then possibly jump the ocean to the USA will be stressful for this kitten. It took my cat Kyra quite some time to get to know her way around and she sometimes freaked out and completely lost her orientation for a while when she was put in a surrounding unknown to her. I think however with a lot of love and caring she will do ok. My suggestion is if you decide to adopt her, to buy a bench and make it a night home for her with a soft pillow and a litterbox and a water bowl and let her sleep in there at night. Eventually she will learn that that's her 'safe' place and won't be too stressed when moving.
Wishing you good luck.
rasbdrama on November 15, 2018:
This is beautiful! I am thinking about adopting a sweet looking almost blind kitty who has melted my heart https://www.dierenasiels.com/dier/303ce3c4-e418-11... However, I am hesitating because I know I am moving within a year, we may move again not long after, and eventually we will probably move from the Netherlands to the US. I'm concerned that all of that change would be stressful for a "special needs" kitty. Flying is hard enough on average cats, I would imagine it could be traumatic for a blind cat. She's so young and has survived a lot, I just want to make sure she gets the best home and family she can whether it is with me or another loving home. What would you suggest?
Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on October 31, 2018:
#Glyn: I sure still think about her a lot. She was a very special cat.
Glyn on October 31, 2018:
Beautiful thanks for sharing, bet you still think about her
that was beautiful on October 03, 2018:
Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on July 11, 2018:
#Hannah, thanks for your lovely comment. I still miss my little blind cat, allthough she really could get under your skin sometimes too. Don't worry about the dark world he's living in, he doesn't know better. Kyra could catch the flies from the sky. Their hearing and smell is so much more developped. I hope your cat will live a long and happy life.
Hannah on July 11, 2018:
I cried reading this. What a beautiful story. I too have a blind cat, he was probably born blind, we’re not quite sure. Only noticed that he kept bumping into things when he was 6 months old. He is 2 years old now and is living with 9 other cats. He navigates through the house well, not a problem at all. I feel sorry that his world is dark and am trying my best to find new ideas on how to help him live his life to the fullest. Bless you for taking care of Kyra for 19 years!