Monday, January 9, 2012

Blind cat questions: Is it ear hair or a navigational device?

Lucy the blind cat showing off her long ear hair
Lucy showing off her curb feelers.
Lucy is a long-haired cat, so she's got some fur that defies all description. In fact, I think she has three separate layers of fur at the moment: downy, mid-range and freakishly long. She's been growing hairs of the third variety out of her ears for the past year or so.

At first, I was a bit amused by these big hairs, as they would curl about and meet at the back of her head, and when she sat in the breeze, they would flutter and wave. I've never seen ear hair like this. But, over the weekend, I ended up trimming her ears. Turns out, these long hairs can cause real problems for blind cats.

Since Lucy is blind, she uses her whiskers for navigation. And since she's a cat, she spends a lot of time bathing. Often, she would use her paws to clean the back of her head, and she'd push these long ear hairs into her whiskers. Then, she'd become convinced that something was right in front of her face, and she'd spend the next several minutes going around in circles, trying to figure out what she was running into.

After a few days of this, I started to feel real pity for Lucy. How confusing it must have been to feel like something is in front of your face all of the time! So I took my embroidery scissors and gave her a little trim. I just took off the long fronds and left the rest as-is. Now, she can bathe without getting her signals crossed. I will miss those long, wavy, crazy hairs, however.