Thursday, May 3, 2012

5 ways to make life easier for your disabled pet

Lucy the blind cat snuggling with her toys
Lucy snuggling with the dog toys.
Apparently, today is Disabled Pets Day (or, to be politically correct, Differently-Abled Pets Day). I've seen several sites today discussing the need for tolerance and acceptance of our furry creatures that may not have all of their original functional parts, and a lot of it has been amazingly touching, even for people like me who aren't always comfortable with the my-dog-is-brave-because-he-can't-see business.

Anyway, this got me to thinking about what sorts of strange, unusual, out-of-the-ordinary tips I might provide for people who are thinking about living with a blind cat. Some of these might be Lucy-specific, of course, but they might be helpful for the one person out there who has a blind cat as strange as mine is. I could think of five tips. Here goes:
  1. Preserve the scent trail. In the past, I would put all of the dog toys in the washer at once, and scrub them clean. Lucy, however, finds the stinky dog toys oddly comforting, and she would become distressed when they were all clean and shiny. Now, I wash in rotating batches, so she always has something smelly to snuggle with. 
  2. Look for alternate senses. I had thought Lucy could find the food dish due to the smell of her meal, but I think the smell might be overwhelming. She can tell food is in the area, but she can't specifically target its location. She can, however, find a rattle of kibble with amazing precision. Once I knew scent was out of the question, finding another sense to hit helped a ton.
  3. Talk a lot. Trying to pet a blind cat without a verbal warning often results in hissing. They need to know you're coming to help them, or they'll assume you're trying to kill them. I have no idea why this is the case, but there it is. 
  4. Never speak or react when an accident occurs. Much as I try to prevent it, Lucy is always running into things. The door, the chair, the dog toys, other cats. If I react with a noise, that noise might be a little loud, and she tends to startle when presented with loud noises, which means that she runs, which usually results in another collision. It's best to pretend it never happened. 
  5. Don't underestimate the power of curiosity. Lucy has been on the table, on the banister, in the basement and outside. All of these things I thought she would be much too scared to do. Turns out, she's not afraid of basically anything, even things that could get her killed. Blind cats need cat-proofing. Period.
If you want to see some more photos of disabled/differently-abled pets, check out this photography website. This Portland artist has done a series of photos of pets with a variety of different issues. The photos are pretty amazing.