Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Put me down! Why your blind cat does not need to be carried
It's a bit of a sad thing, when you think about it, as most people who meet Lucy want to pick her up. They worry that she will trip or fall or somehow hurt herself if she has the chance to move about from place to place with her own motor. That's what her first family thought, in fact, as they carried her around or crated her for the first 3 months of her life.
But blind cats have good reason for hating the airborne life.
Blind cats like Lucy get from place to place through a combination of smell, touch and sound. They know where they are by engaging in a few pinball maneuvers. Lucy sticks close to the walls most of the time, stopping off from moment to moment to check in on the spaces she is familiar with.
In order to get from the hallway to the corner of the living room, Lucy walks by the side of the couch, stopping briefly at the scratching post. Then she veers to her right to stop in her cat bed. Finally, she hugs the edge of the side table until she's at her destination.
Lucy can move pretty quickly, so this doesn't take long for her to complete. But she takes this same path every time. She knows it is a safe route to take.
If I pick her up and simply move her to another part of the room, she loses all of those markers. And if I set her down in the middle of a space next to nothing she has scent marked, she has no idea where in the world she is. And she has to take some exploratory spins in order to map the new area. It stresses her out.
If you're living with a blind cat, do your best to keep from picking kitty up. I spent months training Lucy to come when I call her (treats helped), so I can just ask her to move at her own speed when I need her to switch positions. Cats can be trained, and it's a lot easier than you might think. If you can train them to come when you ask them to, there's less picking up required.
But if you absolutely can't avoid picking up the cat, there are some things you can do to make the process easier. Look for spots the cat uses for mapping, and try to set the cat down in those spots after an airborne trip. For Lucy, that usually means cat beds. But the scratchers she's marked would work, too. Knowing what your cat uses as a signpost can help you make a good choice.
If you have no such signposts, using walls and other hard surfaces can help. Most blind cats tend to hug the walls when they walk. Putting them down so they can touch those surfaces could help to reduce disorientation.
Yes, following these steps does take a little time. But it's a simple thing that makes Lucy a lot happier. And it keeps her from fighting with me, and that makes me happy. To me, it's worth the extra effort.