Sunday, August 14, 2016

Raising a blind kitten: It's easier than it seems

Lucy the blind cat

This week, a reader reached out to me on my blog Facebook page, asking for advice. She works as a foster cat mother for a local nonprofit, and one of the kittens in her care was just diagnosed as blind. I'm not sure of the circumstances, but it seems like this little kitten has eyes but they don't work at all. The little one can't even see shadows.

This foster mom had never worked with a blind cat before, and she wanted some very targeted advice about how to set up her little one for success.

I'm happy she reached out, as it reminded me to get great photos of blind cat Lucy for the Sunday Selfie series as hosted on The Cat on My Head. Lucy does love to pose for photographs.

Lucy the cat smiling for the camera

But that email also reminded me of the mistakes Lucy's foster mother made when she was a kitten, and how reasonable those mistakes might be to people who have never lived with a blind cat.

Let me explain.

We humans think of blindness as a terrible burden, and we reasonably assume that a blind kitten will struggle. So we try to help, mainly by picking up said kitten and moving it around when it needs to do something like eat or pee or play. We try to help.

But every time we pick up blind cats, we remove the cues they use to navigate the world. They cannot feel the change from carpet to wood to tile that might tell them they're in different rooms. They cannot follow the scent marks they've laid down as a path through the room. They cannot bump things with their heads to guide the way. When they're in the air, they're lost.

Lucy the cat posing for her selfie

Kittens that are lost can be kittens that cannot find the litter box. And that's just what's happening with this little foster kitten. In her kennel, she uses the box dutifully. When out of the kennel, she makes mistakes.

I advised using an exercise pen or baby gates to shrink her world down a little, so she can find her way back to the box when she needs it. And I advised never, ever picking the little one up. Calling to her or jingling toys to lure her will allow her to map her space a little better.

When she goes into a new home, those steps should be followed again. She should be in a dog kennel, then a dog kennel with an exercise pen, then one room, etc. She will map the space just fine, as long as the humans don't try to help.

And her food, water and litter box should always be in the same place, for consistency.

Lucy the cat eating her food

I'm hoping my advice helped that foster momma. And I'm hoping I get updates! I'd love to see how the little one grows up.

Oh! And look what was delivered this week!

Wood for the catio

It's wood for Popoki's catio! Construction should start next week. We're getting excited!

That's it for this week! Please drop me a little comment, so I'll know you were here. Lucy always loves to hear what people have to say, and I read all of your comments to her.

And thanks, as always, to kitties Blue! We love this hop.

Have you joined? You should. It's fast and easy, and you meet so many people. Try it!


  1. I must admit I never had given much thought to treatment of blind pets. I found this very insightful.

  2. Lucy is an out and out adorable kitty, and gives such wonderful selfies. Blindness is no limiter to her! Great post! purrs ERin

  3. Lucy is so beautiful. Those all sound like excellent tips for blind cats.

  4. Lucy is gorgeous! Mes is blind in one eye and can hardly see out the other. Me is also pretty deaf and me has mobility issues now that mes is old. Mommy has to bes careful as this means Mes gets startled easily. Mes likes things in specific places and Mommy is furry good about making sure that my things are where they should be and there are no obstacles in my preferred path. Mes gets around great at home and we have a routine when we travel so mes knows where things are. Mommy only picks me up and takes me places when mes asks. great post

  5. We love seeing the tips for blind cats. What humans think would be helpful for another human isn't so helpful to a cat who navigates by memorizing things with other senses. Thanks for sharing so much information about blind cats.

    And we can't wait to see the finished result of Popoki's catio. We had missed that you had that project coming up!

  6. That is so cool! Thank you for sharing about Lucy with us.

  7. Lucy is lovely!

    Good luck with the catio :)

    Purrs xx
    Athena and Marie

  8. We are sure that your help was more than welcome. We can learn so much from each other :) Great Selfies, beautiful Lucy :) Pawkisses for a wonderful day :) <3

  9. This post is a marvel and it is briliant. Thank you - it is full of a lot of things that most of us would not think about! I would pick a kitten up WRONG!! Now I know better!

    Happy Last Sunday Selfie (you can tell I don't give up easily!)