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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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