Blindness and Loss of Vision in Cats

Key takeaways

Blindness in cats can appear varies in severity and can include partial or full blindness.

• Cats are especially good at learning their environment and adapting to vision loss, so detection of vision loss can be difficult

• Causes of blindness in cats vary and can include eye injuries, hypertension, cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, toxicosis, FIP, and feline ocular herpes

• Diagnosis varies depending on other symptoms but includes complete ophthalmic examination, diagnostic imaging, blood work, and infectious disease testing

• Treatment depends on the diagnosis and can include environmental adaptation, topical treatments, surgery, and palliative care

• Pets are highly adaptable and loss of vision is not necessarily a cause of anxiety for affected cats

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A closer look: Blindness and Loss of Vision in Cats

Common indicators of blindness include bumping into walls and furniture, increased vocalization, confusion and dilated pupils.

The progression of vision deterioration can be slow and many cats rely on other senses to the point that initial vision loss may go undetected. For many pets, vision loss is not a symptom that causes them much anxiety and they learn to adapt fairly quickly. Severity can be determined by associated symptoms which may indicate more severe or life threatening conditions. Any sudden onset loss of vision is an emergency requiring immediate medical attention.

Possible causes

There are a number of conditions which can cause partial or complete blindness in cats. Broadly they can be separated into two categories:

Risk factors

Overall, loss of vision is uncommon but it is a possible congenital condition in some breeds of cat.

Blindness can vary in a few significant descriptors;

  • Partial or complete blindness
  • One or both eyes (unilateral or bilateral)
  • Solitary symptom or alongside other symptoms

Testing and diagnosis

Given the wide variety of potential associated conditions, diagnostics can vary and include;

  • Physical examination
  • Full ophthalmic examination
  • Eye pressure testing
  • Eye fluoroscein stain
  • Tear production testing
  • Retinal function testing
  • Blood work
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Cytology
  • Biopsy
  • Infectious disease testing

Treatment depends on the condition and can vary as well. Environmental adaptations are often utilized to aid in quality of life. Enrichment, including increased talking to the cat, maintaining furniture arrangements, keeping a close eye on them in dangerous or unfamiliar spaces, and engaging their other senses are all cornerstones of managing blindness in pets.

In cases where the condition requires further medical intervention, the treatments can vary and include;

  • Benign neglect
  • Topical treatments
  • Systemic medications
  • Surgery
  • Palliative care

Similar symptoms

Associated symptoms

Associated symptoms depend on the underlying cause.