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Our Cat Has Gone Blind: Sudden Blindness in Cats

Sudden blindness in cats can lead your feline to safe, sheltered spots

Sudden blindness in cats isn’t as unusual as you would think. Last night my husband and I realized that Peanut Butter had gone blind. If I get emotional telling you this story, you’ll have to bear with me, because I’m not talking about hypotheticals. For the past several weeks, we’ve had Peanut Butter on an oral pain medication to help her cope with the pain of advanced arthritis. But she wasn’t improving much.

Surprised by Sudden Blindness in Cats

Last night we were concerned because she was moving very hesitantly. After watching her creep along the edge of walls and furniture, my husband said, “Lori, I don’t think the cat can see anymore.” Soon after that observation, Peanut Butter, who was halfway up a flight of stairs, turned toward Bruce’s voice and calmly stepped out into the void, falling four feet off the end of a step.We wrapped her in her favorite blanket and drove to the 24-hour veterinarian’s office where they confirmed the diagnosis. Peanut Butter was suffering from sudden blindness. There are several causes of sudden blindness in cats, including: hypertension, diabetes, thyroid problems, kidney disease and side effects to medicine. Peanut Butter was checked for all of these. The only thing abnormal was her (slightly) elevated blood pressure, which could have been due to her apprehension being blind at the vet’s office. Nevertheless, the veterinarian opted to give Peanut Butter a low dose of high blood pressure medication as well as a new pain reliever, since she was still obviously in pain with her hips.

Cats Adapt Quickly to Sudden Blindness

Now what? Now we wait. Her eyesight might return if we are lucky. Or not. We will be watching her closely and won’t move anything in the house while we wait to see what happens. Sudden blindness in cats isn’t all that unusual in older cats, and PB is 17 years old. But watching her adjust to being sightless is both distressing and heartening. She can still sense light and dark in her left pupil, so she walks along the wall on her left side, feeling in front of her as she slowly walks. When she gets to a chair or other obstacle, she walks with it to her left, making longer paths than necessary in order to adjust to this “new normal.” I wish people could adjust this quickly to a sudden loss of one of their senses!

Peanut Butter has also found a place to relax that’s safe and secure. She curls up on her quilt next to the heat vent in the family room. When she is there, no one can accidentally bump her, etc., as she is next to the wall on one side and next to the sofa on the other side. She seems content to sit here and take naps and let us sit on the sofa and reach over to pet her. Instinct is a great thing – she knows what she needs to do to be safe.

 

Sudden Blindness in Cats Always Means a Trip to the Veterinarian’s Office

While some forms of sudden blindness are permanent (retinal detachment is one example of this), cats can and do get better if treated quickly. If you suspect your feline’s eyesight is diminishing rapidly or is already gone, get an appointment with your local veterinarian as soon as possible. In some cases, blindness can be reversed if caught early enough. We don’t know yet what will happen with Peanut Butter, but since it is related to hypertension and she is now on blood pressure medication, we could see some improvement in at least one eye. Diabetes is another culprit that can lead to temporary or permanent blindness. Always assume there is a positive outcome possible and talk to your veterinarian about treatment options.

Peanut Butter’s Tenacity vs. Her Age

We knew that watching our pets grow older would lead to sadness, but I have to admire Peanut Butter’s tenacity. Of course, our vet has warned us that this could be the first symptom in a domino effect of health and mobility problems since she is a senior cat. She’s lost weight recently, and sometimes cats simply die because their bodies have worn out. At less than nine pounds, Peanut Butter doesn’t have much to work with. Despite eating well, she is losing weight steadily. With this trifecta of problems – weight loss, pain and blindness – I have to brace myself for the fact that eventually – probably much sooner than I’m ready – Peanut Butter will simply fade away. If the pain becomes too much for her, we may have to help her cross the Rainbow Bridge.

Peanut Butter has been a pest, a companion, a napping buddy, a comedienne and much more to our family these last seventeen years. I hope when it is her time to leave us, I am strong enough to make the right choice for her. In the meantime, we’ll reassure her with our voices, our touches and our presence. If you could send healing thoughts our way, we appreciate those very much!


22 Comments

  1. Kathy Crable

    August 21, 2017 3:38 pm

    Lori, I know how much you love your kitty and am praying for her condition to improve. No matter how long our “furbabies” are with us, it is never long enough.

  2. Cathy Armato

    August 21, 2017 4:42 pm

    Oh I’m so sorry to hear this news, poor Peanut Butter. I can only imagine how heartbreaking this is for you. I hope the Veterinarian can giver you something that will help restore PB’s site. It must be so unsettling for a pet to wake up & suddenly not be able to see. Sending you thoughts & prayers for Peanut Butter.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    • Lori Hilliard

      August 21, 2017 6:54 pm

      Thank you, Cathy! We’re staying hopeful and trusting that PB’s vet will be able to find out the cause soon. In the meantime, Peanut Butter is safe and being fussed over at home.

  3. Joely Smith

    August 21, 2017 5:58 pm

    So sorry to hear about Peanut Butter. I thank you for this article though. It does help me a lot to know what to look for in our cats! Love to your precious kitty.

  4. Stephanie Seger

    August 22, 2017 7:08 am

    Oh, I am so sorry! I am in tears reading this! It is never easy to watch our pets age. The sudden blindness was something I was not aware of, so I really appreciate you bringing attention to this issue. I know it must have been painful for you to write. Love and hugs to your sweet Peanut Butter.

  5. MizzBassie

    August 23, 2017 1:45 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about Peanut Butter’s blindness. I hope that she regains some eyesight, although it sounds like she’s handling the condition very well and you are doing all the right things for her.

    Mommy has often said that the only bad thing about pets is that they age and die before their humans. It’s never easy to see them sick and wonder about their quality of life. It’s even harder to make that final decision to let them go. Only you will know the right time.

    I am sending comforting purrrrrrrrrrrrrrs to you and healing purrrrrrrrrrrrrrs to Peanut Butter.

  6. Sweet Purrfections

    August 23, 2017 5:23 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about Peanut Butter’s sudden blindness and the other health issues that are occurring from age. It’s hard to watch our human and furry friends and family age.

    • Lori Hilliard

      August 28, 2017 5:45 pm

      Peanut Butter is being amazingly resilient, and our dog has taken to checking on her throughout the day, so he knows something is up and is taking care of her.

  7. Tenacious Little Terrier

    August 23, 2017 5:43 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this! Did they give you a time frame in which there might be progress? I know there’s a halo for blind dogs so bumping into things won’t hurt. I wonder if it would help cats too?

    • Lori

      August 24, 2017 6:57 pm

      I’m looking into the halo for Peanut Butter, but she’s actually doing very well in the house. She pretty much knows the layout by heart. The only time she bumps into something is if we’ve left something out like a pair of shoes. We’re trying very hard to put everything in its proper place!

  8. Kristen @ My 3 Little Kittens

    August 23, 2017 6:29 pm

    I was born with a congenital cataract in my left eye. I have no depth perception. Blindness is especially scary for those who have previously had great vision. I am so sorry about Peanut Butter. I will pray for her. She is very lucky to have a family that loves her and will always be there for her despite any circumstances!

  9. Luna | Mother of Rescues

    August 23, 2017 8:53 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about this diagnosis. 🙁 I didn’t know cats can suddenly go blind, but it sure seems like a scary experience. It is inspiring to read your optimistic words and how devoted you are to your precious furry baby. I hope Peanut Butter adjusts to this change without bigger hiccups. <3

  10. Shelby @ For The Love of Paws

    August 23, 2017 10:46 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your baby having to go through this hard time. Thank you for using your personal experience and sharing it with others, that they might learn from you both. 🙂

  11. Allison

    August 23, 2017 11:12 pm

    I had no idea cats could go suddenly blind. Thank you for sharing from your experience and for the informative article.

    My first cat took sick in the fall of 2013 and quickly went downhill. We lost her in a space of a few months. She was a much-loved feline companion who taught me much about cats. I still miss her and understand how much a part of family our cats become. My thoughts are with you, as you treasure the months or years that you have ahead with Peanut Butter.

    PS Cute name! How did you come up with it?

    • Lori

      August 24, 2017 6:55 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Peanut Butter is adjusting well so far. I’m amazed by how acute her hearing is. It may have always been that way, but she’s definitely relying on it more now and she constantly ‘scans’ the room, turning her ears different ways to hear what’s going on and where everyone is. I can’t claim credit for her name – Peanut Butter was named by my stepdaughters when they dragged her home as a scared, abandoned kitten. They had a food/condiments obsession for a while, so we also had a cat named Cocoa and two lab rats named Salt & Pepper!

  12. Dash Kitten Crew

    August 24, 2017 1:08 am

    Your not moving anything reminds of our Dash (partially sighted) and the time I had a great idea and moved both sofas in the living room. He totally freaked out. I put them back the way they were immediately! I don’t know who was most scared him at the move or me at his response.

    • Lori

      August 24, 2017 6:50 pm

      Oh my goodness! I’m pretty sure you were upset at the thought of getting Dash so worked up. Sometimes a great idea has unforeseen consequences. I sympathize!

  13. Isabelle

    September 30, 2018 5:38 am

    My little boy Willie suddenly went blind this afternoon. I kinda knew something was wrong when I saw how he was walking and then I just looked at his eyes and knew he was blind. He is actually doing quite well. He is eating,drinking and using his litter box. Right now he is sleeping on the couch next to me. I panicked when I first noticed his eyes and just assumed the worst scenario however after speaking with an emergency service, that cats can adapt well. Of course this has to happen on a late Saturday afternoon and no vet clinics are open. I am unable to drive and my husband is in denial and I can’t get any emergency veterinarians to come to the house (Willie hates car rides and I don’t want to stress him more than he most likely is). I can sympathize with you and Peanut Butter. I keep on breaking into tears but I have to be optimistic to comfort him tonight. After reading your story, I feel that he is going to adapt and will be my little man for a couple more years. The only thing that keeps popping into my mind is I don’t have a diagnosis. The referral vet service did give me hope that it is due his age (17) and cats can do well and adjust to the blindness. I am also hoping that his blindness is temporary and his sight returns but kinda know that this is permanent. Prayers to Peanut butter and your family and after reading your story I still have hope knowing that I am not alone.

    • Carleen

      September 30, 2018 5:29 pm

      Hi Isabelle! Lori, who wrote this article no longer writes for the site, but I know that her cat seemed to adapt pretty well. I too had a cat go blind and she did amazingly well. I was surprised by just how quickly she adapted. I never had a true diagnosis other than retinal detachment from generally old age (my cat was 18 at the time). Sending lots of good thoughts your way for you and Willie!

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