How to help a suddenly blind cat adjust (and eventually learn to use stairs)

WMM201

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
190
Purraise
326
Location
Michigan
Hello everyone. My dear cat Mumu became totally blind this weekend due to complications from surgery. It has been heartbreaking as you can imagine, for many reasons, and I have been searching high and low for things to do to help my cat adjust to her new life as a blind cat and not finding much beyond keep her in a small space at first and don't change things in the home. Most of the advice is for cats who gradually go blind, or lose sight in just one eye. I wish that was the case for Mumu, but she lost her sight literally overnight, permanently (she has been seen by an ophthalmologist specialist since this happened). I have created a safe room for her and will pad sharp corners in other rooms when she is able to explore. She is wearing a cone now, and that has really impeded her movement. We hope she can get that off soon but we don't know. The stress of her vet visits (including the ER) and being blind have even cause some whiskers to break off.

Does anyone have advice on how to care for a suddenly totally blind cat? Will she keep her eyes, or will they get injured and infected because she keeps them open almost constantly now? I know that enucleation is something that she may have to do, but with her current situation, I would hope to spare her from another major surgery and traumatic recovery at least in the immediate future.

I live in a 3 story home, and her cat safe room is up a flight of stairs from the living room. I have blocked it off with a baby gate as all the websites advise, but nothing ever says how to help her learn to use the stairs again? Can anyone help with your experience of helping a cat learn stairs again? If I carry her down the stairs to the living room, will she be disoriented and never know where she is? Can I ever pick her up to put her on the couch with me?

I am sorry for this flood of questions, but I am just starving for information to help my cat get used to her blindness so she can regain some quality of life. All the resources out there say they can be happy again, but I desperately want to know how to help her get there. If anyone has any advice, I would be so grateful.
 

Jcatbird

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
9,737
Purraise
54,854
Location
Southern U.S.
Take your time with her. She needs time to adjust. Scent is a great tool for kitties. Her mind is still sharp? If so, she will remember the stairs but will need time to learn her way again. If the banisters are open so she could fall, block them off!
Where did she used to spend most of her time? If she spent a lot of time in the room with you, you can begin by carrying her there and keeping her company as an “outing” for an hour or however long you can do it. What about a harness? Would she object to that? It might be a way to help guide her at first if it isn’t something she would dislike. You can leave scent trails for her too. Getting her scent by brushing her or rubbing her with things like a washcloth and leaving a trail of these items could help. Using your scent by leaving small clothing items for her to follow could work later on too. Start slowly. Let her adjust at her pace. Keep water dishes, food and litter boxes where she can easily locate them any time she needs them. More than one of each of she starts moving from room to room. She will gain confidence as she learns. There are lots of threads on this site by people with blind kitties so you can do a search to learn what worked for them. There is also an article on site about blind kitties. Maybe that will help? Here is a link to click on.
Blind Cats – TheCatSite Articles
Please do keep us updated. BTW, one member does write about her blind kitty that still has her eyes so don’t worry about enucleation yet.
 

Furballsmom

Forum Helper and Cat Devotee
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
30,426
Purraise
41,278
Location
Colorado USA
she keeps them open almost constantly now?
Would your vet suggest eye drops?

Sound is her best friend now, such as your voices, and when she's sleeping knock on the door frame or floor to announce yourself.
I don't know about cat music at a low volume now and then?, and other calming products may help.

Actually, maybe Jcatbird Jcatbird and I might be having similar thoughts. What if when she's a little more comfortable, you lifted, and talked, her gently down each step? This may need to happen over several times, including up.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #4

WMM201

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
190
Purraise
326
Location
Michigan
Jcatbird Jcatbird and Furballsmom Furballsmom , thank you so much for replying to my post. I will leave some scent trails for her in the confinement space, which is her old bedroom and small hallway outside. Since she's been on painkillers this whole time and wearing a cone, she's been wobbly and frustrated. I have a special song for her that seems to comfort her when I sing it, and right now it seems she just want to lay in my lap rather than explore. She seems so depressed, and I hope that if she can get that cone off, she would have a better time starting to learn her way around. This poor darling.

I will read the posts that Jcatbird Jcatbird kindly linked to, and definitely keep you updated. If you have seen my posts in other threads, you will know that my baby Mumu has had a lot of challenges recently as she has gotten older. She is so sweet and loving, and I would do anything to make her life less difficult.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #5

WMM201

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
190
Purraise
326
Location
Michigan
She did spend time with me most in the living room downstairs, and I tried to put her there yesterday. The space is large, with quite a few obstacles, and she was so confused and ran into things. I decided to wait until I could install padding on the corners of table and chair legs before bringing her down again. I also worry that carrying her down is going to confuse her a lot. But the idea of using a harness inside for her to get used that space is something I will try. Mumu is used to a harness as we used to take walks outside together. (Another thing that she won't be able enjoy for quite some time, which breaks my heart.) Thank you for giving me these tips and encouragement!

Take your time with her. She needs time to adjust. Scent is a great tool for kitties. Her mind is still sharp? If so, she will remember the stairs but will need time to learn her way again. If the banisters are open so she could fall, block them off!
Where did she used to spend most of her time? If she spent a lot of time in the room with you, you can begin by carrying her there and keeping her company as an “outing” for an hour or however long you can do it. What about a harness? Would she object to that? It might be a way to help guide her at first if it isn’t something she would dislike. You can leave scent trails for her too. Getting her scent by brushing her or rubbing her with things like a washcloth and leaving a trail of these items could help. Using your scent by leaving small clothing items for her to follow could work later on too. Start slowly. Let her adjust at her pace. Keep water dishes, food and litter boxes where she can easily locate them any time she needs them. More than one of each of she starts moving from room to room. She will gain confidence as she learns. There are lots of threads on this site by people with blind kitties so you can do a search to learn what worked for them. There is also an article on site about blind kitties. Maybe that will help? Here is a link to click on.
Blind Cats – TheCatSite Articles
Please do keep us updated. BTW, one member does write about her blind kitty that still has her eyes so don’t worry about enucleation yet.
 

Furballsmom

Forum Helper and Cat Devotee
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
30,426
Purraise
41,278
Location
Colorado USA
I also worry that carrying her down is going to confuse her a lot.
I envisioned that, after the cone is off and even a while after that, then literally one step at a time, help her to navigate down with your hands and your voice, and then one step at a time help her up with your hands and your voice. But go slowly :). This is familiar territory for, she just needs time to find herself in her new normal, and then re-find where she is in relation to things, levels etc. It will take time, be patient and work with her at her pace.
 

Babypaws

TCS Member
Alpha Cat
Joined
May 31, 2018
Messages
487
Purraise
492
Location
Massachusetts
I’m so so sorry to hear about your precious baby….she must be so scared not knowing what happened. I had a cat that lost her eye site but not 100%. I think she was able to see shadows but would still bump into things. We have two floors and she had access to both floors but I kept the stairs blocked off and would carry her upstairs at night (she always slept in my bedroom) and I would close the door. In the mornings I would carry her back downstairs. I was too afraid she would fall down the stairs. Cats do have a good scent and it’s good she’s in a familiar place..
Its got to be heart breaking for you. I don’t even know you but after reading your message it brought tears. Our little babies are family and when they’re hurt you wish you could comfort them and let them know things will be okay.
Prayers to both of you. 🙏🏻
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #8

WMM201

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
190
Purraise
326
Location
Michigan
I’m so so sorry to hear about your precious baby….she must be so scared not knowing what happened. I had a cat that lost her eye site but not 100%. I think she was able to see shadows but would still bump into things. We have two floors and she had access to both floors but I kept the stairs blocked off and would carry her upstairs at night (she always slept in my bedroom) and I would close the door. In the mornings I would carry her back downstairs. I was too afraid she would fall down the stairs. Cats do have a good scent and it’s good she’s in a familiar place..
Its got to be heart breaking for you. I don’t even know you but after reading your message it brought tears. Our little babies are family and when they’re hurt you wish you could comfort them and let them know things will be okay.
Prayers to both of you. 🙏🏻
Babypaws Babypaws Thank you so much! I don't think my Mumu can even see light or shadows, but it is so good to hear that your cat understood being carried from floor to floor. Once she has gotten her bearings and confidence in her safe area, I will try to bring her downstairs for short visits with me so she can learn the living room gradually. I know this will take time, as much as she needs. I dream that Mumu can learn stairs, but I would also be more than happy holding her close to carry her down each day. I'm so sorry if my post made you cry! ❤ I am still processing this whole situation and trying to keep the negative emotions away from Mumu and talk to her with encouragement as much as I can.
 

Furballsmom

Forum Helper and Cat Devotee
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
30,426
Purraise
41,278
Location
Colorado USA
I'm thinking this might be of use, even though it written for dog owners;
How to Train Your Blind Dog to Walk Down Stairs.

and from puppystairs .com
lots of repetition was an essential part of the process, turning his awkward, reluctant approach to all this into part of his daily routine. A friend suggested I try using a subtle scent at one end or the other of his destination; it signaled for him a point of departure or its destination...such a simple, but a great idea. Prior to that I was using a food treat to lure him onto the staircase. The scent approach was soon working wonders, adding another success to his daily accomplishments.

Making his way around the house was helped, in turn, using his Puppy Stairs and dog ramps to reach chairs and beds and the sofa where we have our afternoon naps together. Their soft, firm edges are a safe and easy way for him to navigate, climb and generally acclimate himself to some of his preferred locations.
 

FeebysOwner

TCS Member
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jun 13, 2018
Messages
16,103
Purraise
21,598
Location
Central FL (Born in OH)
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #11

WMM201

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
190
Purraise
326
Location
Michigan
Furballsmom Furballsmom thank you for finding these resources!! Even though this is for dogs, I hope these methods can help my Mumu--when she is ready. I love having this information for planning ahead, so I can get a mental preparation for myself ready and not be discouraged when one method doesn't work. ❤
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #12

WMM201

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
190
Purraise
326
Location
Michigan
Hi FeebysOwner FeebysOwner thanks for these links so much. They were among the first I found and devoured when I waited in the ER for Mumu, and helped me plan her safe zone. Thank you so much ❤
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14

WMM201

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
190
Purraise
326
Location
Michigan
Furballsmom Furballsmom thanks for sending this! I like the strategy to slowly bring my Mumu outside to be around people and new places (after she gets used to her own space in the home first). She is already harness trained, and I was hoping to eventually start to bring her to her groomers shop for short visits to get her familiar with her groomer and surroundings, in the hope that one day she can get her beauty days again.

Mumu went for an appointment for her eyes on Tuesday, and she was so lethargic that the ophthalmologist couldn't conduct a vision exam and instead transferred her to critical care. Everyone thought she had low potassium levels, but the blood tests and imaging showed normal potassium, high ionized calcium, and a degenerating disk in her back. The vet also suspected that her kidneys aren't metabolizing the gabapentin painkiller quickly enough between the 12 hr doses. When I brought her home after a night in the hospital with fluids and a successful enema, she was able to finally ditch her cone. She seemed so much more alert and in command of her environment. It made me feel so hopeful. Then I gave her a very small dose of gabapentin for pain as directed by the vet, and she was back to her lethargic and wobbly self last night. She did perk up just a little this morning. I am hoping for a good solution for her ongoing eye care, pain management, and adjustment to blindness, but I know it will take time to figure all this out. Plus, we need to find the cause of her high calcium and deal with that as well (she is a CKD kitty). I have been searching thecatsite for hypercalcemia threads to find out more about it and what others have done for treatment.

Poor Mumu is going through a lot, but I am going to let her take things at her own pace, one step at a time. I just wish she had options for pain management that don't produce these really alarming side effects.
 

FeebysOwner

TCS Member
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jun 13, 2018
Messages
16,103
Purraise
21,598
Location
Central FL (Born in OH)
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #16

WMM201

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
190
Purraise
326
Location
Michigan
I probably missed it somehow - but what is the pain medicine for? Depending on the reason, there may be other options.

Re: CKD - If you aren't already aware of this site, you might want to check it out. Tanya's Comprehensive Guide to Feline Chronic Kidney Disease - Everything You Need to Know to Help Your Cat (felinecrf.org). Among so many other things, it does address hypercalcemia.
Hi FeebysOwner FeebysOwner oh for sure I am familiar with Tanya's CKD site! Thanks for mentioning it, though. I consult it so often these days. The gabapentin is for ongoing recovery from surgery plus pain from some degenerating disks in her lower back. They found quite a few disks had started to fuse through X-rays, and she has been very upset when she's palpated in that area during her exams (has been for a while), the vet said she must be having pain there. That might be causing her to walk and stand funny and even making it painful to have bowel movements (and thinking back, she might have started a slightly awkward gait a while back but not like how she is currently). Unfortunately she can't be on buprenorphine because she has a bad reaction to the medication: agitation, disorientation, constipation. So it's gabapentin which is knocking her out even at small doses (she's taken longer to clear it over the last year or so). I would love for her to be able to be more active to start to adjust to her surroundings (and keep moving around to stay regular with her bowel movements), but I don't want her to be painful, either. She has a recheck for her blood work for high calcium next week, and I may have to ask the vet what other pain meds are available for her back pain.

Mumu has been sleeping a lot, but it isn't the profound lethargy from a couple of days ago when she was on higher and constant doses of gabapentin. She even purred for me during a chin scratching session. It's been so long since that happened that I am thrilled just to have that.
 

FeebysOwner

TCS Member
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jun 13, 2018
Messages
16,103
Purraise
21,598
Location
Central FL (Born in OH)
I am familiar with Tanya's CKD site! ... she can't be on buprenorphine because she has a bad reaction
Then, I presume you are also familiar with the CKD forum? Another resource for asking others about their dealings with hypercalcemia.
[email protected] | Home
Any chance Mumu was on other meds at the time she received buprenorphine that had interactions with it? There is a long list of them last I looked!

I can't remember if you mentioned CBD oil before. If not, another thing to consider in lieu of gabapentin. Has the vet ever talked about an anti-inflammatory either instead of or alongside gabapentin?
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) & Your Cat | International Cat Care (icatcare.org)

Adequan, another form of aide for arthritic cats, might be something else to talk to the vet about.
Adequan (Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan) For Cats - Cat-World
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #18

WMM201

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
190
Purraise
326
Location
Michigan
Then, I presume you are also familiar with the CKD forum? Another resource for asking others about their dealings with hypercalcemia.
[email protected] | Home
Any chance Mumu was on other meds at the time she received buprenorphine that had interactions with it? There is a long list of them last I looked!

I can't remember if you mentioned CBD oil before. If not, another thing to consider in lieu of gabapentin. Has the vet ever talked about an anti-inflammatory either instead of or alongside gabapentin?
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) & Your Cat | International Cat Care (icatcare.org)

Adequan, another form of aide for arthritic cats, might be something else to talk to the vet about.
Adequan (Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan) For Cats - Cat-World
Hi FeebysOwner FeebysOwner I am in that CKD group, but I haven't had time to go through the posts since Mumu was found to be hypercalcemic (it's been a lot to deal with her blindness and hospitalization 😢) but I plan to do that now Mumu is at least resting comfortably at home. Mumu has been getting Adequan injections monthly for almost 2 years until she became blind along with monthly laser treatments (we started with more frequency and tapered to monthly based on her vet's evaluation). To be honest, those therapies didn't seem to help her a whole lot, even though I kept them up. Her primary vet just started this past weekend to allow use of very low doses of Meloxicam, but right now her critical care vet wants to cut back on medications that might have any impact on her kidneys until she seems fully recovered and we get a good baseline for how she is doing. I hope we can start using Meloxicam for her arthritis at that point and hope it's not too long from now. I scheduled a consultation for a neurology specialist early next month, maybe so that they can provide a good pain management plan for her. Her physical therapy vet and primary vet both think the new Solensia injection for cat arthritis pain would benefit Mumu, but they don't know when it will actually be available yet even though it was approved in January and announced for "later in 2022". I sure hope later is sooner.
 

daftcat75

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Sep 7, 2018
Messages
10,125
Purraise
19,222
Hopefully she can get the cone off soon. Touch and whiskers will be a huge guide for her in addition to scents and sound.

I don't have experience with a blind cat. But I've seen a few on Instagram. I've seen one go down stairs by brushing his side along the wall to steady himself and he just has the stairs memorized. Except the bottom. He gently bumps into the wall at the bottom to orient himself.

If she were my cat, I would have "physical therapy" sessions with her where you allow her to explore under strict supervision. Leave a couple of stairs open to her but block off the rest. If she uses the wall to orient herself, you may want to put some makeshift traffic bumps ("driving braille") for her that can get closer together as she comes to a transition, e.g. the stairs. She'll probably figure that out quickly enough.

I wouldn't try to carry or coddle her. Let her bump and stumble. This is how she'll learn. Cats are tough and adaptable. You may want to keep her under strict supervision while she re-learns her environment to prevent any serious injury.
 

Tigger's Mum

TCS Member
Adult Cat
Joined
Apr 17, 2022
Messages
124
Purraise
227
Location
England, UK
Having had two blind cats (age related) and one with partial vision (severe cat 'flu as a tiny kitten), don't move your furniture around. Cats are extremely adaptable and they use their other senses to compensate for the lack of vision. She will build a map of her surroundings in her head. I know someone whose cat has no eyes yet you wouldn't know the cat was completely blind. He goes up and down stairs without any problem, jumps on the worktops and his ears are so acute he can hear a moth flutter by and catch it. He is harness and lead trained and goes everywhere with his owner. They live out of town and have a completely enclosed back garden. They also have other sighted cats. If there's a mouse in their garden, it's the blind cat who always catches it. He hears it before the others do.

If your cat likes toys, get the crinkle balls and ones with little bells in them. She will be able to hear them. Just give her time to adapt and she will.

My own cat Lucy who went blind, it didn't stop her climbing on the high cabinet and ambushing me as I walked through the door. She never failed to land on my shoulder.
 
Top