Blindness in cats

isolated cat

Overview

  • Surprisingly, it’s not always easy to tell if your cat is going blind.
  • There are many possible causes – some cause sudden blindness, some cause gradual blindness, some are treatable, some are not.
  • Book an appointment with your vet if you suspect your cat is losing their sight.

How can I tell if my cat is blind?

Signs to look out for include:

  • A change in the appearance of their eye(s)
  • Difficulty finding their way and trouble jumping up
  • Not wanting to go out at night
  • Bumping into things
  • Hiding away and becoming nervous
  • Getting lost outside
  • Unable to find food/water or litter tray
  • Walking slowly/cautiously
  • Disorientation.
Photo of cat who is blind in one eye

This cat is blind in the eye with the dilated pupil (the darker of the two).

Causes

Different parts of the eye can be affected causing vision loss in different ways. Possible causes of blindness include:

Serious eye injuries. Serious injuries to the eye can cause blindness. Similarly, scarring to the front of the eye can cause loss of vision.

Cataracts. Changes to the lens inside the eye(s); common in older cats and diabetics.

Glaucoma. Increased pressure inside the eye.

Uveitis. Inflammation inside the eye.

Retinal disease. Disease at the back of the eye such as retinal detachment (common in cats with kidney disease).

Optic nerve disease. A problem with the nerve that connects the brain to the eye.

Brain disease. Such as a bleed, stroke, tumour or infection.

General disease. Diseases in another part of the body can sometimes cause blindness e.g. Feline Leukaemia.

Tumours in the eye. Tumours in and around the eye can cause blindness.

Bleeding in the eye. Often due to high blood pressure (common in cats with kidney disease).

When to contact your vet

Contact your vet as soon as you notice your cat is having problems seeing. Some causes of blindness are reversible, and the sooner treatment is given the better the chance of regaining vision.

You know your cat best. Contact your vet if you’re concerned.

Gradual vs sudden loss of vision

Blindness can develop suddenly or gradually, depending the cause.

Gradual loss of vision

It can be surprisingly difficult to notice a gradual loss of vision because cats are good at adapting. You may notice behaviour changes – they might find it harder to see in dim light, bump into items lying around the house and lose confidence jumping. Cats that lose their vision gradually often adapt well and lead a happy life.

Sudden loss of vision

If your cat has suddenly gone blind, the symptoms will be much more obvious. They are likely to seem stressed, stand still, walk very cautiously and bump into things. If your cat has suddenly lost their vision, it’s important to consider their quality of life when deciding on a treatment plan with your vet. Sadly, it may be kinder to put your cat to sleep if they are struggling to cope.

Caring for a blind cat

If you've been told your cat is losing their sight, or if you're thinking about adopting a blind cat, there are some simple things you can do to help them adjust.

Read our full article for more information.

Published: August 2019

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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst