Author Topic: Living with a deaf AND blind cat  (Read 495 times)

Sibley

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Living with a deaf AND blind cat
« on: December 23, 2018, 10:11:52 AM »
I know there's some pet lovers on this site, and my googling is turning up zilch. My 19 year old cat, Sibley, has suddenly gone blind. She's been deaf most of the year. My family has experience with a blind cat, I've got strategies for a deaf cat, but most of the things that work for one or the other do not apply to deaf and blind.

Sibley is old, creaky, she's got kidney disease, a heart problem, recurring cysts that sometimes cause problems, etc. She sleeps most of the day, and basically lives in 2-3 rooms upstairs. She's been in the house long enough with vision that she is doing ok navigating.

Problems I'm seeing right now: she can get UP (to the bed, the cat bed, the stairs, etc), but down is another matter. She's already fallen off the bed once, and is obviously scared she'll fall again. But some of her favorite places are UP. How can I help her with getting DOWN?

I'm having to touch her to announce my presence. She's resistant to being picked up and carried, and also to being gently guided (cat, duh!).

Also, she ends up in the vet for one reason or another every 1-2 months. I'm going to take her this week, due to the suddenness of the blindness. She doesn't do well in a cat carrier, and I actually put a harness on her and just carry her. I'm planning on making sure I'm touching her the whole time, so she knows she's not been abandoned or anything.

Any tips, experiences, etc? At this point, she and I are fumbling around trying to adjust, so anything that might give me some ideas would be appreciated.

SoftwareGoddess

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Re: Living with a deaf AND blind cat
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2018, 11:06:50 AM »
Sorry to hear about your kitty's vision. So scary when something like this happens suddenly.

Your vet will most likely bring this up, but the blindness may be due to retinal detachment caused by high blood pressure caused by the kidney disease. If HBP is the cause, and you can get her on medication ASAP, she may recover some of her sight. (This happened with my Sally; she was able to see again after a few days of medication.)

As for helping her getting down from things without falling, I only have obvious suggestions: can you prevent her from going up? If not, can you arrange a more reliable way to get down, like pet stairs? I understand that blind cats often try to use their whiskers as a guide by brushing them against a wall or similar. Can you place guides/obstacles to help her get where she wants to go? That being said, while she was blind, Sally always seemed to assume that she would be able to get where she was going, even if the path wasn't normally always available. I had watch her all the time to keep her from walking off of tables and such.

Rural

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Re: Living with a deaf AND blind cat
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2018, 11:07:51 AM »
For now, I'd make her a floor-level nest with some of the materials from one of her favorite elevated spots so it smells familiar and see if she takes to that. If she doesn't, maybe try pillows along the edge of the bed if that's where she falls, just for a stopgap measure until you get to the vet.

Sibley

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Re: Living with a deaf AND blind cat
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2018, 01:54:27 PM »
She's got multiple beds on the floor, and does sleep in them. She's in one right now actually. At night though, she really wants to be on my bed. After she fell, she's mostly been waking me up to help her get down!

My mom had a cat that lost vision due to high BP, so we're aware of that possibility. There's very recent bloodwork to serve as a reference, but I don't know if the vet checked her BP then. I'm taking her in after Christmas.

Cassie

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Re: Living with a deaf AND blind cat
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2018, 09:19:21 AM »
We had a deaf dog that lost most of her vision. She adapted to dog Steps for our bed. She also had a kidney issue and dementia. At 20 she became so confused and frantic by 5pm even with anxiety medication (sundowners) that we finally had to help her go.  Itís so hard when you have had a pet that long.

katscratch

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Re: Living with a deaf AND blind cat
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2018, 10:07:18 AM »
One of my cats spent the last 3 years of his 20 year life blind and lost his ability to process auditory stimulus along the way after a series of strokes (primary disease was high blood pressure).

For general environmental comfort:

One of the biggest things we can do is not move furniture around. Cats can "re-map" the layout a number of times, but the one time they can't will mean total confusion and distress from then on. We saw this quite a bit in the veterinary hospital I worked in, with late stage renal failure kitties.

In my house we used vanilla to "mark" the edges of doorways. I'd dab some on cat-height every few days. We used sage to mark the edges of big furniture (I basically just made a simple syrup with sage to use). We stayed away from essential oils as the scent undiluted is too overwhelming.

Sibley specific ideas:

I don't wear perfume but wear an oil-based "amber" fragrance. My cat would bump up against my wrists when I wore it, so I started making sure I wore it daily, and waved my hand near him when I was approaching. I don't know how big a difference it made, but he did seem to notice (when he was awake). We also made sure everyone knew to wave around his head near his eyebrow whiskers and touch the top of his head gently if he approached - keeping the greeting touch consistent seemed to prevent a lot of the startle response he first had.

He also really preferred sleeping next to me on the bed, so I started blocking in the side of the bed before I went to sleep so he couldn't fall off. He still had hearing at this point, though, so it was easier to catch his attention when he woke up to prevent him from trying to walk off the edge. If that had been a longer stage I think I would have bought two of those baby-guards that flips up along the edge of the mattress, and flips down when not in use -- I'd position one along the edge and one at the bottom of the bed, with a ramp or steps at the opening, so he'd basically be shuttled to the safe exit. Or I'd probably still just wake up and help him down :)

Now I sleep on the floor (for my own health reasons) but I've noticed my elderly dog is experiencing less dramatic bed exits, heh.


I've had three cats that lived over 20 and my dog will be 18 in February. It's always hard to watch them decline but I also find such wonder and beauty in how simply they accept their bodies letting them down.

Sibley

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Re: Living with a deaf AND blind cat
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2018, 12:50:31 PM »
Sibley's been doing better getting off the bed, and has been successful (and comfortable) getting in and out of a slightly elevated bed that she loves. She's pretty content. She's living in 2-3 rooms upstairs currently, which isn't that unusual for her anyway.

Since she's been deaf for most of the year, she's good at using vibration and air movements to alert her, and that's helping now. Plus, it's pretty clear that she's seeing light/dark some, so that helps. She didn't do very well downstairs when things were nuts, but everyone's gone home now so hopefully she'll be a little more confident. She is not coming down the stairs, but is getting up them fine when I've taken her down.

gonna be taking her to the vet this week to get things checked out, mostly to see if there's an underlying condition that needs treatment.