Tips for Acclimating a Blind Cat to a New Home
October 12, 2021 3:02 PM   Subscribe

I have the opportunity to adopt a 2-3 year old blind kitty, and I really, really want to. She would be the second cat in my household and sibling to my 8 year old pussycat Bunny. (Cat tax in previous posts about her.) I have never had a special needs cat, though, and while I know I will get lots of training and support from the shelter she's at, I'd love advice from any fellow MeFites who have had kitties like this before!

Blind kitty has been sightless for most of her life. She doesn't like kittens (too high energy), so the hope is that Bunny will be a better companion as she is reasonably playful but mostly independent. Bunny is also quite large (14lbs), with heavy footfall, and is therefore not the most silent being in the world, which may be helpful to New Cat. Bunny has not been around other cats for about 7 years.

I have a one bedroom apartment. Current plan is to divide the space into two distinct areas using a baby gate. Bunny gets her normal domain, and New Cat will have access to my room and my bathroom, limiting the number of objects she needs to familiarize herself with right away. I am not sure yet about how she does her litterbox business but that's fine.

All advice welcome! I am honestly emotional just thinking about how great it will be to bring her home and want to do everything I can to make it a happy process for her and for Bunny.
posted by Hermione Granger to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My own blind kitty had no real special needs, beyond making sure I didn't leave things laying around for her to trip over. I did have to to monitor her a little carefully at first because she actually had burst corneas due to abusive owners never taking her to the vet, but she healed up with no major issues.

She enjoys looking out the windows when it's sunny, but I think it's more sunbathing and listening for birds. She gets up on the counters and knocks thigs over, and does all the cat-related things that drive me crazy but that I secretly love.
posted by answergrape at 3:33 PM on October 12 [4 favorites]

Rethink your space in terms of smells.

For the litter box, if you can get some used litter from the shelter to put in the box as a layer on top she should know right away where it is and what to do with it, and be able to find it again if it gets moved.

Verticality might be the main issue. Get some towels, little blankets, scraps of fleece fabric, etc and put them in spots on ground level or seating where new cat likes to hang out. Then once they smell like her, place that fabric up in spots that are easy to jump to (so no narrow openings) and lead to sheltered areas for her to hide and feel safe in. She should be able to smell where to jump, basically.

Blindness is not much of an issue for many cats, since they have plenty of other senses that work in tandem to compensate. Be careful of her whiskers because those keep her from bonking into walls - note the location of her other whiskery hairs which some cats even have on their back legs and her eyebrows, she might not like those to be messed with. Use enzyme cleaners to try making some things at home not smell completely like Bunny, and keep overwhelming scents to a minimum (citrus is disliked by many cats). Use sound for entertainment sometimes - the blind cat I have the most experience with visibly enjoyed listening to Cat Stevens (I know! Cat! Stevens!) and other singer songwriter stuff; he would loaf but keep his head up and purr into the air. And things like outside noises and sunshine and outside smells are nearly as much of a full surround experience for a blind cat as a seeing one, so be sure to make window perches easy to access.
posted by Mizu at 3:46 PM on October 12 [3 favorites]

My experience with a blind, elderly cat is that they were almost indistinguishable from a sighted cat. Sight is a small (but important) part of a cat's world. They do pretty well without it. So well it's hard to tell that they're blind.

Keeping the smell of the litterbox the same is probably a good idea. You can transition to something else, gradually, later.
posted by eotvos at 6:38 PM on October 12

My dear departed blind cat Melanie was the joy of my life. She was born blind and feral, so adjust your grain of salt according to your circumstances. One thing that we found helpful was to have a place where she could "reset." In Melanie's case, it was a cinderblock that sat a few feet away from the litterbox. That way she had texture under her feet and a smell in her nose to clue her in. And every time I set her down there I'd say, "Here's Uncle Cinderblock," and she'd know where she was. She also had a tendency to feel her way around any unfamiliar space (like the vet's office) with her whiskers until she was confident (which never took long).

Other than that, and not making any major furniture rearrangements, she really didn't need help most of the time. She was a fierce and mighty bug hunter, and even caught the occasional mouse. Her favorite game was to hide under the rocking chair and jump out on any other cat who happened to walk by. She was the undisputed queen of the castle. She did tend to prefer the company of humans to other cats, and liked to be carried around.

Cat tax
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:01 PM on October 12 [10 favorites]

I have 2 visually impaired cats (one has no peripheral vision on his left side and the other can only see things about 2ft in front of his face or in very bright light) and smell is definitely how the old one gets around. He had found every hiding place the other cats have through smell alone. He likes shoes so will seek out closets to sleep with them. Because he is impaired, his pooping is a little awkward, a lot of time he'll poop half out of the box so I would recommend something with high curved sides so the edge is more obvious.
He loves stinky treats so maybe if you strategically place treats around where you want your new cat to go she'll suss out the best places faster.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:48 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Smells and textures are great for blind cats. Mine did have some trouble getting fully into the litterbox so we had pee pads around it, but he went blind at an advanced age when he also had arthritis, so that may have been the real issue.

When friends come over, it may be helpful to remind them that she is blind and that if they want to touch her or pick her up, they should give her a heads-up that they're there first. Talking to her is probably best but with my deaf-blind boy we would instead blow on him gently or stomp a foot near him to signal that we were in the area, and that also worked fine.

Make sure you're happy with your furniture placement before she comes home, because you're not going to want to change it until she's comfortable enough navigating her space easily by whiskers/sound/smell that a moved sofa won't throw her too much.
posted by Stacey at 8:40 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]

I follow a few people on Instagram with blind cats and they often talk about their challenges (very minor) and how much they enjoy their pets. Pokeypotpie is one of them, and they often foster blind or limited vision cats as well. Tradowlita is the other one that I remember offhand; he has one seeing cat, one mostly blind, and one completely blind. You might like seeing how well their cats integrate with their families. It has made me confident that if I ever had the opportunity to take in a blind cat that I would be able to.
posted by possibilityleft at 3:52 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

My blind 3 year old cat took some time to adjust when he moved - there was some bumping into walls - but then he just figured it out and acted like any other cat in most ways. He would be surprised to discover a toy on the ground and fight it like any other cat might, and he always pawed his water, but I have a sighted cat who does that too (maybe she learned from him?).

I’d be a little extra cautious on the introductions if I were you, since he might be particular vulnerable to surprise attacks.
posted by OrangeVelour at 6:40 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]

I've had water-pawers who showed no other signs of poor vision. I don't understand why they do it, but do it they do.

I had one cat who had been a bottle-baby (Andy the Big Orange Himbo) who used to knead the floor when he drank from his water dish.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:19 PM on October 14

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