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How do you know if your cat’s eyes are going bad?

As cat owners, we want to ensure our furry friends stay happy and healthy. One important aspect of feline health is vision. Cats rely heavily on their keen eyesight for hunting, navigating their environment, and more. However, like humans, cat vision can deteriorate with age or disease. Knowing the signs of vision problems in cats allows owners to seek veterinary help when needed. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover the basics of feline vision, common cat eye diseases, symptoms to watch for, and when to seek veterinary care.

The Basics of Feline Vision

Let’s first understand how cat eyes function normally so we can better detect abnormalities. Here are some key facts about feline vision:

  • Cats have excellent vision and can see well in low light due to a reflective layer behind the retina called the tapetum lucidum.
  • They have a wide field of view spanning about 200 degrees.
  • While less accurate than human sight, cat vision has superior motion detection skills.
  • Cats see some colors but are thought to be red-green colorblind.
  • Feline vision ranges from 20/100 to 20/200 based on the Snellen eye chart for humans.
  • Cats’ eyes have a longer focal length than humans, so they are more near-sighted but can see far away objects clearly.
  • Senior cats’ vision may gradually worsen with age, like presbyopia in humans.

Knowing what’s normal for cat vision provides a helpful baseline for noticing vision issues before they advance too far.

Common Cat Eye Diseases and Disorders

Several conditions can potentially impair vision in cats. Here are some of the most common feline eye problems:

  • Cataracts – Cloudiness in the lens, leading to blurred vision. Most common in older cats.
  • Glaucoma – Increased pressure within the eye, causing blindness if left untreated.
  • Conjunctivitis – “Pink eye” inflammation of the conjunctiva membrane around the eye.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy – Gradual retinal degeneration leading to blindness.
  • Cherry Eye – prolapsed gland of the third eyelid, appearing as a red mass.
  • Dry Eye – Insufficient tear production to keep the eyes moisturized.

Cataracts and glaucoma account for most vision loss in cats. However, many other eye abnormalities can also compromise cats’ ability to see properly. Veterinary exams are needed to diagnose the specific condition causing vision problems.

Signs Your Cat May Have Vision Issues

How can you tell if your cat is having trouble seeing? Look for these common signs of vision loss:

  • Clumsiness, bumping into objects
  • Hesitant to jump up or down
  • Difficulty finding food bowl, toys, or litter box
  • Reluctance to move around
  • Unusually anxious or startled reactions
  • Eye discharge or irritation
  • Enlarged, cloudy, or discolored pupils
  • Avoidance of sun, lights, reflections, or shadows
  • Poor appetite
  • Withdrawal or unusual clinginess

Gradual vision decline may go unnoticed at first. But worsening symptoms warrant an exam by your veterinarian. The earlier cat vision issues are caught, the better the prognosis after treatment.

Diagnosing Vision Problems in Cats

If you suspect your cat’s vision is deteriorating, the veterinarian has several methods to assess your pet:

  • Vision tests – Cats’ sight and reaction to visual stimuli.
  • Tonometry – Measuring pressure within the eye to screen for glaucoma.
  • Slit lamp exam – Magnified view inside the eye to check for abnormalities.
  • Fluorescein staining – Uses eye drops to detect scratches or ulcers on the cornea.
  • Blood work – Testing blood glucose, protein, and other levels to uncover related systemic conditions.

Based on exam findings, the vet may recommend:

  • Medications to reduce eye pressure, fight infection, or relieve pain.
  • Surgery for issues like glaucoma, cherry eye, entropion, or cataract removal.
  • Follow up care like using eye drops or ointments at home.

With an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, cats can adapt well to vision loss and enjoy a good quality of life.

Caring for a Cat with Failing Vision

If your aging kitty is diagnosed with irreversible vision loss, a few tips will help them adjust:

  • Keep their environment consistent – Don’t frequently move furniture or items.
  • Use carpet runners or mats – Helps them navigate between rooms.
  • Avoid rearranging food and litter areas – Place them in easily accessible spots.
  • Control noise – Turn off TVs and radios when not needed since sound is important.
  • Watch their interactions with other pets – Vision issues can lead to conflicts.
  • Use scent cues – Rub catnip on toys or feeding areas.
  • Limit free outdoor access – Fenced areas are safer than roaming freely.

With minor adjustments at home and excellent veterinary care, blindness doesn’t have to mean a poor quality of life for your cat. Be attentive and patient with your visually impaired kitty, and consult your vet if you have any concerns.

When to See the Veterinarian

It’s important to have your cat’s eyes examined promptly if you notice any of the following:

  • Squinting, pawing at eyes, or signs of irritation/discomfort
  • Obvious swelling, redness, discharge, or crusting around eyes
  • Visible cloudiness or bluish haze in pupils
  • Unwillingness to move around or seeming disoriented
  • Sudden clumsiness, bumping into objects
  • Major change in temperament like anxiety or fear
  • Recently introduced new pets with potential for eye infections
  • Previous eye injury from a scratch or other trauma

While some vision deficits sneak up slowly, acute eye problems can escalate quickly. It’s always better to have your vet evaluate even subtle eye abnormalities right away. Prompt treatment will give your cat the best chance of regaining good vision.

The Outlook for Feline Vision Problems

What’s the prognosis when cat vision falters? With today’s veterinary ophthalmology care, the outlook is quite promising. Here are a few examples:

  • Cataracts – Over 85% success rate with surgical removal and lens replacement.
  • Glaucoma – Medications and surgery can protect vision if treated early.
  • Cherry Eye – Simple surgical repair brings a good long-term prognosis.
  • Dry Eye – Using prescription eye drops lifelong helps manage chronic dry eye.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy – Sadly no cure yet, but cats can adapt well to vision loss.

While some conditions like retinal atrophy still lack a cure, many feline vision problems can now be corrected or managed with veterinary care. Cataract surgery and glaucoma treatment have high success rates when addressed promptly.

The Bottom Line

A cat’s eyesight is a precious sense. But like humans, cats are vulnerable to age-related declines and other disorders affecting vision. By understanding normal cat vision and knowing what symptoms warrant a vet visit, owners have the power to preserve their cats’ eyesight and quality of life. Don’t delay having your cat’s eyes assessed if you spot anything amiss. With today’s veterinary ophthalmology care, the outlook is promising for managing many causes of cat vision loss.

Cat Eye Condition Common Symptoms Treatment Options Prognosis with Treatment
Cataracts Cloudy/blue tinged pupil, blurred vision Surgery to remove lens, medication Excellent, over 85% regain good vision
Glaucoma Enlarged pupils, pawing at eye, blindness Medications, surgery Good if treated promptly
Cherry Eye Red mass protruding on eye Surgical replacement of gland Excellent prognosis with surgery
Dry Eye Discharge, pawing at eyes, squinting Artificial tear eye drops Good with lifelong treatment
Retinal Atrophy Gradual vision loss, reluctance to move No cure yet, adapt home for blindness Blindness, but can adapt well

This table summarizes key points about common cat eye conditions, including the typical symptoms, treatment options, and prognosis with prompt veterinary care. Hopefully this provides a helpful quick reference guide for concerned cat owners.

In summary, cat owners should monitor their pet’s eyes and vision closely for any abnormalities. Seek prompt veterinary attention if you suspect your cat is having difficulty seeing or shows signs of eye discomfort. With today’s veterinary ophthalmology treatments, interventions can often restore or preserve vision before it becomes irreversibly damaged. While some conditions like retinal atrophy still lack a cure, many cat eye problems can now be successfully managed. Don’t delay having your cat’s eyes checked out!