Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
We saw your website and was wondering if you could help.
We recently found a kitten in the street (there are a lot of strays here), which had an eye infection. We managed to catch her and to take her to the vet. She has one eye completely gone, and the other is dead — a mess, and the vet says she is completely blind. We think she’s no more than 2 months old.
We have other cats and dogs. Are there some tips or advice you have on how we can integrate her into our family? We have done it before, but not with a blind cat.
~ Andrew & Alexandra
Siouxsie: First of all, we want to thank you for taking it upon yourselves to rescue this poor little kitten, who probably would have died on the streets if it hadn’t been for your kindness and generosity.
Thomas: There are some special things you’ll have to do to help your new baby get used to living with you. First of all, because she’s blind, you’ll need to make your home as safe as possible for her. It’s going to take a while before she gets used to the layout of your house, and you’ll want to make sure she won’t accidentally injure herself as she makes her way around.
Dahlia: Your kitten is probably used to being blind by now, since her vision has been deteriorating for some time. But it’s still frightening for her to be taken away from a place she knows and thrust into a whole new world.
Siouxsie: Your first task is to create a “safe room” for her. This room should have a door that closes firmly, so the other animals can’t get in and she can’t get out. It should be comfortable and free of potentially dangerous things (such as objects that can fall off tables or shelves and hurt your kitty, or areas where she could get trapped). Place bedding, food and water dishes, and her litterbox in that room, making sure to keep the litterbox as far away from the food and bedding as possible.
Thomas: Make sure to introduce her to her kibble by moving it around with your hand and her water by splashing gently in it, while calling her name. Her natural curiosity will encourage her to approach the sound. If she stops to take a bite or a drink of water, talk to her lovingly and tell her what a good kitty she is. Then you’ll want to introduce her to her litterbox by using the same approach. Swirl the litter around with your hand or a litter scoop and encourage her to come to it.
Dahlia: Because your kitten can’t see, she’s going to need to learn where things are by walking to them. Don’t pick her up and carry her to the food or the litterbox right away; let her find them. That way, she’ll be able to orient herself to the locations of important objects in her space.
Siouxsie: Your kitten will also need to be able to play. You can get toys that make subtle noises, so your kitten will be able to play because she can hear the objects as she bats them around. Hollow plastic balls with rattles inside, “crinkly” toys, chaser toys (that have a ball inside a track), and cat teasers with noisemakers are all good choices. By playing with her using these toys, you’ll increase her confidence and help her learn to use her hearing and other senses to compensate for her blindness.
Thomas: You’ll also want to make sure your new kitten has a scratching post. Training a cat to scratch on posts rather than furniture is most easily done during kittenhood. There are the standard vertical scratching posts, as well as scratching objects that have rattles inside (a tempting choice for a kitten that can’t see) and horizontal corrugated cardboard scratchers. Although cats don’t start reacting to catnip until they’re about six months old (and some cats don’t react to catnip at all), the smell of it may attract your kitten to scratcher toys.
Dahlia: Once your kitten has gotten used to “her” room, you can begin introducing your other animals’ scents. Rub each of your cats and dogs with a dish towel or washcloth and bring them into the kitten’s room, one at a time. See how she reacts to the animals’ scents; if she’s curious, you may be able to begin physical introductions pretty quickly. If she growls or acts scared, you may need to get her used to their smells before bringing in the animals. If stress levels seem too high, use a feline calming pheromone to help the new kitten (as well as your other cats) calm down.
Siouxsie: Generally we recommend introducing animals outside the “safe room.” But since your kitten is blind, we think it would be better to introduce your other animals, one at a time, in her room, after a few days to a week. By then, your kitten will know her way around “her” room, so she’ll be able to find hiding places — if she feels the need to do so — without hurting herself.
Thomas: There may be some issues between the kitten and the other cats at first, since cats do most of their communication by means of body language. And of course, since your kitten can’t see, she is missing a very important tool for understanding other cats’ moods. Also, she may “stare” at other cats because she doesn’t know she’s doing it. Staring is generally interpreted as a challenge among catkind.
Dahlia: But what will most likely happen is that at least one of your other animals will recognize your kitten’s handicap and take it upon themselves to take special care of her. We’ve known of some incredible, loving bonds between disabled kitties and able-bodied animal companions. She’s also got her kittenhood in her favor; most adult cats will react more positively to kittens than they would to other adults.
Siouxsie: If you take your time to make sure your kitten feels confident in her space and gradually introduce her to your other animals, you shouldn’t have any major problems integrating her into your home.
Thomas: Of course, it goes without saying that a blind cat should never go outside unsupervised. It’s just too dangerous, even with the fact that her other senses will compensate to some degree. If you want to bring her outside on a harness and lead, you can get her used to that, but we’d recommend you let her get used to the inside of your house first. Also, outdoor enclosures or screened porches can be a great way to make sure your kitten gets fresh air and sunshine.
Dahlia: Indoors, you’ll need to make sure that you “cat-proof” your whole house before you let your kitten have the run of the place. Help her find the stairs, if you have stairs in your home, and watch her as she learns to negotiate them. Keep balconies off-limits. Tell visitors that the kitten is blind and that they need to talk to her and introduce themselves vocally — they could call her name and gently tap on the floor to arouse her interest or make that kissing noise some people use to call their pets.
Siouxsie: Make sure to “show” your kitten where all the litterboxes in your home are located. We’d recommend having at least two, particularly if your home has more than one floor. That way, your kitten will be able to find a litterbox more easily, and this can help prevent accidents.
Thomas: Keep physical changes in your home to a minimum. Avoid rearranging the furniture, for example. Or if you do rearrange or purchase new furniture, realize that it’s going to take a while for the kitten to get used to the new layout.
Dahlia: We’ve written a couple of other articles on helping blind cats adjust to their disability. These go into more detail on some of the things we’ve discussed briefly here. The most important thing is that you get the kitten used to a space before you begin introducing the other animals. If you do that, all should go well. Good luck, Andrew and Alexandra!
I work in a no kill animal shelter and we had someone drop off the 5 week old kitten that is blind. I have him at home to foster and found your website very helpful. My 3 year old lab/terrior mix seems to love him, as she is laying outside of his new friends cage and is whining!! She usually tries to mother my foster kittens around. I have never fostered a blind kitten before and am taking it real slow on the introduction.
Thank you for all of this info. I just adopted a blind stray kitten, about 6-8 months old. Brought her to the vet (pleaded online for help and someone paid her $900 vet bills!), and took her home with antibiotics.
She’s in her safe room right now, and I have 2 other adult cats, so this article answered ALL my questions. Bookmarked it and will refer back to it when she’s ready to join the family.
I also found your article so very helpful. I just took in three kittens, litter mates, two of them are blind. They are about 3-4 mos. old and believe it or not, the blind ones are becoming acclimated quicker than the sighted one! I’ve only had them for less than a week, and immediately put them in a safe room, but Loocy and Ricky (the blind kittens) already come out as soon as they hear my voice. Suzy is still holding out and is very skittish. I did notice that their fur seems a bit oily, not soft and clean like kittens usually are. They both use the litterbox very well, as does the sighted kitty, but I wonder if there is something else they missed as far as personal grooming. They find their food and water well, and I’m afraid to really bathe them because they are still so new to my foster home. Any suggestions? Again, thanks so much for this article!
I’ve just adopted a blind 2 yr old cat, have 4 sighted cats. I’m bringing Hope home next week – she’s having her eyes removed in 2 weeks (glaucoma & cataracts). I’m always anxious about the hissing & growling that goes on when introducing a new cat to the family but I’m especially nervous about this introduction. Hope’s been in a shelter since she was 3 days old so she’s used to living in a small room with other cats – I hope my cats welcome her easily but know it takes time. Thanks for all of the good info.
We have a blind male kitten , about 51/2 months . He was around 6 weeks old after II offered to babysit him. He eaten in 3 days . He was lifeless and had diarrhea. After many hours of force feeding water , chicken stock , lots of vet visits , and 6 weeks of confinement , ( ringworm) he was able to leave the bathroom, and live in our house . We spent as much time as possible with him. Padded the bath , gave him a small scratching post , lots of toys an attention . Each week he would go for stinky sulfa baths . After which he laid in our laps for hours . We used pillow foam , duck tapped around the corners of each doorway , at his eye level , and around all legs of furniture .We blocked off an area for our other cat , in the same room. She could get to him , but not him to her . We also used poster board to block under the bed an anywhere else his little 13oz body could fit . He had the litter box that was in the bathroom he had lived in 1st , plus we moved one to the new room he wad allowed . He could now go from bath to room. After 1week , we added a hall . Each time using foam to cover areas that might hurt . He ran into so many things at 1st , he lost most of his whiskers ! It is important they learn point a to point b before adding a c . They learn how to get back to the potty box this way . When ever we opened a door or he was about to run into something we would say “door ” . Now if we say door , he stops ! When we pick him up , we set him down on something that will tell him where he is . Like a rug , or tile floor , since there’s only one in our house . We built him a ramp to get into our bed . It’s tall and it’s post is a scratching post , so he loves it . At 1st he walked around with his nose out and tail down , to figure out where he was . Now he runs from room to room , and thinks he owns the place . He plays and sleeps , but doesn’t cuddle that much . He live anything new ( we where told he would not ) . The most important thing I could advise is , turn on lights when you walk around your house at night . Teach them bed time , we say it’s sleepy time and put him next to his snuggle baby . He would stay up all night until we did this . Make sure your house is well dusted at all times . They use the nose and whiskers to feel Thier way around , watch our for siderwebs ! Don’t leave things on the floor ! Make guess take off Thier shoes. He is a lot of work , but “the dude ” is totally worth it !
At our vets advice , he was introduced to one room at a time .
We recently took a 12 day old female kitten. She was near death and very sick. I fed her kiten formula every two hrs. She had severe URI . Today we were told by her vet that she is blind. She will be 12 wks old soon and you would never know she cannot see like a full sited kitten. She is so precious and knows we love her dearly already. I am nervous to introduce her to my other cats but after reading other comments I know it can be done. Thank you to all of you for posting your comments to help our precious Babygirl.
I love this article and wanted to share my experiences.
I recently found a 5 to 7 week old kitten in the driveway of the vacant house in our neighborhood. She was walking around in circles and I think it was extreme luck that I had happened to drive by when I did.
As soon as I said kitty kitty she ra up to me and started purring. First time I have experienced that with a cat that wasnt mine. BTW I have 3 outdoor kitties and 3 indoor kitties now, all cats that have been dropped off or wandered into my neighborhood over the last 13 years. The 3 outdoor kitties are over 10 years old. The 3 indoor kitties is the blind kitten I found, and two 2 and a half year olds.
When I introduced the kitten to the house my two indoor cats had very angry moods about it all. Eva, female mixed Siamese and Ragdoll hissed and spat but just kept a distance for two weeks. Freddie my Tuxedo male actively attacked me for the first day. If I got close to him he would claw and bit and actually chased me a bit. I seem to think now, after reading this article, that the reason was the kitten wasnt following normal cat behavior. I had found Freddie out in the road at 4 weeks old. He hadnt even pooped before. Probably he was also extremely jealous.
I am happy to report that after a week and a half Freddie became the hero kitty that this article talks about. The kitten follows him around all the time. The kitten actually cares more about him than me LOL. My female cat has also adopted Harley(the kitten). She grooms him and amazingly enough covers up the kittens poop.
Definitely a must to blind kitten proof your house. Anything under 3 feet from the floor. Yes I know that is high but blind kittens like to jump. Especially at noises. Any kind of foam or bubble wrap will work fine. Also dont freak out if your blind kitten runs into something and makes a loud bang. They have strong skulls. Its the sharp edges you have to protect them from.
Lastly I want to share my experiences with teaching your blind kitten to be able to climb and jump off items they are climbing on. I firmly believe that a blind kitten is more developed and “smart” than a sighted kitten. They have to depend on less senses than a sighted cat. I think this makes the kitten “use its brain” more than a sighted cat. Considering the intelligence of cats in the first place it would make sense that this could happen.
Harley fetches pieces of balled up plastic and she is about 2 and a half months old. That is totally astounding to me.
Anyway I take my hat off to anyone that takes in rescue animals, especially animals with disabilities.
This past March we rescued a blind cat that has been coming to our deck for the past 8 months or so. After three months of being in her “safe room” and finding out that she is fixed and disease free, we would like to open the door and hopefully integrate her with my other two cats. She still is not taking well to being petted by us. We do get her to the vet and they have no problems handling her with the Elizabethan collar on. I guess she just doesn’t like us! Anyway, I’m looking for advise on how to get her to wander out of her room and meet my other cats. I don’t particularly want to have a litter box in this room forever since it is a bedroom that is used in occasion. All three cats are approximately 10 years old. (All rescues) The condition this cat was in when we took her in, we’re fairly confident that she was someone’s pet at some point. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.