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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

A while ago it was brought to my attention that my cat Lily, a dilute calico, may be having difficulty seeing. After a while I decided to up the amount of taurine in her diet and that seemed to improve her mood at least — she’s always been a little on the grumpy side. It led me to think she had some sort of taurine deficiency; however, she still seems very cautious about where she goes or she stays in one place when she tries to play. If I dangle a toy above her, it’s like she can’t always figure out where it is so when she does get ahold of it she won’t move around anymore. I’ve taken care of blind cats before and know that they do a lot of the “see by scent” actions, and though I know she can see, she does seem to do the same thing. I haven’t taken her to a vet because I do not wish to spend a ton of money if I can help solve the problem at home first. Any advice?

~ Lea

Siouxsie: Well, Lea, there was a time when many cats were going blind due to a lack of taurine in their diet.

Thomas: That was before commercial pet food manufacturers realized that cats needed taurine in order to avoid blindness and death from a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, where the heart got big and flabby and didn’t work well anymore.

Bella: If your cat is eating a commercially prepared cat food — whether it’s kibble, canned, or raw food manufactured by a reputable company — then she should be getting enough taurine in her diet.

Siouxsie: However, if you’re making your own raw food or if you’re — Bast forbid! — feeding Lily a vegetarian or vegan diet, then taurine deficiency may be part of the problem.

Thomas: But there are a lot of reasons a cat can lose their eyesight, and many of those reasons are reversible with proper veterinary care.

Bella: Older cats may develop cataracts, which cause the vision to decrease. Siouxsie’s old, but Doctor Sarah says she doesn’t have any cataracts.

Siouxsie: I’ll give you an eyeball full of claws if you don’t cut it out with the “old” stuff. *grumble*

Thomas: Cats can also lose their vision because of glaucoma, which causes a buildup of pressure in the eye and eventually leads to death of the retina, the surface of the eye that causes us to be able to see. Glaucoma is extremely painful and is not something that should be treated at home!

Bella: High blood pressure can also cause vision loss, just like it can in humans, because the retina will actually detach from the back of the eyeball. High blood pressure usually develops because of hyperthyroidism or kidney disease.

Siouxsie: Cats can also lose their vision because of bacterial, viral or fungal infections, or even because of tumors.

Thomas: Why are we telling you all this? Because you need to know exactly why Lily may be losing her vision, and the only way you’re going to figure that out is to take her to the vet.

Bella: Once your vet figures out what’s going on, you can work with him or her to make Lily’s life as good as possible and adapt your home to meet her special needs.

Siouxsie: The other thing is, Lily might not even be blind! The symptoms she’s having — reluctance to move or to play — could be related to pain from arthritis or other conditions. When I had a mouth full of sore teeth, I was really grumpy, and when I get achy, I certainly don’t want to play or engage with life at all. But Mama had my teeth fixed and she’s giving me medicine for my achy joints, and my life is a lot better now.

Thomas: The bottom line here, Lea, is that you really need to take Lily to the vet. If she is losing her vision, many of the potential causes are manageable or treatable. If it’s not her eyesight but another problem, treating that problem will also increase her quality of life.

Bella: Home care will not save you money in the long run. If you keep trying to treat Lily at home, operating on the assumption that you know what the problem is — and then she gets really sick because you guessed wrong — you’re going to spend a lot more than you’re trying to save.

Siouxsie: But if you do take her to the vet, at least you’ll be able to make a properly informed decision on how you want to proceed with your cat’s care.

Thomas: So, please get Lily to a vet!

Bella: And let us know what the problem turned out to be and what you decided to do to fix it.