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How to Tell if Your Cat Is Blind

Two Methods:Recognizing the Behavorial SignsTesting Your Cat’s Sight

Blindness in cats in not an uncommon problem, especially in older animals. Cats go blind for a variety of reasons, including degeneration of a light sensitive layer at the back of their eyes. But the most common cause of blindness is high blood pressure. Hypertension, or raised blood pressure, causes fluid to seep between the retina and the eyeball, pushing the retina away from the wall, resulting in blindness. This process can develop suddenly, so the most effective way to help Miss Fluffy Paws adapt to her new lack of sight is to recognize and diagnose her blindness.[1]

Part 1
Recognizing the Behavorial Signs

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    Notice if your cat is acting confused and clumsy. Without her sight, your cat may become clumsy and act confused in her usual environment. You cat may also become more vocal than usual, crying loudly as if disoriented and trying to understand her surroundings.[2]
    • Feline hearing is more sensitive than ours so your cat may try to pick up sound reflected off surfaces, similar to radar detection, to help orient herself in her surroundings.
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    Watch your cat walk to see if she falls or stumbles. Though your cat may walk normally, she may not realize there is an edge to the table or surface she is walking on, and fall or stumble.[3]
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    Look for signs your cat is having trouble exploring or moving around her environment. She may become reluctant to move around freely and explore her normal environment. Your cat may also stand in one spot and act hesitant, whereas previously she would have sprinted confidently around the space.[4]
    • If your cat is blind or losing her eyesight, she may be more clingy to you. Your presence acts as a confidence booster for her, so she may try to stay by your side. Your cat may also sleep more, curled up on a cushion or near you, as she now less confident to move around and explore her environment.

Part 2
Testing Your Cat’s Sight

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    Don't move objects close to your cat’s face to check for blindness. Your cat’s whiskers are extra sensitive and can detect air movements. So, holding or moving anything near her face to test her vision will not be a good test of her sight, as she may move her head or respond to objects near her whiskers and this will be misinterpreted as having actually seen the object in front of her.[5]
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    Check your cat’s pupils. The pupils are the part of your cat’s eyes bordered by the colored iris. They act as the space through which light passes to hit the retina and are not a fixed shape and size, as they will enlarge and become round to collect light in dim conditions, and narrow in bright sunlight to protect the retina. However, your cat’s pupils may not react normally to light if they are blind.[6]
    • To test their pupils, look at their Pupillary Motor Reflex (PMR). Take your cat into a dark room and shine a fine beam of light, such as the direct beam from a penlight, into your cat’s eyes. If your cat is not blind, the pupils of their eyes will contract down into narrow slits.
    • If their pupils remain large and round, despite the bright light, they may be blind.
    • On bright sunny days, if your cat’s pupils stay large and round, this may also be an indication of blindness.
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    Do the wool ball test. One of the easiest ways to determine if your cat is blind is to conduct an object recognition test. Use a wool ball or a round object your cat usually likes to play with.
    • Situate your cat in a room with no distractions.
    • Drop the wool ball about six inches in front of her, just above eye level. Make sure the ball does not touch her whiskers.
    • Notice if she watches or follows the descent of the ball. Most sighted cats will watch the ball drop. A blind cat will remain oblivious as the ball passes in front of her.
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    Do a menace reflex test. This test is also used by veterinarians to determine blindness, but you can also do this test at home.[7]
    • Move a fingertip quickly towards your cat’s eye, without making contact with the cornea. You want your cat to sense the finger and blink automatically to protect their eye. If you try to move your own finger tip towards you, you will also notice it is almost impossible to stop yourself from blinking.
    • Be careful not to touch your cat’s whiskers or create a breeze with your hand that your cat can feel on her whiskers.
    • A sighted cat will flinch or blink when you move your fingertip towards them, but a blind cat will remain unaware of your finger. If your cat seems oblivious to your finger, she may be blind.


  • If you suspect your cat is blind, get her checked by a veterinarian. The vet will examine your cat’s eyes, and check her blood pressure. If treatment is started promptly, there is a chance of reversing the retinal detachment and recovering some of your cat’s eyesight.
  • Coping with your cat’s blindness can be challenging but there are several safety precautions and positive reinforcements you can implement to make your blind cat’s life just as enjoyable as when she had sight.[8]

Sources and Citations

  1. Canine and Feline Geriatrics. Mike Davies. Publisher: Hoechst. p 57
  2. Canine and Feline Geriatrics. Mike Davies. Publisher: Hoechst. p73
  3. Canine and Feline Geriatrics. Mike Davies. Publisher: Hoechst. p73
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Article Info

Categories: Blind and Visually Impaired | Feline Health