Cataracts are an eye condition characterized by clouding of the lens. The clouded lens doesn't allow as much light to pass through into the eye, so decreased vision occurs. You may already know that people can develop cataracts, but studies have reported that half of all cats have them by the time they're 12.7 years old, while all cats over 17.5 years old have cataracts. Here are four things cat owners need to know about cataracts.
What are the signs of cataracts?
If your cat develops cataracts, you may notice that they seem confused or are having trouble locating their litter box, food bowl or other items. They may seem startled when you pet them. Cats with poor vision may also stop using cat trees or jumping onto kitchen counters.
Are cataracts serious for cats?
Cataracts can progress into other eye conditions if they're not treated. Your cat may develop glaucoma, which means that they have high pressure inside their eye. This high pressure can damage the optic nerve and lead to further vision loss. Cataracts can also lead to retinal detachment, and since the retina's job is to turn light into images and transit these images to the brain, retinal detachment can lead to blindness.
How do vets treat cats with cataracts?
Cataracts can only be treated with surgery. Some general veterinarians are able to do this surgery, but normally, it will be performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist. During this surgery, the vet will remove your cat's clouded lens with a suction instrument. This lens will then be replaced with an artificial lens. This same procedure is used for people who have cataracts.
Cataract surgery isn't always necessary. If your cat has adapted to their decreased vision well, putting them through the stress of eye surgery may not be worth it. The surgery may also not be worthwhile for elderly cats. The cost of cataract surgery may also be prohibitive for some people. Your veterinarian can help you decide if cataract surgery is the right choice for your pet.
How can you make life easier for a blind cat?
Cats adapt quickly to decreased vision or blindness, but there are some things you can do to make their life easier. If you decide against surgery, make sure to keep your cat indoors for their safety. Keep their food, water, litter box and toys in the same locations so that your cat doesn't have trouble finding them. You should also try to avoid rearranging the furniture in your house as this can confuse your cat. If you approach your cat or try to pet them, make sure to make noises first so that you don't startle them.
If you think your cat has cataracts, take them to a vet at an animal clinic like St Laurent Animal Hospital for an examination.