Caring for a Blind Pet

Whether you are considering adopting a blind pet or your current pet is having vision problems, here are some tips that will help. Remember, you have to be retrained along with your pet! 

Setting Up Your Home

Whether its a dog or a cat, there are some basic Must Haves:

  • Food and Water bowls should be kept in the same place and not moved around
  • Having a scented plugin (always used the same scent; changing the scent will cause confusion) next to the food/water/litter/potty pads will help your pet locate their essentials more easily
  • Having a textured rug or any rug (if the other floor area is smoother like tile or wood) that leads to their needed areas can also be helpful because they will learn the feeling of that path versus the rest of the house.
  • Gates should be used to avoid your pet falling down stairs, or into pools, spas, ponds, etc.
  • Hearing (along with smell) is now key to their darker world; try to communicate more often to them verbally in a non-startling way
  • Patience - they will be initally anxious, until they "map" the house. There may be accidents initially due to this. 
  • Leave radio or TV on to reduce anxiety.
  • Confinement in a room or gated area when you are not home may not only keep them safe, but reduce anxiety - make sure it's always the same area, with food, water, litter/potty pads in the same place within that area.

See below for our tips for dogs and cats specifically.

Especially for Dogs

  • Falling off a couch or bed can be a danger where a pet could get seriously hurt especially an elderly pet - pillows can be put around the edges of the bed as "bumpers" or simply place your pet on the floor before leaving the area so they don't try to follow you and get hurt. With Biscuit I retrained myself to put him back down on the floor when I got up from the sofa or bed or chair.
  • ​Put a gate at the BOTTOM of the stairs to keep your pet from wandering upstairs (and then falling down the stairs) when you're not with them or not home. 
  • Give your dog time and extra patience; unless they lost their site gradually, giving them time to adjust, a quick or sudden loss of vision is anxiety producing. Anxiety can sometimes cause other behaviors such as agitation, clinginess, or suddenly having potty related accidents in the house (this can also be they are now unsure how to get to the door to tell you they need to go out). To help with the latter, if you lead them outside always use the same door and try to take the same "path" through the house to it. The dog will learn the pattern. You can also put a rug runner that leads to the door. Try to remember to take them out more frequently until they learn a new way of letting you know.
  • Try not to move the furniture around; the dog will learn pathways; moving the furniture can destroy that path causing anxiety and retraining. 
  • My dog Biscuit felt more secure when I gated him within an area when I was gone (I felt better too knowing he wouldn't get hurt). I used this baby gate I got at Goodwill for $5 as he was a small dog; taller gates are available online or at any pet store for the same purpose. Get one that mounts to a wall or brace it with a chair if you're worried the dog may topple it over.
  • Cover sharp corners and objects with padded tape. 
  • Speak to your dog more; let them know when you're leaving the room so they can follow you. Often they will have anxiety if they don't know where you are in the house. This initially happened with Biscuit - I had to be retrained too, not just him! I actually found it best to lead him into each room with me; he'd follow my voice or if it was up the stairs I used a lead or carried him.
  • Place gates around hot tubs, pools, and ponds outside unless you take your dog out on a lead (not a bad idea at first at least until they get used to the yard, however, if your yard is uneven and has stairs or hazards it's best to keep them on a lead; they may fall off an edge before you can grab them, or they run into the fence then just stand there in confusion (this used to happen to Biscuit so I used a lead.)

Especially for Cats

  • Indoor only would be best. You can do a fully enclosed "catio" via a pet door or use a pet stroller to transport a cat to and from an outdoor enclosure in your backyard, to avoid the cat being unable to find their way back to the house or wandering out of the yard accidentally. Being blind they would be at the mercy of cars and predators without warning.
  • Keep the food, water and litter tray in the same place at all times 
  • Avoid moving furniture 
  • Use toys that make a noise such as plastic balls containing bells, or those crackle balls, or ones that squeak.
  • Before picking up blind cats, speak and stroke them first so they aren’t taken by surprise.
  • They may meow more - or even cry out like my cat does (its more like a wail than a meow) - its how they are determining if you're there and where you are so talk to them in response