Whether you’re adopting a blind pet or your longtime companion is losing their vision, you want to do what’s best for your vision-impaired animal. Follow these tips on helping blind cats and dogs to keep your companion safe and comfortable.
Set blind pets up for success
A pet who has lost or is losing their vision may feel vulnerable and anxious, so it’s important to create a consistent routine and a safe, comfortable home environment.
After adopting a blind cat or dog, keep them confined to a comfortable, small area to help them become more confident before slowly introducing them to the rest of the house. If your pet seems uncomfortable or confused, guide them back to their safe zone.
Before you give your pup or kitty free rein, ensure you’re setting them up for success. Even pets who were born with low or no vision will benefit from these safety measures.
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How to care for a blind cat or dog in the home
- Stick to a schedule: Consistent feeding times, walks, etc., will help your pet know what to expect.
- Try to eliminate potential hazards: Cover sharp corners on furniture, block off stairs, keep furniture in the safe place (or if you do move it, move only one piece at a time), avoid clutter or other unexpected obstacles.
- Use sound cues to help pets navigate and stay comfortable: Try using wind chimes by exterior doors to steer outdoor pets toward thresholds; if your blind pet gets startled by other pets in the house, add a bell to your other pets’ collars; try talking to your pet (or gently shaking their bed) before touching them or waking them from sleep to avoid startling them.
- Incorporate tactile markers around the house: Place textured mats beneath food and water bowls or in front of litter boxes and use carpet runners to guide pets through the house. Add throw rugs near furniture to help pets remember where couches and chairs are located.
If your pet loses vision later in life, you can also experiment with a “bumper” or “halo” harness, which helps prevent them from bumping into objects.
How to care for a blind dog who spends time outside
- Remove protruding branches or other yard hazards.
- Add fencing around swimming pools or wildlife ponds.
- Add tactile markers such as mulch, sand or landscaping stones to create safe pathways.
In time, your pet will develop a mental layout of their domain and may learn to safely navigate stairs and other challenges, but it’s good to be cautious—a bad experience can cause injury and erode confidence.
Focus on training
Training is crucial for any newly adopted companion, but it can be especially helpful for blind pets. The training process itself will help build confidence and strengthen the relationship between you and your pet. Plus, a well-trained animal will be more likely to respond and follow your instructions if they’re in danger. For dogs, you can even use a specific verbal cue to warn them of danger while on walks.
Follow these tips to get started:
- Always use positive reinforcement. Never punish, hit or yell at your pet.
- Be consistent. If you have a partner or children who also interact with your pet, make sure you all use the same approach.
- Have patience! Training a new pet won’t happen in a day or even a week. You might have setbacks, but the rewards are worth it.
Keep your blind pet stimulated
Stimulating any pet’s senses is important for mental and physical health, but especially for animals who’ve gone blind later in life. Even your voice can be a form of comfort and enrichment! After adopting a blind dog, introduce them to the neighborhood on walks. These few simple tips will help keep them safe:
- Follow the same path during each walk.
- Use a short, rigid leash so you can more easily guide your pup around obstacles.
- Try using auditory cues when there’s an obstacle in the path.
To keep cats stimulated, try placing perches in front of screened-in windows so they can enjoy the scents and sounds of the outdoors. You can even build a catio to give them a (safe) taste of the outdoors.
For indoor play, provide interactive toys for blind cats and dogs that will allow them to use their other senses. You can even set up scavenger hunts where you hide treats around the house!
Try these toys for blind dogs and cats:
- Sound-making toys
- Scent-tracking games