Cat Tales

Cats and Cataracts

Have you noticed a change in the color of your cat’s eyes? Does her vision seem impaired? If so, cataracts may be the cause. Although sometimes considered a problem that affects only seniors, age often isn’t the main factor.

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 Others include inflammation from an injury or eye infection, diabetes mellitus (this, however, would be accompanied by increased thirst, frequent urination and weight loss), hypocalcemia (unusually low calcium in the bloodstream), and heredity, which predisposes some breeds — Persians, Birmans, Himalayans and Domestic Shorthairs among them – to getting cataracts.

 What, then, is a cataract? It’s a medical condition in which the lens of one or both eyes becomes progressively opaque, thereby preventing light from passing through to the retina. It results in blurred vision, and in many cases, complete loss of sight.

 If you suspect that your kitty may be developing cataracts, check for the following:

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A blue, gray or white layer in one or both eyes

Changes in eye color or the size and shape of pupils

Watery eyes

Clumsiness or unusual walking habits

Sudden reluctance to jump on furniture or climb stairs

Squinting

Trouble recognizing familiar people

Difficulty judging distance

Impaired ability to see in the dark or dimly lit areas

Any or several of these symptoms merit an immediate visit to your vet. If cataracts are confirmed, the treatment depends on the cause. Often the goal isn’t to restore any lost sight, but to prevent any secondary problems such as uveitis, glaucoma and retinal detachment. And while the only way to remove cataracts completely is through surgery, some other options can keep them from worsening.

 Your vet may prescribe eye drops for your kitty to prevent further inflammation and the above-mentioned complications. If the cataracts are the result of a dietary deficiency, your vet may suggest what adjustments to make. Many pet parents, though, choose NOT to treat cataracts since most cats adjust well to impaired vision or blindness, relying on their other senses to “guide” them.

 But should YOU opt for surgery, the procedures include phacoemulsification (a process where the eye lens is liquefied with ultrasonic waves and the fluids replaced with a balanced salt solution, it has a 90 percent success rate), extracapsular lens extraction and intracapsular lens extraction.

 As with many conditions, however, prevention is sometimes the best medicine. Routine eye exams by your vet will often catch a problem before it gets worse. Staying up-to-date on vaccinations can help prevent viral infections that affect the lens of the eye. Maintaining kitty on a proper diet, avoiding exposure to toxic substances, and keeping her from fighting with other cats where eye injuries are paws-ible will also help.

Nomi Berger

Nomi Berger is the bestselling author of seven novels, one work of non-fiction, two volumes of poetry, and hundreds of articles. She is a volunteer writer for Furry Friends in Vancouver, WA and also volunteers her writing skills to animal rescue groups in Canada and the USA. She lives with her adopted Maltese named Mini. For more information about Furry Friends visit www.furryfriendswa.org or contact them at information@furryfriendswa.org or (360) 993-1097

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