10 Tips for Living with a Blind Dog or Cat

Sometimes our pets lose their vision due to health issues. Sometimes they become vision-impaired in old age. Other times, they’re born without sight. If your furry friend fits the bill, or if you’re thinking about that special blind dog or cat you saw at the animal shelter, being their pet parent won’t be all that different than being a pet parent to other dogs and cats. There are a few things you should keep in mind, though, to give them the safest and best home possible. To mark International Blind Dog Day, observed on August 23, learn some helpful tips!

Train Them with New Words

Both blind cats and dogs could use your help with some verbal cues. “Wait” as a warning to stop, or “step” to signify a raised surface, are among the words that could benefit your pet. Training methods you’d typically use for tricks can be used here, even for cats, who are capable of learning tricks. For pets that are taken out for walks, you can also come up with verbal cues alerting them that a stranger is approaching. This can be reassuring when your pet is anxious.

Profile of blind dog

The American Kennel Club says you can also lure your dog with treats and have physical cues, like touching their shoulder to tell them to sit or their back to get them down.

Be Mindful of Hazards in the Home

While blind pets can be very adept at navigating the home, there are a few things you can do to make sure it’s safe for them to do so. For starters, getting down on all fours on your pet’s level will help you see their pathways and possible obstacles. This should be done indoors and outdoors, if your pet spends time in the yard.

You should be sure to remove sharp edges, place items like bubble wrap or foam on furniture corners, and trim branches or shrubs that could become problematic. You can also use pet-safe scents to make your pet aware of something it may bump into. Put baby gates by stairs and balconies, be really careful about fires, and block off swimming pools outdoors.

Vision impaired calico

Keep your furniture layout simple and consistent to provide easy pathways. While you may occasionally rearrange things, make sure pet beds, food, water, and litter boxes are always in the same place. Help pets learn the new layout if you rearrange other things.

Provide Navigation Tools

After you’ve arranged your home in a pet-safe manner, you can also add items to help with navigation. That may include placing different textures around the house and yard, like mats underneath food and water bowls so they’re easier to find, or a rug or stepping stones in front of steps into the house or another room.

Avoid the temptation to pick up your small dog or cat to help them find a spot. They need to learn and can do so on their own. If you do pick them up for a cuddle, put them down on the floor, not an elevated surface.

Blind black cat

Use Scents

Another way to help pets get their bearings and know where things are is to use their sense of smell, which will be especially heightened. You can put scents on your front door so your pup knows where home is; on furniture, interior doorways, and corners of rooms to help with navigation; and on their favorite toys. Just be careful to avoid essential oils, which are often toxic to cats, and to choose scents that are safe for them.

Make the Presence of Other Pets Known

When a pet can’t see, being surprised by another pet or their human can be jarring and could result in defensive moves. You can help avoid this by putting bells on the collars of your other pets and even accessorizing with bells of a slightly different pitch yourself. As they can’t see to get out of your way, you could also consider adding one to your blind pet’s collar.

If a blind pet has recently been added to the home, let them get used to the voice and sounds of all family members before approaching them the way you normally would. Once you have, you should still speak to them before touching them or picking them up so they know you’re there and you don’t surprise them.

Tabby cat with missing eye

They Could Use a Buddy

Sometimes a buddy can make all the difference. Adding a pet without vision issues can help your blind dog or cat navigate the home and avoid dangers, too. It is important to keep an eye on interactions, though, as the blind pet won’t be able to observe visual cues that indicate the other pet is upset or apt to be aggressive.

Keep Them Inside Unless Attended

It’s not a good idea to leave pets outside unattended anyway, but it’s especially dangerous if they can’t see. So, if your pet’s outside, you should be right there with them. If they’re in the yard, make sure it’s a contained space. On walks, try to stick to a routine so they’re already familiar with the path, and consider using a harness that indicates your dog or cat is blind. A harness may also be a better choice than a typical collar and leash. Keep an eye on other dogs, too, giving them a wide berth, as your dog will be oblivious to any visual cues from them.

Inform Children of Your Pet’s Sight Issues

If you encounter kids when you’re out and about, or they come to visit, make sure they understand that your pet is blind. Explain how best to interact with them, and do what you can to ensure the child doesn’t startle them.

Closeup of blind papillon

Make Playtime Noisy

There is a time when noises are good: At playtime! Get your blind dog or cat plenty of toys that make noise. That can include toys with bells, whistles, or squeakers. This will help your pet find them better. They can also be good for fetch, as you can throw them, run to where they’ve landed, and squeak or shake them so your pet can run over and grab them.

Treat dispensing toys work, too, as your pet can easily smell them. To get them to use their sniffers further, hide treats so your pet can find them.

Talk to Them Often

Your blind pet can’t see you, so hearing your voice is soothing and comforting. It also lets them know you’re around, if they’re clingy or one of the more affectionate dog breeds. When you enter and exit a room, give them a heads up. They’ll appreciate the information and your comforting voice.

Closeup of blind shiba inu
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