Articles Cat Health

Diagnosis – Retinal Degeneration

Maggie, our Siamese cat woke up one morning very disorientated and was walking into furniture and looked a little bewildered.  She seemed quite lost.

The day before I noticed she had walked into the side of the floor fan.  I thought she was just concentrating on where she was going and got clumsy, sort of like we do when we bang our leg on the coffee table that has been in the same place for years.

But the morning of realizing that Maggie could not even see us when we stood in front of her, explained her anxiety.

Maybe it is the reason for the past five months or so.  She would bring a pom-pom ball for me to throw and be still standing there waiting after the ball had taken flight.  I thought maybe she was getting a little slow with being observant or maybe it was Molly running after the ball before she could get a chance to, taking the fun out of the experience.  But she probably couldn’t track the motion.

There was also her route of walking.  I thought maybe since she was not running as much, maybe she was just trying to get exercise.  I suppose not!  My guess now is that she was going round and round the coffee table and back and forth from kitchen doorway to bedroom doorways to get in her mind the layout of the room.  Probably memorizing the steps to navigate throughout the house.

The diagnosis was retinal degeneration in both eyes. She can sense light and dark, may see large moving objects but has no depth perception or visual acuity. Vision loss is severe and diffuse retinal degeneration.  This is not painful, but there is no treatment.  Her vision loss eventually will be complete and is irreversible.

If we were given that diagnosis by our doctor we would be in shock and very depressed.  Animals have the ability to adapt and accept things as they are.  They don’t have the mindset to understand how their life will change and of course, they don’t worry about it.  They live in the here and now.

Maggie just turned 14 years old the other day and she is still a happy cat.  Molly our other cat seems to know Maggie has a problem and for the most part just treats her a little more gently.  It is kind of cute as Molly will follow her around, of course, it would be better if she was more like a see and eye dog, so she could keep Maggie from bumping her nose into the furniture.

This is an adjustment as to being very aware that nothing gets moved or nothing gets placed in the path of where she walks.  I had one cat live to 15 years with no problems.  Another cat lived for to almost 19 years and her only problem was she had become deaf.  The benefits to that was she didn’t take flight when the vacuum cleaner was on and therefore she liked to be vacuumed (her coat was thick and fluff) which was a plus.

I feel sorry for Maggie when you can tell she thinks she knows where everything is and then she rams her nose.  This is still new to all of us, but she seems to be adjusting.  She will have days that she does fine and then it is like learning all over again.  I suppose those are the days when her vision loss has taken another step in the downward spiral.

I read that they become more attuned to their other senses when vision is lost.  I guess it is like us humans, you have to compensate for the loss by bringing your other senses to a higher awareness.

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