Can a blind person look after a cat?

The answer is a resounding, yes, but you’ll have to be disciplined and organised judging by the methods employed by Mario who is completely blind and who cares for five cats; four that are his and one outside cat, which I presume is a stray.

On this page, I also take a look at an old Time Life story of a white Persian cat that provided the eyes for a bind lady.

Note: I am indebted to Franny Syufy of About.com for Mario’s story.

Mario

“Do my cats know I’m blind? I think not….”

mario feeding catsMario is very impressive in his approach to cat caretaking. Thinking through problems and methods to get around his disability is a vital element in overcoming the obstacles to good cat caretaking for a blind person.

As Mario states, you can’t just pop down to the supermarket in your car to get some cat food when you run out. You have to plan well ahead and keep on top of things. That is the impression I get.

Mario stores all the kit, food and accessories that he requires in his basement and it is all laid out meticulously so that he can always go to each item by feel alone. Nothing changes. The Mario mottos:

“A place for all things and, all things in their place, is not a helpful guideline, it’s a necessity.”

“If the object isn’t where it’s supposed to be, it may as well be on the moon.”

This also applies to litter boxes. They are carefully placed and not moved.

The precision employed by Mario extends to what he does. Routine and method are the bywords:

“Do routine things, routinely. Don’t wait until it becomes a small crisis. Like a doctor doing his rounds, there is a daily set of activities, plan on it.”

He adjusts what he does to suit the individual preferences of his cats. So coping is about extreme organisation with a degree of flexibility. The underlying method or structure remains the same and precise…..

….be extremely organized and methodical

As for budgeting for cat care expenses, Mario should be the Finance Minister of a government as he so precise and realistic. He uses voice recognition software to run a spreadsheet. He inputs with the voice and the program talks back to him. It takes time to learn that he says. He is disciplined.

As for feeding his cats Mario favours wet cat food but uses dry sometimes. An example of how he modifies what sighted people do, he opens the can and places a plate (I presume with a large rim) over the can and then tips them vertically so that the contents of the can falls onto the plate. It is about finding ways to do things accurately with applied methods that are well thought out.

As for cleaning the litter Mario doesn’t tell us his methods but you bet it will be organised. If a cat poops on the floor he will discover it by walking on it! I think he has bar feet so he washes his feet in the nearby sink, places some litter over the poop and waits for it to desiccate before scooping it up with a paint stripping tool. I bet he has a good sense of smell too!

As for transportation to get supplies, Mario has a carefully cultivated group of friends and relatives (good for them) who help him. Once again he is organised. Vet visits are scheduled whenever possible so as not to inconvenience the driver.

As for the vet, the vet comes to him. Well that is a fairly straightforward solution.

As for grooming and play, these are close quarter actions. Grooming is easy because it is tactile and play is based on knowing where things are and using slight modifications such as wearing a thick glove as a “wrestling opponent”.

Mario’s cats rely on smell, taste, sound and touch and so does he in equal measure..plus extreme organisation.

Carolyn

Blind woman and catThis is a story from 1947 of a white traditional, male, Persian cat (they were all traditional Persians in those days) who provided the sight, like a guide dog, for Carolyn Swanson who was blind.

This is the first time I have been aware of a cat assisting a person in this way. I think it will be the last time too. The cat’s name was Baby. He helped Carolyn cross the street. This is very charming. I have some doubts as to whether Baby was as good as stated in assisting Carolyn.

There is no doubt Baby was a huge help but as for walking down the street and crossing the road I am not so sure.

One thing is does establish beyond doubt is that a blind person can look after a cat and I would go further and say a blind person should look after a cat if they like cats. A cat provides companionship and for a blind person also a structure to their lives, which might be something that is an additional benefit.


Notes:

  1. as for the photos, I have published them here on the basis that there will only be financial benefit to the copyright holders if there is any financial impact at all.
  2. as for Mario’s quotes, these are short and once again there is no downside commercially. If there is any impact it can only be beneficial for person and cat.
  3. Associated post: Search results for “blind cat” on PoC.
Facebook Discussion

Comments

Can a blind person look after a cat? — 12 Comments

  1. Well done Mario. I bet being so dependant on sound he, like most cats, prefers peace and quiet. With a quiet house you can hear your cats and you can hear whats going on. I can hear Lilly sleeping in the other room or Molly climbing the net on the balcony – whilst I am reading I know what my cats are up to and I feel their presence without having to look at them. I can understand Mario being very happy to live with cats. I’m sure with listening to them and talking to them he can communicate perfectly with them. I’m sure his cats talk more than other cats – chirp, meow etc – since thats how they must keep in contact with him or ask for something they want, as he can’t see them. My Molly is very quiet and she will jump on the bed when I am reading (I of course know its her by the way she walks and move which I hear before she arrives) and she brushes against me and stands there – asking for a little handful of biscuits. I think if I couldn’t see for a day I would actually do ok in my place but most of all I think I’d remain in touch with my cats in a pretty good and clear way even without vision.

    I suppose the reason I am relating is because I read alot. When you read your eyes are taken up but it’s otherwise a silent activity so you can get an good idea of how much you understand through hearing alone. Its always so quiet at mine so, as I said before, each of us, me, and my cats, we can all hear eachother and know whats going on. Sometimes there will be a new or different sound and we will all look up, me from reading, they from their activities – often it’s Molly in another room digging into something new – she explores the spare room which is chockablock full of furniture and boxes and bikes etc 🙂 Only during playtime is it noisy.

    To give you an idea – I have a lazer pointer and if I click the little button – which is very quiet, not a sharp click but a dull rubbery one, Molly hears it from another room and comes running to play.

    So much is sound and listening related. One doesn’t necessarily realize it without thinking about it. Being blind of course would mean having a very sharp understanding of these audio parameters for communication and survival with cats.

    • Quietness may be an important and overlooked quality in a home for cats and people. I wonder.

      It does allow the senses to be used more effectively – not being masked by white noise.

      I think you’re right about Mario. He probably has heightened senses for sounds and smells. Probably makes him more cat-like.

      Perhaps you are more cat-like than most because your home is quiet. It allows you to be more in tune with your cats and vice versa.

      • My environment is very quiet, so I can hear any noise immediately. As soon as Mitzy uses her liter box, I clean it out. Having one cat makes this easier, but I know people who let the box get full of poop, and don’t think it’s important. I guess it only become a problem if the cat starts pooping elsewhere.

        Some people who have cats have an aversion to their poop, and their hair balls. I knew a man who used 10 paper towels to pick up one small hairball!

        If home based cat guardians have TV running all day for background sound, they can’t really be as in tune with their cats, and it’s not their priority.

        Also, “catifying” an envrionment is important to keep a cat safe. But many people aren’t able to perceive how to do it, and the significance beyond entertainment for the cat.

        I think that caring for a cat is similar to caring for a toddler in many ways. The priority of a responsible guardian is safety.

        • Well said Sandy. I believe that calm and quietness in the home is important for a cat. It is also important for me!

  2. Mario is amazing. As I read his story, a song by Starship kept going through my head, “Nothing’s Going To Stop Us Now”.
    Being sightless would be very hard for me, because my cat activities require sharp vision.
    However, I would LOVE to lose my sense of smell some days!

  3. Caring for my cats and being blind would “cripple” me.
    It would be so frightening trying to care for ferals sightless.
    I rely so much on the cats’, particularly the leaders’, body language to alert me to potential dangers or just unusual activities while deep in the wilderness. They, ofcourse, don’t know they are doing that for me; but, I have been able to avoid some pretty sticky situations because I’m able to watch them.

    • I think it is almost impossible to care for feral cats outside if you are blind. Mind you someone like Mario might find a way. He is so organised and thoughtful.

      How far into the “wild” are you when you feed the ferals? I had imagined you were doing things near your home.

      • One colony is fairly nearby, within walking distance. The 2 remaining require that I drive about 1/4 mile, then hike about 2 blocks through brush to their clearings. I’ll leave the metric conversions to you.
        In any case. it is very important that I can see them. Every stance, dance, prance, vocalization, expression means something.
        What I understand most is IF THEY RUN, I RUN!

  4. What a wonderful man Mario is, so brave and caring and organised, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be blind but this gentleman hasn’t let it hold him back or stop him from having cats. The old pic and story of the lady and seeing eye cat are maybe a bit fanciful but there was obviously a lot of love between them and that’s what matters.

    • Mario’s cats are probably more important to him than to the average cat caretaker. It must be tough, very tough to be totally blind. My cat would become a life support a reason to live if I became blind.

  5. Mario is to be admired, he’s obviously taken time to work out the best way to care for his cats.
    I loved the seeing eye cat story too, it’s amazing how some people can cope with blindness, it must be really horrible and frightening to be blind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please only upload photos that are small in size of max 500px width and 50 KB size. Large images typical of most default settings on digital cameras may fail to upload. Thanks.