How do I know if my cat has cataracts?

Cataracts are cloudy patches in the lens of the eye. They develop for various reasons such as ageing or injury and can sometimes be the result of an inherited genetic disorder which can cause a health problem which increases the risk of cataracts. Medical conditions such as diabetes can cause cataracts. Eye infections, conjunctivitis and an old eye injury can also result in cataracts.

Cat with cataracts in left eye - very visible
Cat with cataracts in left eye – very visible. Photo: Sven Volkens and published here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
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Ageing cats and cataracts

Older cats can develop a condition referred to as “senile cataracts”. It’s a normal part of the ageing of a cat’s eye. If you look at your cat’s eyes you may see a blue-white hue which does not interfere with your cat’s vision and does not require treatment.

Symptoms of cataracts in your cat

  • You might see a change in eye colour or changes in the shape and size of the pupil;
  • In one or both eyes there will be cloudy pupils;
  • The pupil of the eye becomes a whitish blue then turns milky white and opaque as the disease progresses;
  • Your cat may give you the impression that she has difficulty seeing in dimly lit areas;
  • Your cat may be reluctant to climb or jump;
  • She may rub her eyes;
  • There may be signs of vision loss such as bumping into objects and not recognising people who she should recognise;
  • She may start squinting;
  • Her eyes might water;
  • And your cat might misjudge distances and her footing may be unsure as demonstrated in an unusual high-stepping walk.

Cataracts when left untreated can cause blindness because, as you would expect, they prevent light from passing through the lens of the eye. Cataracts are less common in cats than in dogs.

The treatment is to see your veterinarian promptly where she may recommend surgery and check for an underlying condition such as diabetes mellitus. After surgery your cat’s vision may be impaired slightly but she should be able to function fairly well. It may be wise to modify the interior of your home to help your cat avoid objects that she cannot see, and which may harm her if she walks into them.

Sources: Google search results and The American Animal Hospital Association Encyclopaedia of Cat Health and Care.

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