Is this adorable cat Instagram star blind? No, but there is something odd or wrong here I feel. Pisco the Cat is a Golden British Shorthair. The main reason why he is so popular on Instagram with more than 600,000 followers is because the pupils of his eyes are always wide open. This gives the impression that he has large pleading eyes just like the Puss in Boots character in the film Shrek 2 voiced by Antonio Banderas.
He’s been featured in the Daily Mail today. I visited his Instagram page. Every single photograph shows the pupils of his eyes wide open. And in many of the photographs Pisco is looking up towards the light. It is completely impossible for a cat’s eyes to be wide open like this when looking into the light.
Update: I have since seen some videos and the pupils are narrower so I don’t think he is blind 😕 That pretty well nullifies this page! But the almost fixed wide-open pupil is odd. Something slightly abnormal is happening it seems. Perhaps he has retinal atrophy and he is going blind?
We know how the pupil of the cat eye is narrowed to a slit by the muscles in the iris when confronted with light. It is only under very dark conditions that the pupil is as wide open as this. Therefore, I have to conclude that there is something wrong with his eyes.
This is not mentioned anywhere but it seems to me to be the central issue. It’s what gives this Golden British Shorthair his charming appearance. But no one is mentioning it.
I don’t know the cause. The obvious and perhaps oversimplistic cause is that Pisco is suffering from progressive retinal atrophy causing blindness. This is a disease which results in the retina of the eye no longer working. If it is not stimulated by light then the brain does not tell the iris to close down the pupil to protect the retina. This results in the pupil being wide open all the time.
There are other reasons why a cat’s pupil will remain wide open but it is not my place to speculate. What’s the point? In any case I’m not a veterinarian. But you can look up the reasons on the Internet.
Pisco looks healthy. Although he does have this rather blank, bemused appearance. This leads me to believe that he might be blind. I’m guessing. I have asked the owners of Pisco whether he is blind on their Instagram account.
“When we first got Pisco he wasn’t the cuddle bear he is right now. He was very skittish and wouldn’t want us to hold him or touch him at all.”
More indications that something is wrong with his eyesight.
Note, progressive retinal atrophy is the degeneration of the retinal cells over time. In cats, diseases of the retina are normally not caused by genetic influences although there is a hereditary form of progressive retinal atrophy which occurs in Persians, Abyssinians and possibly Siamese cats. There is no treatment for it. All that the breeders can do is to screen for the genetics and then take those cats out of the breeding line.
Interestingly, UC Davis Veterinary Medicine (Veterinary Genetics Laboratory) carry out a progressive retinal atrophy genetics test on the following breeds: British Longhair, British Shorthair, Exotic Longhair, Exotic Shorthair, Himalayan, Napoleon, Persian and Persian cross. This also supports my view that Pisco might be blind as his breed falls within those mentioned. Clearly therefore there is a history of this cat breed suffering from genetically inherited blindness through retinal atrophy. Although, I don’t know the prevalence i.e. how common it is. It is probably quite rare but the indicators are that it exists.