4 Tips for Building Confidence in a Blind Pet

If someone asked me to adopt a special needs pet a few years ago, I’d have declined because I didn’t think I was capable of doing right by such an animal. Which is why I’m so glad that a five-week-old blind kitten found his way to us without asking permission first! Now, two years after Blinkin arrived, I simply cannot imagine our life without him.

I quickly realized that caring for a special needs pet isn’t nearly as challenging as I expected, and also that it’s about a million times more rewarding. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

Foster Independence 

It’s was tempting to baby our blind baby. But he built confidence when he found his own way to the food dish, off the bed, or up the stairs. Today, he’s no more dependent on us than our seeing pets are. 

Start Small and Go Slow

We ensured Blinkin was comfortable maneuvering one area before we introduced a new one. When time came to check out a new space, we always started him in his original home base (our bathroom), so he knew exactly how to get back if he became uncomfortable. 

Utilize Texture

Each area of our home has different flooring. Blinkin knows exactly what each room feels like under his feet, which provided points of reference for exploring. These days, after holding him, I put him down right where the flooring transitions from one space to another. This seems to help him get his bearings faster.

Make Sounds 

Sound is used for lots of reasons. Here’s how we use it most:

  1. To prevent surprises. We speak anytime we approach him, so he’s not taken by surprise if he’s picked up or touched.
  2. For spatial awareness. Similar to texture, sound tells him where he is. If he’s disoriented in the kitchen, I turn on the sink. In the hallway, I flip the light switch. He knows exactly where each of these sounds is located, so hearing them tells him where he is, too. 
  3. For reassurance. We used to repeat a few short phrases when he was eating, snuggling, or just calm and happy. Over time those words became associated with positive experiences. Now, when he’s unsure, we say these phrases to him. It’s amazing how much it helps him calm down and regain confidence. 

Fact: I’m a worrier! So, it was not easy to let Blinkin do his own thing as a kitten. But if there’s anything I’ve learned about special needs pets, it’s that we - the humans - can be their limiting factor. 

Using the pointers above, we get to guide Blinkin without doing the work for him. In the end, he’s a happy and independent cat. And as a bonus, I’ve learned that caring for these pets isn’t just something that I’m capable of, but something I truly love. 

 

Melissa’s love of animals has been a lifelong affair, and she's always had an extra soft spot for little ones in need. The quirkiest of pets seem to find their way into her heart and home. Her current fur family includes a blind, shower-loving cat and his kleptomaniac seeing eye kitten, the fluffiest lab/chow you’ll ever meet, and a few feral cats and foster kittens to boot.