Our indoor/outdoor cat of thirteen years became suddenly stone cold blind. We began to suspect when he’d would walk through the house with the most plaintive cry or stand there letting out a heart-rending meow the likes of which we’d never heard before, in obvious distress. We watched him walk into tables and doors as if they weren’t there – but they were. We took him to the vet and they verified it. Bijou was blind.
We continued to allow him free access to the outside through the two cat doors – he’d been going in and out at his pleasure all day and night every day and night for well over a decade and he knew his territory. We thought.
A neighbor came over to tell us Bijou was lying in the road where a car came rapidly at him and stopped just short of hitting him.
Time to lock the cat doors. He was now and inside cat and he hated it. He needed to be outside. That’s how we acquired him to start with. He got out of his upscale neighborhood home in Brooklyn, adjacent to the not so upscale neighborhood of Flatbush Avenue and stayed out. A street cat at eight weeks, sleeping rough but doing well. He had several, regular stops including an outside overnighter in a friend of mine’s garden. He leaped into my lap the first time he saw me and that was that. Home to our rural neighborhood in upstate New York.
But now what? Now he’s gone blind and isn’t safe outside by himself?
We got a halter harness and leash and took him outside. It took him about two minutes to escape the harness. Not fond of restraints, this cat. Got him a vest-type harness and leash. Took him even less time. He was practiced.
We have a walled patio with two open door ways so we got baby gates with the idea we could give him free access to the patio. He climbed them both and we went looking.
We started going out with him, letting him roam with our supervision. A hassle for all of us but at least he could be outside, if not really free.
Started letting him out for timed sojourns, then we’d go get him. Somehow he started to get the idea – don’t leave the yard. Our house is on an acre so he has a pretty big yard.
And he stopped leaving it. We unlocked the cat doors. Now, we can let him out and he comes back before long without leaving the yard or going in the street. Been doing this for a couple of months now. We watched many times to verify he doesn’t go far.
Bijou has adapted. He’s an indoor/outdoor cat again and so much happier.
But what about his life inside? What is that like, for him and us?
Because his eyes are open, he looks at you and things and it looks like he sees; because he walks around using his other senses only occasionally bumping into things; because he jumps up onto our laps and appears perfectly normal, it isn’t always easy to remember that he is blind and that he needs help and he needs compassion.
Bijou knows of course that he’s blind and I am quite convinced that he hates it. And he needs help sometimes; navigating, preventing him from ramming his nose into a door edge, (that still happens) locating his food bowl (tap it with the fork). And he needs compassion. Being blind is clearly distressing so he’s allowed up on the bed at night now – loves sleeping with company. He’s always been a cuddly cat and now he doesn’t have to ask, we pick him up and comfort him any old time. And he needs that. Being blind is a serious hardship, nevermind their other great senses – nothing replaces vision.
Try it yourself. In your house in a room you know close your eyes and see how you enjoy getting around. You won’t. So barring some miracle, blind, Bijou will stay and every day he needs just a little extra from us to make that regrettable condition a little more bearable.