blind cat

Basic Obedience Skills will make a Difference

Question:
How do you improve the quality of life for a blind cat?

Dr. Nichol:
Caring for this special needs cat can be rewarding. Instead of adopting a Seeing Eye dog for her you can motivate her with food and guide her with your voice.

Start with the highest value cat treat, held just a few inches in front of your kitty’s nose. Slowly make a front-to-back arc over her head toward her shoulders. As her nose follows the scent of beluga caviar her neck will arch back as her rear end begins to sink toward the floor. As this occurs say her name, followed by the “Sit” command. Then give her the food. Repeat this several times and then end the session. Classes should last no more than 3-4 minutes. Repeat only twice daily.

Early in this phase your cat can have the treat as she starts the sitting motion but after she’s clear on the concept withhold the snack until her cheeks are a bit closer to the floor. It’s OK to give her a hint by starting the food arc over her head. When she’s reached this level of skill, hold out until her derriere is even closer to the target. Ultimately, she’ll only earn the prize when completing the job. Never repeat a command.

For a masters degree you can teach your feline student to come. Hold the treat in front of her nose and, as she gets up to approach it, say, “Kitty, Come”. As she catches on you can hold the food progressively farther from her nose when giving the command. With patience she will learn to reliably track your voice and come reliably from greater distances.

Even a visually impaired cat should be gainfully employed. Rather than feeding her from a bowl you can provide her daily ration in food toys. She will apply her innate foraging skills to extracting her sustenance. She will be a content kitty whose life has a genuine purpose. It won’t even matter that she’s blind. She will perform for your friends and make appearances on “America’s Got Talent”. You will look very smart indeed.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.