blind cat
Quality of Life is Central
Question:
My cat Kayla just turned 23 years old and suddenly went blind. When do I know that it’s too much for her to handle and make the choice to put her down? My heart is breaking.
Dr. Nichol:
You must have given Kayla wonderful care for her to have enjoyed such a long life. Her sudden blindness is a serious problem. There are several possible causes in a senior cat; chronically high blood pressure tops the list.
All elderly kitties face the reality of gradually failing kidneys. Besides filtering the blood these essential organs are central to the regulation of blood pressure. Hypertension (high blood pressure) may have damaged the retinas in Kayla’s eyes, causing her to lose her sight. Aging organ systems can adapt and compensate for shortcomings to ensure continued survival but after 23 years of service those mechanisms may be collapsing.
Your sweet girl is near the end of her life but that doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy few more good miles. Take Kayla to her veterinarian ASAP. In addition to a complete physical exam her doctor needs to measure her blood pressure and the pressure inside her eyeballs (intraocular pressures). If these levels are elevated there are medications that can slow the damage. 
There are other possible, although less likely, causes for Kayla’s blindness. A blood and urine profile and x-rays of her chest and abdomen would provide a more complete picture of her medical challenges. 
Be sure to ask your veterinarian to evaluate Kayla’s comfort level; her quality of life means everything at this stage. It may be in her best interest to give her an easy escape from the pain and stress of blindness and failing organs. The decision to euthanize is a gut-wrenching sacrifice but it may be the greatest gift of love for your cherished kitty. An accurate diagnosis will give you peace when you have to make a final decision for good Kayla. 
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.