Helping Your Blind Cat Adjust

Some of the biggest misconceptions about blind cats are they’re approaching the end of their life and that they are suffering. In reality, cats have an easier adjustment to losing their sight than humans do; they simply take it in stride. Below are some easy tips to help your blind kitty adjust even better.

1. Familiarity

Your cat will need to rely on the memories of his home in order to navigate. Resist the urge to play interior decorator and move furnishings, his food and water dishes, his litter box, his scratching post, etc. This will help give your cat an easier adjustment and build confidence. You’ll also need to resist giving in to your inner slob and not leave things laying around. (Good news, your kids will have to start picking up their own toys!) When a cat rubs his face against objects, he is actually “marking” his spot with a facial pheromone, which he can then rely on later to help him navigate. Try to place the litter box and the food dishes near each other so he can easily fulfill his basic needs in one location. If you have multiple levels in your home, place the necessary objects on both floors. Until he is completely adjusted to his blindness, block off access to stairs and high places to avoid injury. Avoid carrying your cat around as much as possible. The most important component of his ability to adjust is making a map of his environment. If you are constantly carrying him from place to place, he will have difficulty being able to figure out where he is.

Establishing a routine is also very important: an afternoon play session in the living room or a snack in the kitchen before bed. An established routine can help to alleviate stress and help him feel more comfortable.

2. Training

Yes, training is still a possibility, it may be more time-consuming, but all cats need some degree of training. If your cat is motivated by food, when he performs a desired behavior, he gets a treat. Trigger words are also easy. For your blind cat, he’ll need to respond to spoken cues or clickers. When your cat is hiding in a super-secret location someday and you can’t find him, you’ll be glad if you can train him to come when called. Try to avoid teaching him any tricks that involve jumping. If he has one bad experience, he will be unlikely to engage in the behavior again.

3. Other Heightened Senses

Cats already have heightened smell, touch and auditory senses, when you add in a loss of vision, their other senses and their memory become their means to survival. Once the vision is lost, a cat is forced to rely on his other senses. Since he can’t see you approach, speak softly to him when you come near to avoid scaring him. Avoid loud noises. He won’t be able to see the source and can become quickly disoriented. If your home includes multiple pets, give his playmates bells on their collars so they can’t sneak up on him either. Give him scent-based catnip toys, or rattling and squeaky toys. As time goes on, he will get used to your natural scent and the scents of each room.

In summary, your cat’s quality of life will not decrease if blindness occurs. It will require a period of adjustment on both parts, but can create an amazing bonding experience. Once the adjustment period is complete, you’ll probably find yourself amazed at how fully he will return to normal: running through the house at top speed or playing Spider-Man jumping from furniture pieces.

Cat Eyes

Cats see better in the dark than they do during the daylight hours. Since most cats hunt at night, they need to see better at night than humans do. There are three reasons why.

A cat’s retina are predominated by rod-type photoreceptors. Cats have three times more rods in their eyes than humans. Cats have 100 rods to I cone, while humans have 20 rods to 1 cone. Rods are responsible for detecting and processing movement and short wavelength light. Cones are responsible for providing more detail and longer wavelengths of light. Therefore, cats cannot detect colors in the dark, but can detect movement.

Cats have elliptical shaped pupils to allow more light to be directed toward their retinas. Finally, cats have an area full of specialized cells behind their retinas called the tapetum lucidum. When the light reaches the tapetum it is reflected back to the retina and allows the eye to absorb more light. It is the tapetum that is responsible for the “glow” of a cat’s eyes in the dark.

During the day or night, cats aren’t able to see colors as well as humans. This is due to a difference in the cone. Humans can see a large spectrum of colors because they have three types of cones in their eyes. Cats only have two. Cats do see the world in world, but it’s not in as much vibrancy. Dogs are red/green colorblind and it’s thought that cats are the same since both dogs and cats have similar photoreceptors.

Human cones detect green, red and blue. The two cones in the feline eye detect blue and green with red spectrum being the least detectable. (Red objects likely appear gray to them.) Blue or purple objects are most easily detectable for them.

Cats have a third eyelid. (So do dogs, birds and a multitude of other animals.) The third eyelid moves from the corner of the eye and across the cornea. It is believed to provide the eye with an additional protective layer, especially when cats are hunting prey through tall grass or get into a fight with another feline. The eyelid helps to spread tears across the entire surface of the eye and to remove particles, such as dirt, dust or other debris. When a cat is ill or has sustained damage to the eye, the third eyelid can become visible and protrude. When a cat is ill, if the eyelid does protrude, it usually occurs in both eyes.

Does the eye color play a role in a cat’s vision? For the most part, no, but about 67% of blue-eyed cats are deaf. This is not caused by the eye color itself, but from genetics. Blue-eyed cats have a greater capacity to carry one or more defects that can cause deafness.


Catahoula Leopard Dog

AKC Group: Foundation Stock Service

The Catahoula Leopard dog is thought to have descended from greyhounds and mastiffs introduced into the Louisiana gene pool in the 16th century. The Catahoula may also have red wolf blood in them. In the 17th century, the French brought with them Beaucerons, which gave the Catahoulas their gorgeous looks. In 1979, the Catahoula was made the official state dog of Louisiana. “Catahoula” comes from an Indian word meaning “clear water.”

Size: 20 to 26 inches tall,  50 to 110 pounds

Color: Patterned coats of red, blue, yellow, tan or white.

Life span: 10 to 14 years

Health problems: Their large size makes them prone to hip dysplasia. The white coat on their face often leads to eye difficulties or deafness in either one or both ears. Certain bloodlines develop cancer in their senior years.

The Catahoula (or Louisiana Catahoula) are hard to identify just based on their coat patterns. The Catahoula is an extremely active dog and to keep harmony in the house, you need to give him enough outdoor activity. If you live on a farm, ranch or a huge estate, a Catahoula could be for you. If you don’t, find one to visit because your limited space will not make him happy. Catahoula often find work with law enforcement.

Highly intelligent, the Catahoula can quickly size up a situation and react accordingly. (No wonder they work in law enforcement capacities!) Their energy level perfectly match a young child’s, to whom they are gentle and loving. (They love kids!) Their intelligence requires constant learning and gives them a highly curious personality. Without an adequate fence, a Catahoula will often go out exploring. Quality time with his family is an important component of his mental health. He needs to spend time with and be involved in his family unit. At times, a Catahoula may be “too” protective (overprotective, really) of his family. Catahoula may not display this possessiveness as puppies, it tends to show up as he matures, often beginning around age 2. He may never get along well with other dogs, especially dogs of the same sex. Curiously, strangers bring out a timidity in a Catahoula, not from intimidation or fear, but from hesitation. Deep down, a Catahoula abhors strangers.

The Catahoula coat is short and smooth. He requires bathing once or twice a year (yep, you read that right). If he’s gotten into something, of course wash him. Once or twice a week (depending on how much he’s shedding), using a curry comb, bristle brush or mitt, brush him outside. This will help keep his coat shiny and the majority of his shedding out of the house. Trim his nails weekly. Gently wipe his outer ear with baby oil on a cotton ball. (Catahoula are prone to ear infections if they suffer from allergies.)

Training should begin with an obedience course where his exceptional intelligence will put him ahead of the class. Basic obedience will help him learn what’s acceptable. An effective Catahoula trainer needs to be strong willed and able to stand up to him (not through harshness or physical punishments), otherwise the Catahoula will not learn and lead him to exhibit behavior that could become harmful for the trainer, the dog and you. If assertiveness isn’t your specialty (and you don’t seek out an outside trainer), you’ll need to learn it before you bring a Catahoula home; otherwise you may want to seek out an easier breed you can train.

Hip Dysplasia (Dogs)

A dog’s hip joint attaches the hind leg to his body via a ball and socket joint. The ball portion is the head of the femur while the socket (known as acetabulum) is located on the pelvis. In a normal joint, the ball rotates freely within the socket because the bones are shaped to perfectly match each other and the socket surrounds the ball. As well, the two bones are held together by a strong ligament which attaches the femoral head to the acetabulum. In addition, the joint capsule, a strong band of connective tissue, encircles the two bones for further stability. The area where the acetabulum and the femur touch is called the articular surface. It is perfectly smooth and cushioned with a layer of spongy cartilage. A highly viscous fluid contained in the joint lubricates the articular surface. In a normal dog, all of these factors work together to cause his hip joint to function smoothly.

Hip dysplasia is associated with an abnormal joint structure, laxity of the muscles, connective tissue or ligaments that would normally support the hip joint. As joint laxity develops, the bones lose contact with each other. The separation of the two bones is called a subluxation. Most dysplastic dogs are born with normal hips, but as they age (due to genetic and possibly other factors), the soft tissues surrounding the joints develop abnormally. Hip dysplasia can be bilateral (affecting both hips).

Normal hip joint

Hip dysplasia joint

A dog can develop hip dysplasia at any age, but it often shows up in middle age or his senior years. Without intervention, a dog may eventually become unable to walk. The symptoms are similar to arthritis. A dog will often walk or run with an altered gait. They may resist movements that flex or extend their rear legs. Usually, he will run with a “bunny-hopping” gait. They may show stiffness or pain in their rear legs after exercise or first thing in the morning. They may have difficulty climbing stairs. A dog may limp and be less willing to participate in normal activities. At first, you may attribute this to normal changes of aging. As the condition progresses, most dogs will lose muscle tones and require assistance to get up.

Hip dysplasia occurs in dogs, cats and even humans. It is primarily a disease of large or giant dog breeds. It is most often seen in German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers and Saint Bernards. Hip dysplasia can be seen in medium-sized breeds and rarely occurs in small breeds. It primarily occurs in purebred dogs, but may happen in a mixed breed, if the crossbreed is of two breeds prone to developing hip dysplasia.

It is difficult to breed hip dysplasia out of a bloodline because though it may occur doesn’t mean it will. Obesity has been shown to increase the severity of hip dysplasia. Another factor shown to increase the development (in dogs prone to hip dysplasia) in rapid growth from free feeding between the age of three months to ten months. Feeding your dog a complete and balanced diet is also essential as a diet too low in calcium and other nutrients has been shown responsible for the development of hip dysplasia. If your dog is prone to developing the disease, don’t over exercise him as a puppy, Maintaining good muscle mass is essential for decreasing a dog’s chances to developing hip dysplasia. Moderate exercise that strengthen his gluteal muscles (running or swimming) is recommended.

Your dog will be diagnosed by his vet via a physical exam and, most likely, x-rays. So how can you help your dog? There’s nothing you can do about his genes, but you can certainly control his weight. Maintaining your dog’s recommended weight may be the single most important treatment you can do for him. If your dog will require surgery or medical treatments later, they will be far successful if your dog is at his optimal weight. Daily exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy weight. If your dog is already showing signs of arthritis or hip dysplasia, you may need an individualized exercise plan, but it’s the second most important thing you can do for him. People experiencing arthritis feel more symptoms in cold or damp weather. This is true for Fido too. Giving him a sweater for outdoor time or even increasingly the temperature of your home and providing him with a warm, fleecy bed or blanket can ease his symptoms.  Massage or physical therapy can help to relax his stiff muscles and promote a good range of motion for his joints. (Start slowly to build his trust.) You may eventually need to provide your dog with ramps in order to avoid stairs.

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Cardigan Welsh Corgi

AKC Group: Herding

The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is one of the oldest breeds in the UK, appearing as early as three thousand years ago. Cardi were used to protect cattle herds travelling from Wales to English markets. Welsh farmers saw the breed had more potential as herders. Cross breeding with Welsh sheepdogs enhanced the skill and the Cardi officially had a new job.

Size: 10.5 to 12.5 inchers tall, 25 to 40 pounds.

Color: Any shade of red, sable or brindle; blue merle or black; may have tan or brindle points and white markings are quite common.

Life span: 12 to 14 years

Health problems: Thyroid issues, spinal difficulties, hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy or obesity.

Cardi or Corgi dogs have very short legs that carry around an elongated body. His coat is weatherproof and dense. His outercoat can be short or medium in length; his undercoat is short and full.

A Cardi is an affectionate, loving companion that is responsive and gentle to his family. This is an extremely intelligent pooch. Cardies do have a natural tendency to nip, but with the intelligence that lays within them, it’s easy to teach a Cardi that nipping is not acceptable. These dogs are spirited, enthusiastic, eager and a bundle of energy. A Cardi loves you, but can survive without you when you have other things to do. (Hence, a Cardi is not a Velcro-dog.)

Cardi do better with considerate older children. Cats will require a bit of work. If the introduction (to any other animals in the home or that he will encounter in the neighborhood) is done as a pup, he should be fine; a properly socialized Cardi can get along with any other companion. With strangers (or guests), a Cardi is polite but reserved. If the situation calls for it, a Cardi can make a huge ruckus to sound the alarm.

Grooming with a firm bristle brush should be done once or twice a week. During seasonal shedding periods, he’ll need more help — probably on a daily basis. House breaking and basic obedience should be a breeze for him. (He could probably teach the course himself!) To satisfy his natural instincts and to keep him from displaying undesirable behaviors, you’ll need to keep finding him new tricks or skills to learn. Keep his toybox well stocked with a wide variety of toys. Any new toy will help to enrich his environment and his mind. Cardi learn better through positive reinforcement (treats and rewards) as opposed to harsh treatment and language and punishments. Cardi love to learn and will enjoy showing off his new trick. Yes, he knows what a smart dog he is.