I have raised a disabled cat. When he was a five week (ish) old kitten, he came home with me from the vets I used to work at and we brought him up. Cooper was completely blind and brain damaged when we took him home, from a brain trauma before we met him. He’s a very lucky boy to still be alive and I’m so blessed to have him in my home with me every day.
Recently, I was put in touch with a girl and a kitten, who had suffered a brain trauma too. The vet asked if I could give her some advice on moving forward with a blind pet, specifically one who had suffered a similar head injury. I realise this a very specific type of disabled pet, but there aren’t many places on the internet to get advice about raising a blind or disabled kitten. When we brought Cooper home, we didn’t know anything about raising a kitten, nevermind one that was too young to be away from his mum and suffering from a serious injury on top of that!
If you have stumbled across this blog post because you are caring for a disabled or blind (or both!) pet, please drop me a comment below and let me know, because I’d love to hear your story and your advice too.
Here are my little words of wisdom and practical advice for raising a disabled (and specifically blind) pet..
Don’t pick him up. This is unbelievably difficult. Little kittens are really cute and the sofa looks awfully high when you can see a blind cat teetering on the edge, trying to get down. Resisting picking Cooper up was the most difficult thing in the world! I just wanted to help him get up onto the sofa and carry him to his food bowl and bed, but it was most important to teach him to be independent. We used to let him find his way around the one (large) room we’d contained him to in the flat and, when he got “lost” – about a foot away from his litter tray – we’d lie on the floor with him and tap against the laminate to lead him back to where he wanted to be.
Understand that not picking your pet up means that he won’t be as easy to handle later in life. Because we didn’t pick him up a lot as a baby, he isn’t used to being picked up now, so he’ll struggle and claw out trying to get down. When I’m cleaning the bloody claw marks on my arms after bathtime, I’m just reminding myself how lucky I am to have such an independent little boy..
Forget everything they tell you about room layout. The food and water bowl shouldn’t be next to each other? Food should be in a different room to the litter tray? Well, we made it work with everything being in the same half of the room, not as spaced out as it should have been, because we didn’t want Cooper getting lost around the living room trying to find his way from tray to food to bed.
Don’t rearrange your furniture. We’re so very fortunate that Cooper has got a small amount of his sight back, so he can adapt to some changes now. We were even able to move house and change the room layout with minimal disturbance to his routine. However, when he was completely blind, we didn’t move a piece of furniture and left nothing unnecessary on the floor, so he couldn’t hurt himself. Blind animals adapt really well to their surroundings and can learn the layout of their house very well, so don’t move anything and let them explore room by room.
It’s okay to grieve. This is something I really, really struggled with at the start. I was so upset that Cooper had been injured as a baby, that anyone could allow harm to come to an animal or could cause hurt to another living being. I used to hold him and just cry. I needed to get that out of my system and, although I’m still sad for him, we have an amazing life together and I’ve managed to put those feelings behind me.
Accept him for exactly how he is. The day we took Cooper home, he was a bit floppy and just lay in my arms for hours at a time not moving. He could potter around the room a very tiny bit and do a little wee on the floor (whilst sitting down completely instead of squatting, so he needed a fair few baths!) and I was prepared for him to be like that forever. A month later, he jumped into a cardboard box that his fully able sister was playing in and sat in it for a while – I was so happy that he was “playing” and ran to grab my partner to watch! It turns out, all he did was a tiny wee in the box, because he must have thought it was like a litter tray. A few weeks after that, he batted a ball, completely on his own, and we were more than over the moon. I remember saying to my mum, “if that’s the only play he ever does, that’s amazing!!” I accept him for how he is, how he has been and how he will be.
Celebrate the little milestones. As Cooper has luckily made amazing process, we have celebrated every little thing he’s done. We’ve been ecstatic the first time he managed to climb onto the windowsill. We cried the first time he managed to jump up for a toy (about an inch off the ground)! We celebrated when we could see a bird through the window, even if it was only for a second and he was left looking the wrong way when it moved! Everything is a blessing with him and we’ve definitely learned to appreciate everything he manages to do.
Finally, accept the things he can’t do. Cooper can’t jump on the banister like his sister. He can’t jump on the upstairs landing windowsill. He can’t play with some of the toys his sister can. He can’t always see out of the window when we’re walking up the path, waving that we’re home from work. He can’t catch a treat if you throw it for him, you have to place it in his mouth. It’s okay to not be able to do everything that others can.
Do you have any tips for raising a disabled pet?♡