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Sudden blindness and neurological (?) problem in old cat

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi! I'm new here.

My 20 (?) year old cat went blind this afternoon, seemingly all of a sudden.

She has kidney disease although we (especially my husband) has been bad about sticking to the prescription food. She is a champion moocher and he has a soft heart and feels since she is an old cat, let her eat what she wants. She got a lot of chicken the last couple of days--now I'm fearing that all that protein made her disease worse.

I see from a Google search that hypertension which can be due to kidney disease is the usual cause of sudden blindness.

It's too late to call the vet tonight and anyway I am unsure whether we want to go through a lot of veterinary stuff, for two reasons.

1. Her age. She is at least 20 and was diagnosed with kidney disease several years ago--the vet seemed to imply she would not live long, though she has.

2. She has unexplained problems that look neurological to me. For maybe six months or so, and worsening in the past few weeks, she has these weird "spasms" where she kind of scrunches up uncomfortably to one side or the other, as if something's seizing up; she gets a sudden apparent itch on the bottom of a back paw and starts frantically biting it--falling over due to leg weakness; she will suddenly start licking a paw or her chest frantically. I don't know if it's itchiness or another paresthesia or what.

3. She has had back-leg weakness for at least 10 or 15 years. Vet says it's due to kidney disease. She walks with stiff back legs and a leg kind of goes out from under her at least half a dozen times while walking across a room.

I should probably take her to the hospital right away in case they can save her sight, but since she is so old, I am not sure what to do. Since we have not been good about treating the kidney disease other than keeping her on the prescription diet (we feed her too much from the table, as I said) and I gave up trying to get a diuretic into her which the vet said might help, I doubt we are going to suddenly go all-out to treat it now, if that is what we need to do for the eyesight. (I am guessing from what little I've just read on the Web about sudden blindness--that you have to lower blood pressure and treat the underlying disease.)

I even saw a cat neurologist recently about the weird spasmy/itchy things, and it was not too helpful. She said it could all be from the kidney disease, from a thyroid problem, or feline hyperesthesia syndrome, which our regular vet had mentioned long ago, although I am not sure that is the cause of her problems.

Obviously, I'm rambling, vacillating, rationalizing, and casting about. We do get vet care quite a bit--treated a diabetic kitty for four years, get their shots, etc. But I really don't want to spend tons of money and put the cat through a lot of stress when she is so old.

The other complicating factor is that she seems to be mostly deaf. We noticed this months ago.

Maybe she has a brain tumor that's causing all this, or the kidney disease has just gotten much worse recently. It's going to kill her eventually anyway.

My inclination is to just watch her and euthanize her when her quality of life declines too much. We cannot tell if she's in pain but she doesn't seem to be. She seems able to find her food and water despite the sudden blindness, still wants to be petted, etc. Obviously we aren't going to let her outside (it's too freezing here now anyway).

Any advice???

Thank you,

Nancy T.
post #2 of 17
Please if you can take the cat to the ER vet ... if you dont have an ER clinic then call a different vet ( I wouldnt go back to one that just gives up )... If you have any clinics in your area that are cat only start there... This animal is in dire need of medical attention..
post #3 of 17
I've cared for many end-stage kitties and let me just say that it takes a special person to do what needs to be done. If no one has ever said this to you before, please allow me to be the first. Thank you for being a good person.

OK - as to your question of treatment ... there comes a point where it can all be overwhelming both emotionally and financially. In a perfect world, we would all have unlimited time and money to care for our pets, but the sad fact is that we can only do what we can for them until we can do no more.

IMO, there are decisions which need to be made with regard to the kidney treatment - either be on track with it consistantly or provide comfort measures only. You can't hope to prolong the life of the kidneys if you aren't good about severely limiting protein. Make a choice to either aggressively treat and then stick with it in the hopes of allowing your kitty a little more time or continue disregarding what you know is the treatment plan and let her be a happy girl getting chicky from her Dad. It's a tough choice and I don't envy you having to make it.

The hypertension is an issue that need to be addressed. If it were my cat, it isn't, but if it were, I would have her in to see her normal vet at first opportunity tomorrow. They can hydrate her with the proper fluids and get her blood pressure under control. They can also counsel you on how to avoid making it spike like that again in the future. If you wanted to pursue treatment, they can assist. Go ahead and get her in and let the vet who knows her and you the best assist you with the issues at hand.
post #4 of 17
You've received great advice. I just want to say I'm so sorry you and your little one are going through this. Bless you and your precious kitty.
post #5 of 17
I am going to differ just a bit in my advice. Depending on the stage of your cats kidney disease, limiting protein is very much under discussion, and it is more the quality of the protein, and the phosphorus content of the food that is of concern (imo, and that of some of the other folks on a support list I am on).

The best suggestion I can give you is to completely read this site if you are not familiar with it. It goes over how sudden blindness may be the result of detached retinas secondary to high blood pressure. If brought under control swiftly enough (via medication), there is a chance of the retina reattaching, and some vision being regained (I do not recall for sure, but believe possibly full sight can be regained).

Having dealt with kidney disease for the past 3 years, I know the toll this can take, how difficult the decisions can be, the kinds of questions one asks oneself. Always treat the cat, not the lab "numbers", your cat will tell you when it is time.

I wish you all the best, please keep us posted with what happens.
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much, you wonderful people!! This is exactly the kind of information and input I was looking for to help me decide what to do about our sweet Cleopatra.

I got up this morning, read your very generous, kind, helpful responses, and decided that if there was a chance of saving her sight, I gotta do it.

So I called the vet and agreed on a time an hour and a half hence. She was still blind as a bat when I got up at 8:00. At 10:00, when I went to get her to put her in the carrier, she looked up at me and held my gaze. I thought, can you see me?? She repeatedly tracked my finger from about three feet away, and my daughter came in disbelief to do her own testing, and it was very clear that kitty HAD recovered some sight! She still didn’t seem able to see far away, but she was walking straight to her food bowl (whereas last night she had to be set right in front of it) and kept meeting and holding our gaze and following our fingers, which last night and earlier in the morning she was not able to do at all.

This was NOT wishful thinking on my part! She truly had regained some sight, and her eyes looked normal instead of the cloudy, completely pupil-filled look. She was not sensing our hand movements through smell or body heat or air currents or anything--it was too far away and yesterday she had been unable to track anything at all, nor hold our gaze at all.

I was then afraid that the stress of a trip to the vet would just raise her blood pressure and do more harm than good at that point. So I dithered some more (I am a great ditherer), decided to cancel the appointment and just watch and wait. Called the vet, who said no, you really need to bring her in. So I did. And indeed when I took her out of the carrier in the exam room, she seemed completely blind again and has remained so since getting home a couple of hours ago.

Anyway, the vet says her left retina IS detached, and the other eye is not seeing due to a “commensural†or “sympathetic†(?) thing in the brain. Neither pupil was reacting to light at all. So she loaded her up with fluid, diuretic, and cortisone to help with any swelling, and we are going to give her extra diuretic through the weekend, monitor her heart rate as best I can, keep her warm and drinking. And hope for the best.

One of those situations where you don’t know the best course and can only try not to second-guess yourself. Should I have left well enough alone when she could see again this morning? (I’m wondering whether her other eye--the one without the detached retina--simply was suddenly able to “compensate†and see again, and somehow that was lost on the stressful trip to the vet?) I don’t know. But I felt so awful about the whole thing last night and this morning, and at least I feel better for having taken her in and talked to the vet and got the medications that might do some good, if anything can.

I have never forgotten my confusion and later, to some degree, anger that the two MDs that I saw or talked to in the five days after my sudden unilateral hearing loss six years ago (it happened when I sneezed hard) did not send me immediately to an ear specialist nor even test my hearing in any way. I found out weeks later that sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency and needs to be treated by a specialist within 24-48 hours. But those “golden hours†during which treatment MIGHT have saved my hearing were frittered away with one doctor who just said “well, ears can take a long time to unplug†and another who was in such a hurry to get to a golf game or something that he didn’t even ask whether I could hear better after the wax was cleaned out of my ears. After learning much more about sudden hearing loss (and talking to a neurologist who theorized it was a stroke in the ear), I realized that the chances of saving my hearing were very small to begin with--but I wished that I could look back and feel that I was given every chance.

So, after being very lax about treating Cleo’s kidney disease for years (except always having only the kidney diet as her basic food), and now suffering the consequences (as that is the most likely cause of the blindness--although the vet does not take feline blood pressures, said she has tried very hard to find a monitor that works but simply is not convinced, and she said that the “stretched†vessels in the eye indicated high BP, if I understood her correctly)--well, at least I have given kitty a chance now. Either that, or I have blown it by not letting her sit quietly and calmly at home after the partial sight came back! Some things we will never know, and I won’t obsess over it.

One thing I was surprised to find out from the vet today is that there is a diuretic you can get in a cream and rub it into the ear (she will order it from a compounding pharmacy). If I had known that during the time that they kept calling me last summer and trying to help me get the diuretic pill into her and bring her back for more testing, that would have been so much easier! Anyway, we are going to do that now--I remember we used an ear-cream medication for something for another cat (darned if I can remember which cat and what for--my aging memory...) and it was so easy.

Thank you ALL again SO MUCH for the information and good wishes. I can read Web sites and so on about sudden blindness in cats--but advice from real people with such a wealth of experience, knowledge, and perspective is the very best for helping to decide what to do. You have really helped me with this and I appreciate your taking the time to write.

And I appreciate so much the kind and supportive words from all of you (especially Gayef). And Pat/Alix, it's interesting what you said about the protein: our vet at one point told me also that high-quality protein was better and even encouraged me to prepare liver for her. The CRF site looks great and I am going to read it thoroughly when I have a chance.

Best wishes to everyone and your sweetie cats, and many thanks, again. I will let you know whether Cleopatra regains (or re-regains) any sight.

Nancy T.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
P.S. I tried to add this to my previous post, but the edit didn't seem to work--just wanted to say that although I re-set my time stamp to what I thought is the correct one, it is still 4 hours ahead--it's only 3:20 pm here (U.S. West Coast).
post #8 of 17
I wish you all the best with this, I'm glad you did take her in. Please keep posting about her, I think she is one of the more senior members of the board , my oldest sweetie is just 18 1/2.
post #9 of 17
Well I am so glad she got to the vet... and I will send prayers for a sight mircle... as far as the crf read read and talk to the vet
post #10 of 17
You absolutely did the right thing taking her to the vet -- high blood pressure was threatening not only her sight, but her life, and that HAD to be dealt with. I suspect that the detached retina might have simply fallen back into position while she slept, and gotten dislodged again when she started moving around.

Please give your sweet Cleopatra a snuggle from me... she'll be in my thoughts.
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thank you Carol & everyone else. I am mystified about the temporary return of (some) sight--and it apparently happened again this morning--my son observed it. But it didn't last long. Not sure what is happening.

In any case, she seems to be doing fine in the sense of taking her diuretic fine, eating and drinking well, and responding to our petting. She can find the water and food bowls with little trouble and seems more used to the fact that she cannot see (less of the walking around with neck stretched out and moving her head side to side as if thinking she should be able to see).

Their litter boxes are in the basement but I have put one upstairs not far from the heating vent that she likes to sleep in front of. We put her in the litter box periodically through the day trying to encourage her to find and use it on her own, since the stairs are dangerous for her and although she did go down once on Friday (I think she fell a few steps, I heard it), she has not attempted it again.

Another very interesting thing is that since the getting the cortisone-diuretic-potassium infusion at the vet's on Friday, she has not had a single one of her itchy-seizy-scrunchy-"clonus" episodes, which she had been having many, many times a day. I wonder if the cortisone helped somehow? or maybe when she is concentrating on trying to see, she does not get those? She also never has them at the vet's, no matter how long we're there.

I'm glad she's not having those seizure-like episodes anymore. A little silver lining.

And since she clearly HAS had a couple of short times of being able to see at least a little, I remain hopeful that she will regain at least a little sight over time.

Thanks again, everyone!

Nancy T.
post #12 of 17
I am so glad the "seisures " have ended ... I have myclounus myself and it sucks...

please give her a hug for me///
post #13 of 17
You would be amazed at how quickly cats can adjust to not being able to see. I remember reading a James Herriott story about that, and the moral was that dogs and cats didn't "grieve" the loss of their sight - they just moved on. Anyway, my kitten lost his sight (due to FIP) and within a couple of days, you wouldn't know he couldn't see. It was amazing. We helped him jump up or down off of or onto furniture, but other than that he did great. Unfortunately, we lost him after a couple of weeks, but his bravery in the face of everything was an amazing thing to see. Hope your baby does well - keep us updated!
post #14 of 17
I also wanted to add that blindness was the symptom that led me to take Somkey to the vet where she was diagnosed with CRF. In her case I had a good outcome with in 24 hours of being on high blood pressure meds her sight began to come back. She never saw 100% & over the last 2 years of her life, her sight continued to deteriorate, but she never once even on the last day of her life wasn't able to find her litter box. You did the right thing & I agree with Kluchetta that they adjust very quickly to not being able to see. I believe their keen sense of smell has something to do with this. Lots of hugs & prayers for your baby & I'm so sorry your going through this.
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi Rang & Kluchetta, thanks for sharing your experiences with me. Kluchetta, I'm sorry you lost your kitty. I agree, cats don't complain or "grieve" about their physical losses, they just keep on truckin'! Don't we wish we could always emulate them in that.

Anyway, I am THRILLED today because Cleopatra's sight HAS returned and there is no doubt about it!! She probably cannot see normally, but for all practical purposes she is a sighted cat again, thank goodness X one million!!! We saw it again last night, and today she has been able to see from morning til night, no longer the on-and-off thing. And still no seizures that any of us have observed. What a huge relief!!!!

She is a GOOD kitty and now I am going to be a GOOD girl and STICK WITH the diet and the diuretic for her. No more excuses. I admit I had no idea that this could happen to a cat with kidney disease.

Thank you all so much for your support!!

Very best wishes,
Nancy T.
post #16 of 17
Great news for Cleopatra

your box is full
post #17 of 17

I haven't been on this site for a while, but I wanted to contribute to this thread since we have a similar situation with our 12 year old female, Cricket.


Three weeks ago, Cricket didn't come to the kitchen for breakfast. This NEVER happens, she loves food.  She was in the basement and had some difficulty climbing the stairs when we called for her.  Once in the kitchen, she didn't eat her wet food.   We immediately knew something was wrong, but went to work.  That night, she was hiding in the closet (another rare event).   I caught her later that night in the litter box and noticed some pink.  The next day we took her to the vet and UTI was diagnosed.  She was on Baytril for 10 days.  After the first 2 days, she had her appetite back and seemed to be on the mend.


A couple days after her final baytril pill, we again saw pink in her pee clump.  This time, she was still eating, drinking, using the litter box.  The vet put her on 5 more days of baytril and took urine for a culture to see if she had a stubborn bug.  Culture came back negative.  She also had blood analysis and Xray at this time.  Blood came back with nothing elevated in kidney or liver function.  Xray showed nothing.  The vet said to keep watching her and we could try another urinalysis after 2 weeks if she had no other issues in the meantime.


One week into the waiting period (yesterday), Cricket still had a little pink in the pee clump, and we also noticed that her eyes were dilated and not changing with light conditions.  She seemed to not be able to see very well, bumping into our legs, and having trouble locating food/water bowls.  Upon reading about sudden blindness in cats, we took her to the ER the same  night.  They did find elevated blood pressure.  They started her on amlodipine immediately.  We took her home and took her to the regular vet this morning.  Rechecked blood...normal.  Checked thyroid...normal.  At this point, she is scheduled for an ultrasound tomorrow to take a closer look at things.  Her pupils have gone back to looking more normal this morning, but the regular vet did confirm she may have some retinal detatchment. 


Hopefully the ultrasound will give us some answers, otherwise, we may be at a dead end.  Right now, I foresee she will be on blood pressure meds for a while.

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