What are cataracts?
A cataract is cloudiness, or opacity in the lens of an eye. Just like people, a cat's healthy lens is clear (called translucent) and focuses and sends light onto the retina in the back of the eye to enable a cat to see. A cataract blocks this light transmission.
How does my cat get cataracts?
Cataracts are linked to many causes. The leading cause is hereditary. Secondary causes are due to anterior uveitis, inflammation of the iris and ciliary tissue around and behind the pupil. Others occur as a result of trauma or injury to the eye. Some develop as secondary symptoms from inflammation within the eye. Poor nutrition in kittens can also increase the chance of cataracts developing. Diabetes and old age, as well as other eye diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy can also lead to cataracts.
How do I know if my cat has cataracts?
You may notice that your cat starts to hesitate when jumping up on the sofa or climbing stairs or bumps into objects in the house. Peering into your cat’s eyes, look for any bluish, gray or white color change or signs of inflammation or redness. Your cat may squint more frequently. Your veterinarian can make the diagnosis based on a thorough eye examination that may include blood test to rule out possible systemic conditions and lab tests to gauge the overall health of your cat. It may be necessary to take your cat to a veterinary ophthalmologist to discuss treatment options.
What can I do about cataracts?
Although there is no veterinary treatment available to reverse or shrink cataracts, you can help your cat adjust to his fading eyesight by not rearranging the furniture, providing your cat with a cozy place to nap and not allowing your cat outdoors. In cases where there is inflammation associated with the cataract, your veterinarian will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics to ease pain and irritation. Some healthy cats who have inherited cataracts that are not associated with inflammation are good candidates for surgery that has a high success rate. These surgeries should be performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting cataracts?
While you can not prevent cataracts in your cat, you can schedule frequent veterinary visits and request a thorough eye examination be performed to keep tabs on the health of your cat’s vision.
Are there certain breeds that get cataracts more often?
Two of the most popular breeds, Persians and Siamese as well as Birman, Birmese and Himalayans are more prone to developing cataracts.