Blind Cubby

Well, we didn't get great news about Cubby, the big gray-and-white cat my mom rescued from a window well near my dad's doctor's office 13 years ago. As we suspected, the big guy is in fact blind. My mom took him to the vet on Monday afternoon, which was a traumatic experience for all involved. Our other cat, Chirp, loves small spaces. From baskets to hampers to boxes to the washing machine, he'll pretty much jump into anything if you snap your fingers or put it in front of him. It's all a game. Cubby always hated to be confined, and now that he lives in constant darkness, everything is twice as scary for him.

My mom eventually got him into the cat carrier, with him hissing and growling the whole time. He swatted and scratched her arm, and the vet and his assistant could barely hold him down to examine him. They couldn't draw blood, but managed enough of a visual examination with a flashlight to determine that the problem was what we thought it was. Lorna had noted that her blind cat walked around the edges of rooms, and that should have been a clue for us as well. Cubby always walked low to the ground and clung to walls, just because of his timid nature, and he still jumps up on the bed or dresser without much effort. But it's all a combination of memory and his other sense compensating. He may have been like this for a while. I had noticed his eyes remaining dilated before, but I thought the big black circles were simply a fear response. I never noticed if they shrunk back down once I put food in his dish and he no longer felt threatened.

We still don't know the cause of the problem, but the vet is going to try steroids for 10 days to see how he responds. That will rule out whether or not there's a swelling inside his head, or if there's some other underlying problem like diabetes or kidney failure. He has no other symptoms beyond the blindness and the circling to one side, which the vet thought might just be the side he favors habitually. He's not actually spinning, leaning, or falling over like a stroke victim. His appetite is good and he's strong. I'm hoping the problem isn't my fault, that the flash photography resulting in images like the one above didn't do permanent damage.

I could hear in my mom's voice when she called me at work that she was sad. She nursed him to health and raised him from a tiny kitten that fit in the palm of our hand to this big gray bear cub. It definitely explains the change in his demeanor over the last few months, how he's been clinging closer and closer to her, leaning against her when she sleeps and walking against her legs as she heads down the hall. It has to be confusing for an animal, even though he's adapted to it apparently. And though he's the cat equivalent of a middle-aged man, it's hard to not think of him as a kitten. 13 years isn't all that long to a human.

If he doesn't respond to steroids, I'm not sure what the next step is. It will be a miracle if they're able to draw blood, let alone do an MRI. Ultimately, all we may be able to do is monitor the situation and see how he responds to various medication. It's a time of adjustment for us all., and just another reminder of how quickly time goes, and how we should appreciate what we have.


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