Cataracts in Cats
The sight of cats, like many other animals, relies on a clear lens that lets light pass to the retina. The retina then sends information to the brain via an optic nerve. The brain processes incoming information to make sense of the world around the cat.
Cataracts in cats prevent this highly evolved series of events from operating normally.
When a cat develops cataracts, the translucent lens can become so cloudy or blocked that light can no longer reach the retina. As the condition progresses, the affected cat comes closer to total blindness.
Cataracts in cats, therefore, can cause serious problems that affect the animal’s life and safety.
Causes of Cataracts in Cats
Cataracts in cats have a variety of causes. Young cats that develop cataracts usually have an inherited condition. The cats are born with a high level of developing cataracts, so there are few ways to prevent the condition.
Most cats develop cataracts as they age. Most commonly, cataracts in cats happen because the animal cannot metabolize proteins and other chemicals correctly. Cataracts are also a natural part of the aging process. As the cat ages, its eyes become less effective.
Other causes of cataracts in cats include:
- Inflammation in the anterior uvea (the part of the eye that contains the iris).
- Exposure to toxic substances or drugs.
- Electric shocks.
- Exposure to radiation.
Unfortunately, many cases of cataracts have unknown origins.
Cataracts can occur in one eye or both eyes simultaneously.
Symptoms of Cataracts in Cats
In some cases, cataracts are quite obvious. The animal’s owner or veterinarian can observe discoloration or film on the cat’s eye.
Other symptoms of cataracts in cats aren’t as apparent. Some of these symptoms include:
- Bumping into walls, furniture, and other objects.
- Changes in the iris’s color.
- Tripping over its feet.
- Unusual, often distressed, vocalizations.
- Behaviors that indicate stress or anxiety.
- Difficulty finding items that the cat regularly uses, including its litter box and food bowl.
- Inability to recognize family members and other companion animals in the household.
- Misjudging distances when jumping onto or off of objects.
Cats are known as nimble creatures with sure footing and significant agility. As cataracts cloud the animal’s vision, it may lose these characteristics. While owners may not know that the cat has cataracts, it’s usually apparent that something has changed within the feline.
Treatment Options for Feline Cataracts
Surgery is the preferred treatment option for cataracts in cats. Cats with inflamed eyes will receive anti-inflammatory drugs before the surgery so the veterinarian can work more accurately. Cats with severe inflammation may not be able to undergo cataract surgery.
Before surgery, the doctor will use an ultrasound to make sure the cat’s retina works. If the retina no longer functions, then removing cataracts will not benefit the animal.
Assuming that the cat qualified for cataract surgery, the doctor will administer general anesthesia and make a small incision in the affected eye or eyes. The surgeon then uses a small ultrasonic unit to break up the cataract. The small sections are then gently sucked out of the eye.
Since cat eyes need lenses, the surgeon will install an artificial intraocular lens that replaces the damaged one. Cats usually spend two days in the hospital undergoing and recovering from surgery.
After receiving surgery for cataracts in cats, the animal has a higher risk for conditions like glaucoma and detached retinas. The cat’s owners and veterinarian should develop a follow-up program to monitor early signs of these and other disorders.
Cost to Treat: $2,000 to $3,000 per eye