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PET corner: Eye spy

June 21, 2014

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IT is nice to wake up from time to time from my snooze and see my human watching Animal Planet especially when the show is about my ancestors the big cats.

I love watching them hunt, eat, drink, play and fight.

So even though running around at midnight with a toy mouse in my mouth is the closest I can get to hunting, but please bear in mind that I have in fact evolved from hunters; which is why my sense of sight is one of my strongest. Do you know that cats are generally considered to be colour blind!

I read somewhere that the nerve centre at the back of the eye contains cells called cones (responsible for converting light into colour) and rods (responsible for black and white). In cats, there are more rods than cones.

There is some sense of colour but brightness is far more important for us. In dim light, the pupil in our eyes which allows light to enter the eyes opens about three times as wide as the human pupil and lets in as much light as possible. This is why lions and tigers like to hunt at dawn and dusk.

Because of this ability, at night, for example, objects appear six times brighter to a cat than they do to humans. We can also detect minute movement, which is easily missed by people — yet another advantage for us hunters!

There are certain conditions that can cause eye problems for cats and blindness of one or both eyes can happen to your pet. If you observe that your kitty is occasionally clumsy, bumps into objects, cannot find food and water dishes, tends to be inattentive, sleeps way too much, gets frightened easily and does not enjoy normal cat play, it might be having some eye trouble that is causing problems in vision.

Although eyesight is important to them, our sense of smell and hearing are much more developed than humans. Cats have 19 million odour-sensitive cells in their noses compared to 200 million in dogs and about five million in humans. My nose works 24/7 and I can smell fish being cooked three blocks away!

Also we have certain glands in our cheeks, lower legs and under our tails that secrete identifying scents and will help us find our way around the house. As we walk around the house, we mark the way by rubbing our scent on. It works as a superior postal system.

Our sense of hearing is amazing too. We can hear high frequency sounds and can locate the source of a sound much better than humans. From just three feet away, we have the ability to distinguish between sound sources only three inches apart.

If you do suspect that you have a kitty that is blind, your pet should be evaluated by the vet as soon as possible to confirm her condition. To minimise stress and injury, confine it to a safe area until the cause of the problem is found out.

You will have to help your pet adjust to a new sightless world.

Maintain a consistent area for eating, sleeping and using the litter box. Keep your cat’s bed, her food bowls and litter box in the same place. It is amazing how well cats can deal with their blindness, with help from their amazing senses of hearing and smell; and a little help from you.