Tips for caring for your blind pet
Welcoming a pet into your home is always a rewarding and heartwarming experience. If that pet happens to be visually impaired, however, you will need to provide a little extra care and support to keep them safe, healthy and happy. In this blog post, we explore some tips and ideas to help you navigate the journey of caring for your blind pet.
Create a safe and navigable environment
The first step in caring for your blind pet is to create a safe and familiar environment. One of the easiest ways to keep them feeling secure is to minimise changes to the layout of your home as much as possible. If you keep furniture, food and water bowls, beds, and litter trays in consistent locations, and make sure that obstacles are not added in the floor space, then your pet will easily be able to navigate the space to see to their needs calmly and safely. It may also be a good idea to put baby gates up to prevent access to potentially dangerous spaces.
Additionally, blind pets are more susceptible to accidents and injuries. To avoid these as much as possible, ensure your home is free of potential sharp objects, dangling cords, and toxic plants. Consider adding padding to sharp corners of your furniture and investing in non-slip rugs.
Try and stick to a regular and consistent routine
Your blind pet will thrive in a structured environment where they can anticipate events in the schedule (including feeding, grooming, walking, and playing). This will help to minimise the anxiety caused by unpredictable situations.
When taking your pet on outdoor walks, consider getting them a halo harness (aka an anti-collision ring) to prevent them from hitting unpredictable objects – you can check out reviews on different options on the One Clear Winner site here.
Make the most of their other senses
Blind pets still have several other senses that they can use to easily find their way around, and you can add things to your environment to help your pet. For instance, putting textured rugs on the floor can help your pet to navigate, putting scented objects in specific spaces so that they know instantly where they are, playing a radio in the corner where you keep their food, or setting up a bell or windchime in doorways so that they hear people going in and out can all be ways to make your pet’s life easier to navigate and interact with their environment safely.
Train them using verbal and touch commands
Blind pets can be trained just like sighted animals, but the approach needs be a bit adapted. Use distinctive sounds to indicate feeding times, play sessions, or outdoor walks. Additionally, employ tactile cues during training and interactions. Gentle strokes and pats around the home, but especially in unfamiliar environments can offer reassurance and build trust between you and your furry companion.
During training sessions, use verbal cues and touch commands. For instance, teach them simple commands like “come,” “sit,” and “stay” using both voice and touch reinforcement. It’s important to remember that when training sighted pets, they often rely on visual cues and your body language to interpret the command, so this should be replaced instead with clear verbal and touch cues. Positive reinforcement, such as treats and affection, can also be highly effective in encouraging good behaviour.
Engage in sensory play and mental stimulation
Enriching your blind pet’s life with sensory play and mental stimulation is essential for their well-being. Engage them in interactive games that involve sounds and textures, like using toys that make noise or have different scents or materials. Puzzle toys with treats inside can provide mental stimulation while also encouraging exploration, or balls with bells inside could be good for any ball-oriented pet to help them find it. Interactive play with you or other pets in the household can be especially enriching for their overall well-being.
Maintain regular check-ups
Regular visits to the veterinarian are crucial for the health of any pet, but they are even more important for blind animals. Your veterinarian can assess your pet’s overall health, provide guidance on their specific needs, and address any concerns you may have. Catching potential health issues early can make a significant difference in your pet’s quality of life. You might also consider consulting an animal behaviourist experienced in caring for visually impaired pets, who could offer valuable advice and specific training techniques tailored to your pet’s needs
Above all, blind pets require love, patience, and understanding. Provide them with affection and reassurance, as your presence is essential for their emotional well-being. Understand that it may take some time for them to adjust to their new circumstances, and be patient during the training process.
Caring for a blind pet is a deeply rewarding experience that requires a bit of extra effort and attention. By creating a safe environment, using scent and sound cues, providing training, and offering plenty of love and patience, you can ensure your visually impaired pet thrives and enjoys a fulfilling life filled with love and happiness. Embrace this unique journey, and you’ll find that the bond you share with your pet grows stronger with each passing day.
Find further tips on caring for your blind pet on the PDSA website.
And on the journey of caring for her blind dog by the RSPCA’s magazine editor, Hannah Doyle.