Clinic Stories

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder, the cat, was blind from birth. Kittens eyes don't open until they are a couple of weeks old and Stevie had an eye infection before that. When his eyes opened, the eyeballs were filled with pus and he could never see. When he was older, both of his eyes were removed. Despite this, Stevie would go into his fenced in backyard and chase bugs and butterflies, jumping up to try to catch them. Seems impossible. Perhaps the owner was making it up. More on that later.

Most blind dogs get around quite well navigating by their nose. If they still have a good sense of smell they can follow paths and judge stairs pretty well. Many can walk around on a leash nearly as well as a sighted dog. Dogs, with their acute sense of hearing can also judge their space by sound. Dogs see much better at distances than up close so they are comfortable staring in your face from mere inches away. They are savoring your scent.

How does this figure into Stevie Wonder's butterfly ballet? Cats cannot see well close up either. They use their vision to spot things at a distance. Within 30 inches or so, just like dogs they rely on other senses – their whiskers. With their whiskers they can sense fine movements around them. Smell and hearing add to the mix. Together they are much more important than sight for close work.

So blind dogs and cats cannot see at a distance but they can use their other senses to navigate close in, sometimes with amazing skill. Just ask Stevie Wonder. Cats, however, cannot play the piano.

Back to Top