Cat care is hard work, especially for humans with "disabilities," however where there is a will, there's a way. Mario is completely blind and is the sole caregiver of four cats, plus another recently adopted outside cat. He lost his sight gradually, from his early teens. Mario was able to work as a software engineer for 16 years, retiring when new technology and declining sight became an impossible combination.
He is an amazing man, both intelligent and kind, with a quick wit which you'll see more of. Mario generously offered to share his cat care tips to other readers who are sight impaired, or may have family or friends who are. Actually, every cat mom or dad will benefit from Mario's Advice.
Franny: How do you organize your home and schedule to make it possible to care for cats you can't see?
Mario: Before I jump into the narrative, let me list some material. As we go through our questions, where and how a particular item is used will become clear.
- plastic tub (about 6" square)
- paint scraper (hand held with flat edged head)
- box of rubber gloves
- plastic bag of plastic (grocery) bags
- package of cat wipes
- roll of paper towels
- tub of litter with scooper (large enough for a large bag of litter or more)
- cooler (large enough to hold large bag of dried food)
- water dispenser
- two plastic flat plates
The answer to the question is actually, in the question itself:
You actually "do", organize and, schedule.
You actually take the time and effort to think it through.
You will of course, have to deal with the unexpected but, this should be an exception, not the rule.
Even after you have a working method and schedule, you will find yourself modifying and improving it, as you learn.
This is perfectly fine, and you can count on it.
The two basic questions are: "What do I need?" and "How do I do it?"
- How do I feed them? Set up a budget, (get their food, serve it up, where do I store it.)
- How do I manage litter boxes and hygiene? (How many, where to put them, how do I get the litter etc.?)
- How do I see to their health needs? (How do I get to a vet clinic? How do I budget this?)
Many of these questions may not make sense to those with the advantage of sight. For them, if the cat needs a vet, you jump in the car and, go. If you're out of cat food, just jump in the car and go to the store. None of these are options for the blind person. This is why, thinking ahead is reality, not optional.
In my basement, I reserve an entire shelf and one table top, for cat accessories and, paraphernalia. On the table, which is always in the same location (thank you), I keep a large cooler where I dump the bag of dried food. Be careful not to bury the scooper underneath, as I have done, too often.
Next to the cooler, I stack the cans of canned food. I stack them by the number of cans I use, each day. Each column of cans represents one day. In this way, you can feel how you are doing and how fast you're going through them. As a note, I've stopped the dry food recently and doubled up on the canned food. I'm noticing some undesirable reactions in my kitties to the dried food and I'm experimenting with just canned food. More on this later.
On the shelf, I keep all litter management and hygiene tools. Starting from left to right I have a plastic tub. This plastic tub is used to temporarily hold the products of the litter box. Next item is: plastic bag of plastic bags, box of rubber gloves then, flat paint scraper, cat wipes, and cat brush. I keep these items in that order, always. A place for all things and, all things in their place, is not a helpful guideline, it's a necessity.
I keep two litter boxes in one corner of the basement, always. One box in the family room, one level up. Two boxes in my bedroom. For your own sake, as well as that of your furry friends, don't move the litter boxes unless you absolutely have to. One of the great abilities, often taken for granted by you sighted folks, is the ability to "scan and locate". Standing in one place, in a room, you can just move your eyes; locate an object and, bee-line to it. We blind folks can't do that. If the object isn't where it's supposed to be, it may as well be on the moon.Now as for the scheduling thing:
- Do routine things, routinely.
Don't wait until it becomes a small crisis. Like a doctor doing his rounds, there is a daily set of activities, plan on it.
- Between 7 and 8 AM, I feed my cats and, while they're happily having breakfast, I go through their litter boxes.
- After that, if they're still munching away, I sit with them, stroking them and, yes, talking to them.
- I feed them once more in the evening around 7 PM.
There are some other things that need planning, but I cannot do that for you. I'm talking here about the individual needs based on the individual personalities of the cats themselves. For that, you will have to make it a point to listen to your cats regularly. One example should suffice:
Rascal likes to be let outside to the backyard after breakfast each day. He'll spend anywhere from one to two hours in the yard and then, he wants in. Well, okay, one more example: Sandy, my female short hair, needs some serious, holding and loving time around 10 AM. She's a red cat and, you don't want to disappoint a red cat. When I even think about walking away without giving her due attention, she will actually attack my feet as if saying "and where do you think you're going?"
As I get to each of the specific tasks, we'll get into more details. The main idea to get here is: organizing, scheduling, and thinking it through is not a helpful suggestion, it is a necessity. As an observer, in life, I'm constantly amazed by the fact that, accidents seem to happen with far greater frequency to those who give little regard to order. The same principle applies to spare time. Those that seem to have little spare time in their life seem generally to have little respect for organization.
Having no eye sight is an extreme condition for a human being. To compensate requires extreme measures. So, be extremely organized and methodical. You may discover, what you thought was impossible for you, turns out to be a piece of cake.