Causes of Cataracts in Cats
Cataracts in cats and other animals can be caused by a number of different things. Many feline cataracts are congenital, which means that they are present when the kittens are born. Cataracts also often develop as a natural result of the aging process. Some cats get cataracts from poor nutrition or traumatic eye injuries. Nutritional deficiencies are one of the most common causes of feline cataracts. Taurine is one of the dietary nutrients that is essential to the health and normal development of feline eyes. Cats that are fed a sub-standard diet that lacks adequate sources of taurine, including a nutritionally unbalanced homemade diet, have a heightened risk of developing cataracts, usually in both of their eyes. Inflammation from physical trauma or underlying systemic medical conditions can also contribute to cataracts. Injuries to one or both of a cat’s eyes as a result of scratches received during a cat fight frequently contribute to non-congenital cataracts in cats. There seems to be a strong familial or genetic component to the development of cataracts. Other things that can contribute to feline cataracts include low circulating blood calcium levels, exposure to toxins or poisons, radiation, electrical shock and blunt or penetrating trauma. Unlike dogs, cats usually don’t develop cataracts as a result of diabetes.
At the most basic physiological level, cataracts occur when there is some change in the composition or arrangement of protein molecules and fibers in the lens of the affected eye. Fortunately, cataracts aren’t particularly common in companion cats. However, they have been diagnosed more and more frequently in recent years. This probably is due in part to the fact that cats are living longer these days as a result of ongoing improvements in nutrition and health care. Cataracts tend to become more pronounced as a cat ages, although this isn’t always the case. Cataracts can be painful, especially if they worsen over time. In severe cases, progressive cataracts can eventually lead to complete blindness.
Preventing Cataracts in Cats
Because congenital cataracts are thought to be strongly influenced by genetics, one of the most important ways to reduce their prevalence in cats is to remove affected animals from the breeding population. This won’t guarantee that future generations will be free from this potentially devastating condition, but it will help to reduce the number of cats with hereditary cataracts. Fortunately, while cataracts almost universally have some adverse impact on a cat’s vision, they don’t affect its overall health. Cats seem to adjust extremely well to progressive vision deficiencies, even without treatment. Nonetheless, surgical removal of feline cataracts is highly successful. The prognosis for cats with cataracts is usually excellent, if their condition is identified and treated early in its course.