Cats, eyesight and ageing

I recently read the report of a study suggesting that cat owners, in contrast to dog owners, have a raised risk of developing glaucoma due to an autoimmune response triggered by their pets. I don’t think this should cause too much alarm, because the study was only a preliminary one and the effect was small. But it was of some concern to me because a few years ago I was diagnosed with high intra-ocular pressure, which can progress to glaucoma.

My immediate reaction to reading it was “I’m not going to give up my cats.” My husband challenged me “Are you saying that you would rather go blind?” Logically the answer should have been obvious, because going blind is among the worst fates I can imagine. Yet I did not know what to say, which made me wonder if I care too much about the cats.

Concern for companion animals can affect many of the decisions which may have to be made in the case of their owners’ declining health or advancing age. After adopting Magic and Leo it was a bit of a shock to realise that I should probably not get any more kittens in case I die before they do, even though I belong to Auckland SPCA’s “Circle” program which provides for this eventuality. I wouldn’t want to move into an apartment without a safe outdoor space for cats to play, or enter a retirement home where cats were not allowed. And though I sometimes wonder about returning to live in England for my declining years, I wouldn’t want to put my cats through the stress of relocation – even though when we once brought two other cats from England to New Zealand they did not seem too upset by the long flight.
Maybe it is misguided to let cat-related considerations carry too much weight when making major life choices. And I can’t predict how I would actually feel if and when one of these situations arises in future. Meanwhile I am happy to be still fit and well, and living in a house with a large garden which is ideal for cats.

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