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C2004-32

Dear Christopher Cat

Our cat paws the surface of the water before she drinks from the bowl. It’s cute, but odd. Do you know why she does this?

Christopher Responds

If she has always done this, it might just be a mannerism or play. My feline sister Claire splashes water in every direction before she drinks.

On the other hand, if this is a new behavior for your cat, it’s possible that her vision is deteriorating and she’s trying to feel for water she can’t quite see. To be safe, schedule her for an exam with her veterinarian.

Unlike you humans, we cats can’t focus on objects less than ten inches away. So we use our other sense organs – our noses, whiskers and paws – to tell us more about what’s up close.

Our far vision isn’t perfect, either. While a human with excellent vision sees 20/20, our visual acuity is estimated at between 20/100 and 20/200.

That means that details you can see from 100 to 200 feet away, we can see only when we are as close as 20 feet.
Your veterinarian won’t be able to give you such a number, but during the exam, you will learn whether your cat has cataracts, retinal irregularities or other structural abnormalities that might interfere with her vision.

Your vet will check your cat’s intraocular pressure to be sure she doesn’t have glaucoma.

Your cat’s vision also might be tested the way my mom tests my visually-impaired brother Doug’s, by tossing a cotton ball in the air. This test is helpful but crude, because a human with 20/800 vision can see movement but is nevertheless considered legally blind.

If a problem is found, you might be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further evaluation and treatment.

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