Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Cats


Bryan Huynh

- Updated February 23, 2024

Key Takeaways

  1. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative eye condition affecting cats' retinas, leading to a progressive loss of sight.
  2. Symptoms of PRA in cats include night blindness, unusual dilation of the pupils, and a gradual decline in vision.
  3. Currently, there's no cure for PRA, but early detection can slow the disease's progression.
  4. Genetic testing is essential for breeders to prevent the spread of PRA in pedigreed cat lines.
  5. Caring for a cat with PRA requires understanding and adaptability, with emphasis on creating a safe environment, using alternative communication cues, and providing emotional support.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Cats

What is Progressive Retinal Atrophy?

Progressive Retinal Atrophy, commonly referred to as PRA, is a genetic and degenerative eye condition affecting the retina—the vital component of the eye responsible for capturing light and transforming it into neural signals for the brain. In essence, the retina is the foundation of vision, and PRA's impact on it can lead to a progressive loss of sight. While many pet enthusiasts might be more familiar with PRA in the context of specific dog breeds, it's of paramount importance for cat owners to have a deep understanding of this condition when it comes to their feline friends.

Cats with PRA will undergo a slow and often heartbreaking deterioration of their retinal cells, which over time, diminishes their visual acuity and can culminate in complete blindness. With the potential medical costs associated with treating and managing this condition, it's prudent for pet owners to consider investing in pet insurance to alleviate some of the financial burdens. Interestingly, while the foundational cause—being genetic degeneration—remains consistent across species, the presentation of PRA can vary. In cats, the progression of the disease might be more insidious compared to dogs or other animals. This nuanced difference underscores the necessity of early detection, tailored care, and a comprehensive understanding of how PRA uniquely manifests in our feline companions.

Causes of PRA in Cats

When delving into the causes of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in cats, one cannot overlook the intricate interplay of genetic, environmental, and health-related factors. At the forefront of PRA's etiology are genetic factors. Just as certain dog breeds are predisposed to PRA due to inherited gene mutations, cats too can have genetic predispositions that make them more susceptible to this eye condition. These genetic components are passed down through generations, underscoring the importance of responsible breeding and genetic testing.

Beyond genetics, environmental triggers also play a significant role. Factors such as prolonged exposure to intense light or certain toxins can exacerbate or hasten the onset of PRA, especially in genetically predisposed individuals. Lastly, it's crucial to consider underlying diseases or conditions. Some metabolic or systemic diseases can indirectly contribute to retinal degeneration, acting as catalysts for PRA's development. As with many health conditions, a holistic understanding of all contributing factors—be it genetic, environmental, or health-related—provides the best roadmap for prevention, early detection, and optimal management.

Affected Breeds

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic eye condition that, while often associated with dogs, also has notable implications for the feline world. Certain cat breeds are more predisposed to PRA, spotlighting the importance of genetic lineage and breed-specific health considerations. One of the most prominently affected breeds is the Abyssinian cat. Known for their striking appearance and vivacious personalities, Abyssinians carry a higher genetic risk for PRA. Similarly, the Siamese and certain Oriental breeds have also been identified with a predisposition to this retinal degenerative condition.

While PRA in cats isn't as widely discussed as in dogs, the impact on affected breeds is profound, leading to diminished vision and potential blindness over time. For breeders, enthusiasts, and potential cat owners, understanding the breed-specific risks of PRA is pivotal. It underscores the importance of genetic testing, responsible breeding practices, and proactive veterinary care to ensure the well-being and visual health of these cherished feline companions.

Symptoms and Diagnosis


Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in cats manifests through a series of distinctive symptoms, serving as telltale signs of this degenerative eye condition. One of the earliest and most profound indicators is night blindness. Cats, naturally adept at navigating in low light, may begin to exhibit hesitancy or disorientation during the evening hours, a stark contrast to their inherent nocturnal prowess.

Alongside this, owners might notice an unusual dilation of the pupils, even in well-lit conditions, as the cat's eyes attempt to capture more light in response to the diminishing retinal function. This dilation often goes hand in hand with a pronounced reflective eye shine—a glow that seems more intense than the typical 'eye shine' seen in healthy feline eyes.

Yet, the most heart-wrenching symptom is the gradual vision loss. Over time, as PRA progresses, the cat's once sharp and keen vision starts to wane, leading to a discernible decline in visual acuity and, in advanced stages, potential blindness. Recognizing these symptoms early on is paramount for providing affected felines with the best care and quality of life.


Diagnosing Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in cats demands a combination of sophisticated tools and keen veterinary expertise to ensure an accurate assessment. The process often begins with a comprehensive ophthalmic examination, where veterinarians employ specialized equipment to scrutinize the inner structures of the cat's eye, focusing intently on the retina. This initial examination can reveal telltale signs of retinal degeneration and provide invaluable insights into the condition's progression.

For a deeper and more definitive diagnostic perspective, Electroretinography (ERG) is employed. This non-invasive test gauges the retina's electrical activity, offering a real-time snapshot of its functional health. Anomalies in the ERG wave patterns can confirm the presence and severity of PRA, providing clarity where other methods might leave ambiguity. Furthermore, for those looking to understand the genetic underpinnings of the condition, especially breeders and those with pedigree cats, genetic testing is invaluable.

By analyzing specific DNA markers, this test can determine if a cat carries the genetic mutations linked to PRA, helping to inform breeding decisions and predict the likelihood of kittens inheriting the condition. Together, these diagnostic tools form a triad of precision, ensuring that PRA is identified early and managed effectively.

Treatment and Management

Navigating the challenging terrain of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in cats necessitates a blend of innovative treatments and meticulous management strategies. As of now, while there's no definitive cure for PRA, a handful of treatment options have emerged, aiming to slow the progression of the disease and alleviate associated symptoms. The efficacy of these treatments often hinges on the all-important factor of early detection.

Recognizing PRA's onset in its nascent stages can drastically improve the outcome, allowing interventions to be more effective and prolonging the cat's quality of vision for an extended period. Beyond medical treatments, managing a cat with PRA requires a holistic approach. Owners are encouraged to adapt their homes, ensuring safe navigation for their feline companions as their vision diminishes. This includes minimizing potential hazards, providing ample lighting, and maintaining a consistent environment to reduce disorientation.

Additionally, regular check-ups and consistent monitoring are paramount, allowing for adjustments in care as the disease evolves. While the journey with PRA can be daunting, with the right treatment and management strategies, affected cats can lead fulfilling, comfortable lives, surrounded by understanding and compassionate care.

Prevention and Breeding Considerations

In the realm of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in cats, prevention, particularly in breeding contexts, is paramount. Central to this preventive approach is the invaluable tool of genetic testing. Breeders, especially those overseeing pedigreed lines, are strongly advised to invest in comprehensive genetic screenings for their breeding cats. Such tests delve into the genetic makeup of the animal, identifying any markers or mutations associated with PRA.

Armed with this knowledge, breeders can make informed decisions, ensuring that only genetically sound cats enter the breeding pool. Key recommendations for breeders include maintaining transparency about the genetic health of their lines, collaborating with veterinarians and geneticists for ongoing advice, and staying abreast of the latest research in feline ophthalmology. Perhaps the most critical guideline is the ethical responsibility to avoid breeding affected animals.

By ensuring that cats carrying the PRA gene mutation are not bred, the likelihood of perpetuating this debilitating condition diminishes, safeguarding future generations of kittens. Through vigilant genetic scrutiny and a commitment to ethical breeding practices, the breeding community can play a pivotal role in mitigating the spread of PRA in the feline world.

Living with a Cat with PRA

Embracing life with a cat diagnosed with Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) requires patience, adaptability, and a profound depth of compassion. Firstly, considering the cat's evolving visual limitations, adjustments to the home environment become crucial. This might involve minimizing potential tripping hazards, marking essential areas with tactile or scented cues, and maintaining consistent placements for furniture and essentials to aid in navigation.

As their vision dims, cats might also benefit from certain training and behavioral adjustments. Employing auditory or tactile commands, for instance, can aid in communication and guidance, ensuring the feline remains engaged and confident despite their visual impairment. However, beyond the physical and behavioral considerations, the emotional facet of care stands paramount. Cats with PRA, much like any pet facing health challenges, deeply benefit from an environment of understanding and emotional support.

They require reassurance, gentle interactions, and a sense of security as they navigate their changing world. Owners, in turn, often find that while the journey might be tinged with challenges, the bond they forge with their PRA-affected feline deepens, enriched by shared experiences and unwavering mutual affection.

Case Studies

From u/Forsaken_Berry_75

“…That’s the problem with trying to diagnose them as their pupils absolutely do still retract in bright sunlight, even with being 100% blind. Also, once they’re blind, their other senses magnify that much stronger, so they track with their hearing, smell, and whisker sonar so amazingly. Their whiskers actually automatically grow longer when they’re blind, for this very reason. When they have PRA, they can still see lightness and darkness, but that’s it. However, Molly could stare straight into your soul from across the room, and their whiskers can sense objects that weren’t there before and when a surface is covered with items versus being cleared up top for them to jump up to. I have an Insta for Molly too, to raise PRA awareness @mollyblindcat...”


In wrapping up our exploration of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in cats, it's imperative to underscore the significance of awareness and the life-changing potential of early detection. PRA, with its insidious onset and progressive nature, can dramatically alter the life of a feline, but equipped with knowledge and vigilance, cat owners can make proactive choices to mitigate its impact. An ounce of prevention, in the form of regular veterinary check-ups, can be worth a pound of cure, allowing for timely interventions and management strategies.

Furthermore, for those within the breeding community or those simply curious about their cat's genetic heritage, investing in genetic testing offers a clear window into the feline's genetic predispositions. It's a step that not only illuminates potential health challenges but also paves the way for informed decisions about breeding and care. In essence, the journey with PRA, while filled with challenges, is one that, with awareness and proactive care, can be navigated with grace, ensuring our beloved feline companions lead lives filled with comfort, love, and dignity.

About The Author

Bryan Huynh

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a dedicated Product Tester & Writer. Just as insurance has your back, Bryan works to review and inform you about the wide range of insurance products available, ranging from business, auto, health, home, pet, to life insurance.

The Latest Articles

Read Articles