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Signs, and Causes of Cat Eye Infections

Signs, and Causes of Cat Eye Infections

Critter Culture Staff



The eyes tell all. Not only are they the window to the soul, but they can't keep a secret, especially when it comes to illness. Cat's eyes are no exception. Even if your kitty's acting normally, their eyes will tell you when they aren't feeling well.

Feline eye infections aren't uncommon. Reasons range from the nearly insignificant to deadly, so treat eye issues as emergencies. Knowing the typical symptoms, causes, and treatments will help you better care for your buddy.


Signs of an infection

Portrait of a sad cat with an injured eye Igor Nikushin/ Getty Images

A feline's eyes should be bright and clear with symmetrical pupils. If you notice anything different, something's amiss, and your cat could have an eye infection.

Cloudiness, swelling, and redness indicate a problem. Clear, yellow, or green discharge also signifies something isn't right. Winking, squinting, or blinking a lot, and any sort of mucous-like obstructions, are also visible signs that your cat is having issues. Your furry friend may be excessively pawing at their eyes, too.


When to call the vet

The female veterinarian is doing routine physical exams for the cat SunnyVMD/ Getty Images

Eye problems should set off alarm bells. Instinctively, you want to grab the phone and take the next opening your vet has available. This is fine. But even though eye problems are emergency situations, usually at the first sign of a problem, the circumstance isn't dire. Give it 24 hours to see if the issue decreases or goes away on its own. If it remains the same or worsens, make an appointment with your vet.


Stay away from home remedies

Cleaning Persian Chinchilla Cat's eyes with cotton pad. Cat's Eyes Healthy. Prevention of eyes's problem catinsyrup/ Getty Images

Don't ever attempt to resolve a cat's eye issue on your own: it could end catastrophically. If you have any leftover medications from a previous illness, never give them to your pet. They may be expired or have nothing to do with the infection and might do more harm than good.

There's a common rumor that apple cider vinegar can clear up an animal's eyes. Putting vinegar near any eyes, a cat's, or otherwise could cause irreparable damage. Over-the-counter topical creams aren't effective treatments and will likely harm the eyes.


What your vet will do

female Veterinarian holds a cat up in her arms and strokes it's neck gently to reassure it after an examination. FatCamera/ Getty Images

Your vet will perform a wellness exam, then focus on the kitty's eyes. A visual inspection followed by a blood draw is common practice. Tests on the skin cells or discharged fluid will also help determine the root cause. Proper diagnosis is key. Eye infections happen for a number of reasons: finding the correct problem is the only way to reach a solution.


Blocked tear ducts

Close up of cat with one eye glassy, teary and discolored. Cat eye half closed from pain. Petra Richli/ Getty Images

Watery eyes happen for many reasons, both minor and complex. One offender is blocked tear ducts, which may lead to infection. Sometimes, these obstructions could kick off the opposite problem of dry, swollen, and red eyes.

Causes of blocked tear ducts vary, so your vet might have to play detective. Possible treatments include antibiotics, ointments, eye drops, and anti-inflammatory medication. Occasionally, a cat may require anesthesia so its tear ducts can be flushed out to remove the blockage. This procedure is routine and safe.


Pink eye

close-up photo of a kitten with conjunctivitis Todorean Gabriel/ Getty Images

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is a contagious inflammation of the inner eyelid and the eye's exterior. In felines, it's sometimes caused by a viral infection, so it may not necessarily spread like it does in humans. Regardless, it's an irritating ailment that requires fast treatment. Usually, steroids and antibiotics will do the trick.



Cat with a funny face that is likely to sneeze. chie hidaka/ Getty Images

Pollen, fleas, chemicals, and other irritants may be the source of your feline's eye infection. Your cat could very well be allergic to something, and that allergy needs to be kept in check. Quite often, symptoms will include sneezing, snorting, and excessive scratching.

If your vet suspects allergies, they'll run an allergen test. Prescription eye drops and medicated ointments will help deal with the ocular aspect of the issue. Overall treatment depends on your cat's specific allergy.


Upper respiratory infections

Cat sneezing Patrick Jansen / 500px/ Getty Images

Upper respiratory infections can stem from a few types of viruses. They have almost identical symptoms to allergies and require similar treatments.

With this type of infection, there's a possibility it can be contagious. Keep your kitty away from other household pets. Yes, this is easier said than done, but at least give it a shot. In a home with multiple animals, when one of your fur babies acquires a contagious virus, others will, too. And if these viruses are cyclical, they can be passed back and forth. The last thing you need is to have a few animals, each acquiring recurring illnesses.



Young veterinarian doctor with healthy cat. Tashi-Delek/ Getty Images

Uveitis is painful inflammation throughout the eye. This condition is caused by many factors, including damage, foreign particles, cancer, trauma, and a wide range of diseases. It's often quite difficult to diagnose.

Treatment entirely depends on the underlying condition. Anti-inflammatory prescriptions and antibiotics are two of the most common remedies if the situation stems from a problem that isn't too serious. Pain management is also important. Often, pain-relieving eye treatment is necessary. Keep in mind this can be hard to administer to an unwilling cat, so be prepared for resistance. Talk to your vet about creative ways to give your buddy their medicine.


Disorders of the cornea

Cropped image of male doctor veterinarian with stethoscope is holding cute grey cat on hands at vet clinic. Yelena Shander/ Getty Images

General corneal disorders create cloudiness and have a number of potential causes. Infection is a key culprit, but so are injuries and ulcers. Vets must carefully diagnose this issue to find the catalyst. Only then can they figure out a treatment plan.

Fortunately, the cornea heals fast. Medications and constant cleaning will make the situation better. But if there's scarring or a specific trauma, surgery may be the only resolution.


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