Cats squint for many reasons, some harmless and others decidedly less so. If you pay attention, you'll be able to narrow down why your cat seems to be giving you the stink eye. Genes are less of a factor in cats' ocular health than they are for dogs, but certain breeds such as Burmese and Persians are more likely to have glaucoma, for example.
Cats sometimes squint when they feel relaxed and secure. Long-time cat parents will be familiar with the slow blink of a happy cat. The squint is also part of the feline lexicon—it is body language expressing trust because your cat wouldn't voluntarily limit its vision when there's stranger danger present.
Cats aren't as vocal as dogs, and they compensate for poor vision by navigating with their whiskers. So, you'll need to be proactively looking at your kitty's eyes for symptoms and signs of pain. If you're too dismissive of changes in the appearance of your cat's eyes, it can potentially become blind.
Away from the easy domesticity of home, house cats also squint to protect their eyes from claws during showdowns with neighborhood animals. It doesn't always work, even if your cat technically won the brawl. Any resulting scratch or abrasion can cause an eye to close partially. Cue Squinty McSquintface. In addition, cats have a third eyelid in the inner corners of their eyes. It's not visible unless there's physical trauma or an ailment.
Cats often develop eye problems and squint due to infections such as herpes. Once a cat gets Feline Herpes Virus-1, it has the virus for life, but it will lay dormant and flare up during bouts of stress, for example. This happens to people, too, and you may notice fever blisters on a stranger's mouth or nose. Treatment options include anti-viral meds.
Good ol' pink eye is the most frequently diagnosed eye disorder in cats and has various causes, one of them being herpes. Dust and environmental pollutants can also cause conjunctivitis, and so can some of the plants in your garden. Pink eye is super contagious, and you'll often see it do the rounds in packed cat shelters. One or both eyes go red and watery, and there may be some clear or dark discharge, along with squinting, of course. Pink eye usually goes away without intervention, but it could indicate a more severe eye disorder, so it's worth checking out if it persists or your cat experiences significant discomfort.
Upper respiratory infections, ingrown lashes, trapped dirt, chemicals, or blunt trauma could be to blame for sores or wounds on the eye's surface. For example, your cat may be trekking up a tree when it gets poked by a thorn. You might not be able to see the ulcer, but your vet can use an orange stain, and applicable tissue will go green.
Older cats and breeds such as domestic shorthairs are at particular risk of developing glaucoma or high pressure in the eye. The pressure increases when drainage channels become blocked for a plethora of reasons, including tumors, and the condition can irreversibly damage your kitty's optic nerve. You might notice bulging eyeballs, dilated pupils, and cloudy corneas.
Inflamed cat eyelids may be down to allergens such as foods or insect bites. Parasites, infections, or the anomalies of flat-faced cats can cause this condition too. The eyelid becomes extremely itchy, and your cat will rub it, which causes further problems. You might notice flaky skin, hair loss, pigmentation loss, pus, and spasmodic blinking.
This is a chronic condition that can gradually give rise to vision loss. When the eye's middle area, including the iris, becomes inflamed, it will look abnormally large. Your cat may present with bloodshot, teary eyes, odd-looking pupils, and a change in iris color. Uveitis is linked to feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV, as well as the FIP-causing feline coronavirus, among others.
Whether you notice sensitivity to light or tenderness, act fast—the earlier you get a diagnosis, the better. Eye assessments are part of annual check-ups, so your local vet should be your first port of call before you ever need to see an opthalmologist. Healthy cat eyes look clear with equal-sized pupils. Eyelid tissue is a light pink, and the third eyelid does not stick out. Lastly, there shouldn't be tearing in the corners.
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