A cat eye infection is an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous ailment for your cat.
Most cat eye infections can be easily cured by giving your cat eye drops, ointments and/or antibiotics.
But there are a lot of symptoms and possible causes for an infection. So it’s important to know what to look out for and what the cause may be.
So let’s find out more about cat eye infection and cat eye infection treatment.
We’ll look at the causes of cat eye infection, when you can try a cat eye infection home remedy and when veterinary cat eye infection treatment is needed. And we’ll answer your top questions, “How do I give my cat eye drops?” and “Can you use human eye drops on cats?”
What Is a Cat Eye Infection?
A cat eye infection is caused by bacteria or viruses. Your cat can pick up an infection by coming into contact with another infected animal.
This is more likely to happen if your cat spends a lot of time outdoors. It may also be a problem if your cat spends time indoors with lots of other cats.
A cat eye infection can also follow an eye injury or another illness, such as a respiratory infection.
Noticing Eye Infections
Sometimes a cat eye infection is fairly obvious. But sometimes you don’t notice an infection until symptoms are severe.
If you don’t treat a cat eye infection in time, your cat’s vision can be impaired. They might even go blind.
So it’s a good idea to regularly check your cat’s eyes to make sure everything is okay.
Checking Your Cat’s Eyes
Consider giving your cat regular eye exams. This is easy to do.
Just take your cat into a brightly lit room. Then kneel down to her level and look into her eyes.
What to Look Out For
Your cat’s eyes should be bright. The area around the eyeball should be white. Both pupils should be the same size.
Your cat may have a bit of sleep in the corner of her eye. That’s nothing to worry about, but it shouldn’t be excessive.
There should be no swelling or cloudiness in either eye. The cornea, the transparent outer layer of the eyeball, should be smooth and clear.
There are certain symptoms of a cat eye infection you can look for.
Cat Eye Infection Symptoms
Things that you should look for include
- your cat rubbing, pawing at and/or blinking their eyes
- unusual and/or excessive eye discharge
- red and/or swollen eye(s)
- your cat squinting
- your cat appearing distressed or in pain
- cloudy eyes
- any unusual growth in one or both eyes.
You may be able to use a cat eye infection home remedy.
But sometimes your vet will need to prescribe cat eye infection treatment.
It all depends on what kind of infection your cat has.
Conjunctivitis Cat Eye Infection
Conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the moist lining of the eyeball and inner eyelids, is the most common cat eye infection. Many cats get it at least once, and some get it many times.
Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, trauma or irritants like smoke and dust. Most cases, though, are due to bacterial or viral infection.
Herpesvirus is behind many conjunctivitis infections. As is calicivirus, which causes respiratory infections in cats.
Two bacteria that cause respiratory infections, chlamydophila and mycoplasma, are responsible for many other cat eye infections.
If your cat has a compromised immune system or other chronic health problem, she is more likely to suffer conjunctivitis.
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
Symptoms of conjunctivitis include
- redness and swelling of the conjunctiva
- discharge from one or both eyes that is clear, green or yellow
- eyes are crusty
- one or both eyes are stuck shut
- squinting or blinking a lot
- rubbing her eyes against your legs or other objects
- your cat seems to be in pain.
Conjunctivitis may need eye drops for cats or other cat eye infection treatment. Talk to your vet if your cat has symptoms of conjunctivitis.
Uveitis Cat Eye Infection
This is a fairly common and painful disease which, if left untreated, can result in blindness.
Uveitis is an inflammation of the uveal tract. This includes the iris, which is the round part that determines your cat’s eye color. It also includes two parts of the eye behind the iris, called the choroid and the ciliary body.
We don’t know what causes every case of uveitis. In fact, 6 out of 10 cases never have an identified cause.
But we do know that when the cause is identified it is normally infection, trauma or cancer.
Symptoms of Uveitis
Common symptoms of uveitis include
- sensitivity to light
- third eyelid protrusion
- redness in the eye
- changes in pupil size
- change in iris color.
Uveitis is a serious cat eye infection. See your vet as soon as possible if your cat has symptoms of uveitis.
Keratitis Cat Eye Infection
In non-ulcerative keratitis, the inflammation is on the surface of the cornea.
In ulcerative keratitis, sore spots extend down into the cornea’s deepest layers.
Keratitis is most common in older cats. But it can occur at any age.
The herpes virus causes some cases of keratitis eye infection in cats. Others are due to injury or lack of tears. But often the cause is not known.
Symptoms of Keratitis
Symptoms of keratitis are similar to those of other cat eye infections. Additionally, you may notice
- a visible divot in the cornea
- haziness of the cornea
- rough bumps that are gray, pink or white
- yellow, black or brown spots on the cornea
- swelling of the cornea.
If you suspect that your cat has keratitis, consult your veterinarian for more information and a formal diagnosis.
Cat Eye Infection with Third Eyelid Protrusion
Like many animals, cats have a kind of third eyelid known as a nictating membrane.
You may see the third eyelid in the inner corner of your cat’s eye when they first wake up. That’s normal.
However, you should not see the membrane at any other time.
Infection or injury may cause the third eyelid to protrude into one or both eyes. Dehydration and other health problems can also affect the membrane.
And sometimes there’s a problem with the cartilage that holds the membrane in place.
Talk to your vet if you notice third eyelid protrusion in your cat’s eyes.
A Cat Eye Infection Home Remedy You Can Try
Cats sometimes have a bit of goop in their eyes when they first wake up. And this can be normal.
You can try wiping the discharge away with a cotton ball dipped in water that has been boiled and cooled. Use a clean cotton ball for each eye.
If the eye is stuck shut, keep applying the boiled and cooled water until it loosens up.
Be sure to wash your hands well after cleaning your cat’s eyes. If the discharge is caused by infection, you can then transfer the infection to your own eyes.
When to Call the Vet for a Cat Eye Infection
Call the vet if your cat has discharge from her eyes that doesn’t clear up with home treatment, especially if it’s getting worse.
Any eye symptoms more serious than a mild discharge require prompt medical attention, especially if your cat seems distressed or in pain.
Cat Eye Infection Treatment from the Vet
The cat eye infection treatment the vet prescribes will depend on what type of eye infection your cat has.
Your vet will probably prescribe ointment or eye drops for cats. You should start seeing improvement fairly quickly, and the infection should clear completely within a couple of weeks.
If your cats’ condition has not improved after a few weeks, your vet will need to check for any underlying issues. This may involve taking a swab from the infected area for more investigation. They may also need to take a blood test to rule out other causes.
Eye Drops For Cats
Most cases of cat eye infection can be treated with eye drops, antibiotic ointments and/or anti-inflammatory drugs.
Before you give your cat any kind of medication, read the instructions. Make sure you know the dosage and how it should be applied.
If your cat has discharge coming out of their eyes, then you will need to clean them before giving medication.
How To Give Your Cat Eye Drops
Cats don’t typically like things being put in their eyes, so giving your cat eye drops can be a bit difficult.
You will need to carefully restrain your cat in a way that is gentle, firm and minimizes your risk of being bitten or scratched.
Step by Step Guide
When you are ready to give your cat eye drops, follow these steps.
- Wrap your cat up in a cosy blanket or towel so only her head is sticking out.
- Sit down and hold your cat between your knees.
- Place your non-dominant hand under your cat’s jaw. Gently cradle her head so that your thumb is on one side of her face and your fingers are on the other.
- Gently tilt your cat’s head slightly upwards.
- Use your thumb or index finger to gently pull down your cat’s lower eyelid, creating a small pouch to drop the solution into.
- Hold the eye drop applicator about one inch away and squeeze the solution into the pouch you’ve made. Be careful not to touch the applicator to the eye.
- After you have administered the eye drops, hold your cat for a few moments so she can’t rub her eyes. This is a good time to offer her a favorite treat.
Cat’s may not like eye drops, but the eye drops shouldn’t cause pain or discomfort. Make sure to tell your vet if your cat seems to be in more pain after receiving the eye drops.
Can You Use Human Eye Drops on Cats?
Perhaps you have eye drops of your own. You may be wondering, can you use human eye drops on cats?
Some eye drops are suitable for cats and humans alike. However, others may contain preservatives that can damage your cats’ eyes.
Also, a dose or concentration that is safe and effective for you may well be different from what is safe and effective for your cat.
What to Avoid
You should not use human eye drops or other forms of human eye medication on your cat. It’s not worth risking your cat’s eyesight.
And you should not try to treat an infection before you know what is causing it. This can make things worse, especially if your cat has a reaction to your eye drops. It could also make the infection harder to diagnose.
Keeping Your Cat’s Eyes Healthy
You can keep your cat healthy, happy and looking good by checking her eyes regularly, treating problems that come up and getting help when needed.
Cat eye infections can be very serious. Always check in with your vet if your cat has eye discharge that doesn’t clear up with a cat eye infection home remedy, or if she has the other symptoms we’ve covered.
Be sure you know how to give eye drops for cats when needed. And only use medications prescribed for your cat; never use human eye drops for cats.
Have you treated your cat’s eye infection? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
References and Further Reading
Conjunctivitis. Cornell Feline Health Center.
McCalla TL. Feline uveitis. Animal Eye Care.
Downing R. Ulcerative keratitis in cats. VCA Hospitals.
Corneal inflammation (non-ulcerative keratitis) in cats. Pet MD.
Carter RT and Chang J. Feline uveitis: A review of its causes, diagnosis, and treatment. Veterinary Medicine, 2009.
Is Cat Pink Eye Contagious? Vet Info, 2012.
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