Cat Tips

Cat Eye Infection: Symptoms & Treatments

One look at a cat’s eyes, and it’s clear how elegant, expressive, and intricate they are.

These amazing ocular organs are one of the most important parts of a cat’s body, not just for their own sake but for ours as well. Eyes communicate a wide range of emotions, from happiness and playfulness to annoyance or sleepiness. In some cases, eyes can also tell us that our cats aren’t in their best health.

Eye infections are some of the most common conditions for cats, though the causes, symptoms, severity, and treatment options vary widely.

As pet parents, our responsibility to our cats involves learning about feline eye infections, so we can respond accordingly when they need our care. To that end, our Spot Pet Insurance guide today is your introductory primer on feline eye infections.

Introduction to cat eye infections

While cats have beautiful and powerful eyes, they can also be vulnerable to a number of issues.

In some cases, feline eye infections are a health condition of their own, but in other cases, they are a symptom of some underlying, more serious condition. Since the severity of eye infections in cats can vary so much, it’s essential to act on any potential symptoms you might see.

Taking your cat or dog to the vet and finding there is no problem is always better than forgoing a vet visit only to learn of a problem. That situation will then likely be more serious due to the delay in receiving treatment.

How can I tell if my cat’s eyes are infected?

It isn’t always easy to tell the difference between a minor irritation and a serious concern. In some cases, symptoms might be visible at a glance from far away, but in other cases, you’ll need to look closely to spot the issue.

Signs of healthy cat eyes include:

  • Clear appearance

  • Bright color

  • Pupils are the same size

  • Corner of the eye free or mostly free of tears

  • The tissue around the eye is a mild pink color

The eyes of each cat individual are different, of course, so some of these signs may not be obvious unless you’re able to observe a change from healthy to unhealthy over time.

For example, when it comes to the color of your cat’s eyes, you especially want to look for changes in color. The same applies to the other signs. Pet parents should keep a close eye out for changes over time, whether it be color, pupil differences, cloudiness, tear production, or the location of the third eyelid.

On the other hand, if your cat is suffering an eye infection, you may see any of the following symptoms:

  • Discharge from the eye (typically white, yellow, or green)

  • Redness

  • Puffiness or swelling

  • Cloudiness

  • The third eyelid protrudes over part of the eye

  • Excessive squinting or blinking

  • Tears

  • Irritation around the eye (pawing or rubbing the eye)

Diagnosing feline eye infections

If you’ve noticed signs of eye infection in your cat, the next step is to see a veterinary professional as soon as possible.

Some eye infections could be minor and go away on their own in the short term. Others, however, could be signs of a serious problem, which is why you shouldn’t hesitate to have the issue assessed professionally.

Common eye infections or causes of eye infection include allergies, conjunctivitis (pink eye), calicivirus, keratitis (dry eyes), blepharitis (inflamed eyelids), and FHV-1 (feline herpesvirus). Other conditions might be peritonitis, toxoplasma infections, or immunodeficiency virus. Certain severe eye issues might even be connected to blood pressure and thyroid issues or kidney disease.

How do I know what kind of eye infection my cat has?

A trusted veterinarian can narrow things down through a number of tests. Test methods might include eye exams, blood samples, urine samples, culture tests, and more.

Depending on the presenting symptoms, certain causes may be more likely than others.

For instance, a severely cloudy eye might potentially be a clear sign of cataracts. Cataracts are a disorder in which the eye clouds so severely that it can no longer receive light input, and blindness occurs.

Another example is conjunctivitis. Also known as pink eye, this infection is likely familiar to many of us since humans can also suffer from it. As the name implies, pink eye involves a severe reddening of the eye, plus swelling, squinting, and irritation.

How do I know where the infection comes from?

Once the nature of the infection is diagnosed, there may still be a question of cause. You may know your cat has pink eye, but where did they get pink eye, and does it point to anything more serious?

Conjunctivitis, for example, could be caused by allergies, viral infection, bacteria, fungi, FHV-1 (feline herpesvirus), calicivirus, or genetic entropion. It could even have resulted from a simple physical injury to the eye (possibly caused by debris or a fight with another animal).

Keratitis (dry eyes) shares a similar story since it could be caused by bacterial infection, FVH-1, allergies, genetic diseases, or even conjunctivitis.

How are most eye infections treated?

Just as the nature of eye infections varies widely, so do the options for treatment. Some of the most common treatments involve medication, eye drops, antibiotics, fluid therapy, ointments, and cleaning out any excess discharge.

Artificial tears may also be implemented in cases of dry eyes. Some serious conditions, such as cataracts, can warrant surgery. Thankfully, surgery for cataracts (and most eye conditions) has a positive prognosis. Even if vision is impaired, most eye infections are not life-threatening.

Some conditions, unfortunately, can not be cured, as is the case with feline glaucoma. However, treatment can still have positive effects in minimizing symptoms and helping your cat achieve a high quality of life.

Even with impaired vision or total loss of vision, a cat can still experience a high quality of life. They may need some extra love, care, and patience, but with time, their instincts, intelligence, and other senses can carry them through a happy life.

Nonetheless, we do everything we can as pet parents to care for and protect our cats, hoping to preserve their vision when possible. To that end, let’s talk about some ways we can help our cats keep healthy eyes.

How can I help keep my cat’s eyes healthy?

Closely monitoring the health of your cat’s eyes helps ensure you can seek prompt diagnosis and treatment for any issues that arise.

There are also steps you can take to help in the fight for eye health. Cleaning your cat’s eyes may not be the easiest process, depending on the temperament of your feline friend, but it’s important.

If they are willing, or you have enough help, you can clean any discharge or tears from your cat’s eye with a cotton ball dipped in water. Just be sure to wipe from the corner of the eye outward rather than over the eyeball itself.

Eye drops, ointments, and similar medication should only be used under the direction of a trusted veterinarian. In general, partnering with a vet who knows your cat should be your core process when it comes to preserving your pet’s health!


  • Feline Vision Problems: A Host of Possible Causes | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

  • Cat Eye Discharge and Eye Problems | WebMD

  • Feline Cataracts | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

  • Conjunctivitis in Cats | VCA Animal Hospital

  • Feline Glaucoma | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

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