Discovering that your cat is squinting in one eye or that the cat’s eyes are red around the edges can be disheartening – nobody wants to see their furry friends suffer and feel uncomfortable, especially since the eyes are such a delicate part of their body.
Cat eye problems are one of the most common health issues that felines face and they can cause permanent damage in a relatively short time if left untreated. That is why it’s so vital that you keep an “eye out” for any cat eye problems and know how to recognize the most common symptoms that could be a cause for alarm.
Warning Signs of Cat Eye Problems
Even though cat eye issues can be dangerous, the good news is that in most cases, you can spot them rather quickly and ensure that you provide your cat with treatment early.
If your cat is living indoors-only, it might not be as likely to develop eye problems as an outdoor cat because it’s less exposed to feral cats and diseases that they may carry,1 but there are still risks.
Even a relatively small cat eye injury can become infected, and you may soon start noticing your cat squinting their eyes and trying to clean them.
If you notice that your cat’s eyes suddenly become runny, with colorless or even yellow or green discharge, you can be fairly certain that your cat has either a viral or a bacterial infection. Especially if the discharge is followed by redness and respiratory symptoms, which will require urgent treatment to avoid complications.
If your cat is squinting in one or both eyes, this can also indicate an infection. Even if no other symptoms are present.
Finally, keep an eye out for your cat scratching at their eyes which may indicate a severe issue.
Common Cat Eye Problems
Since cats aren’t always vocal or expressive about health issues and may act more or less normal even when not feeling too well, you will need to look for behavioral changes which could indicate problems.
Luckily, issues involving your cat’s eyes are usually readily apparent and obvious. A simple examination of your cat’s eyes to look for irritation, redness, or squinting can be sure signs of an issue.
But what are some of the more common eye problems that cats suffer from?
One of the most common issues is conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye.” Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the mucous membrane of the eye which can cause runny eyes, swelling inside of the eye, and redness. Cat pink eye is usually a result of a viral or bacterial infection and may appear at the same time as an upper respiratory system infection.
Another common eye issue is a corneal ulcer. An ulcer can develop from an injury, because of a genetic abnormality, or even from an infection that isn’t treated promptly.3 The most common symptom of a corneal ulcer in a cat is a cloudy eye. However, it is usually accompanied by rubbing of the eyes, redness, as well as more severe discomfort for the cat.
Other common cat eye problems include irritation from allergies or various environmental factors, as well as more serious eye issues such as cataracts or glaucoma.
What Causes Cat Eye Problems?
There are a wide range of reasons that can cause cats to develop eye problems. It’s essential to know the most common cat eye issues and what symptoms to look for. It is also important to understand the causes of these issues so that you can try to prevent them from developing in your furry friends.
For instance, conjunctivitis is most frequently caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, but there are other ways it can develop, too.It can be caused by non-infectious issues due to hereditary factors, traits of certain breeds, allergies, or tumors.2
A corneal ulcer, which often appears as a cloudy eye in a cat, is commonly the result of an injury. Whether your kitty accidentally rubbed their eye against something too strongly, or became injured by a foreign object or during a skirmish with another cat, the result will often be an ulcer that will need to be treated immediately.
Irritation, itchiness, and redness are usually caused by environmental factors such as allergies, chemicals, or a range of other factors. So it’s important to consult with a vet to determine the cause.
As for more serious conditions like glaucoma and cataracts, they can develop because of a genetic predisposition to these problems.4,5 For cats, however, it more commonly is the result of an infection or trauma.
Eye Problem Treatment
If you notice something wrong with your cat’s eyes, it’s important to act fast. These issues will likely require diagnosis and treatment. The longer your cat goes without treatment, the greater the chance of the symptoms becoming more severe. The good news is that as long as you act quickly, the better the chance is that your cat will make a full recovery.
Issues like conjunctivitis or corneal ulcers may be treated with antibiotics since they are often caused or at least followed by an infection. In other circumstances, your vet may prescribe eye drops to reduce irritation and help the eyes heal.
In the case of glaucoma, it’s crucial to drain the fluid to relieve eye pressure as quickly as possible. This will not only reduce the discomfort and pain your cat is feels, but it will also help minimize the long-term negative effects.
Finally, your vet might not prescribe any treatment and simply recommend your cat rest to allow the issue to heal on its own. It is important to allow a licensed veterinarian to make a treatment decision like this and to never try to diagnose your pet on your own. This will ensure you pet receives the best treatment available.