While cats don’t have as many eye problems as dogs, feline eye issues tend to be chronic and frequently require a lifetime of care. Detecting problems early can make treatment more effective.
Healthy cat eyes should be clear and bright. The pupils should be of equal size, and the area around the eyeball should be white. Any changes in the eye’s appearance or the area around the eye can be an indicator of a health problem.
If you notice any of the following signs, take your cat to your veterinarian.
Blinking or squinting
Frequent blinking or squinting is always a sign of discomfort. Causes may include an infection, a foreign body in the eye, or a scratch or break in the cornea. Corneal ulceration is one of the most common eye problems in cats.
Discharge, watering or crusty gunk in the corner of the eyes
Discharge from the eyes can range from clear and watery to thick and yellow or greenish. Some cats with chronic viral infections may have occasional or permanent discharge. Frequently, eye discharge will accumulate as a crusty substance in the corners of the eyes.
Visible third eyelid
Cats have an extra eyelid at the inner corner of their eyes. Also known as the nictating membrane, it can protrude as a result of pain or infection. It looks like a whitish or translucent film that moves over the surface of the eyeball.
Red or swollen eyes
Redness and/or swelling in one or both eyes can be a sign of conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye,” a contagious inflammation or infection of the eye. Conjunctivitis can be caused by a virus, exposure to chemicals or allergens, or trauma. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause.
Cloudiness of change in eye color
If your cat’s eyes appear cloudy, it may be the result of an inner eye or corneal problem. Cloudiness can also be an indicator of cataracts, although they are rare in cats. A dramatic change in eye color in an adult cat can be a sign of a serious medical problem.
Caring for your cat’s eyes
Cats do a pretty good job of grooming themselves and keeping their eyes clean, but sometimes, they may require some assistance. If your cat has frequent eye discharge, use a soft tissue moistened with warm water to wipe the area clean.
Some cats have long hairs around their eyes that may bend toward the eye and scratch the cornea. Even tiny scratches on the cornea can be painful, and lead to serious problems if left untreated. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can trim these hairs back, but be very careful!
Never use eye products designed for humans on your cats.