Has your furry feline friend been squinting, pawing at their eyes, or showing other signs of eye irritation? Eye infections in cats can arise from bacteria, viruses, allergies, and other causes.
Left untreated, they can lead to more serious eye damage and health complications.
While it’s essential to see your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, there are steps you can take at home to help soothe your cat’s eyes and prevent the infection from worsening.
With some basic supplies and gentle care, you can keep your cat’s eyes clean and clear until their vet appointment.In this article, we’ll go over the common causes of feline eye infections, symptoms to look out for, when to seek veterinary care, and how to properly clean your cat’s infected eyes at home.
We’ll also provide tips on preventing eye infections in the future. With the right information and care, you can help your cat maintain healthy, comfortable eyes.
Causes of Eye Infections in Cats
Cats can develop eye infections from a variety of sources. Here are some of the most common causes:
Bacteria are a frequent source of eye infections in cats. Bacteria are present on the skin and can make their way to the eyes through contact, scratches, or other means. Common bacterial eye infections in cats include:
- Conjunctivitis – inflammation of the conjunctiva tissue around the eye
- Blepharitis – inflammation of the eyelids
- Keratitis – inflammation of the cornea
- Dacryocystitis – infection of the tear ducts
Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Chlamydia bacteria are frequent culprits.
Viruses are another major cause of feline eye infections, including:
- Herpesvirus – causes ocular herpes which leads to ulcers, discharge, and corneal scarring
- Calicivirus – leads to eye ulcers and discharge
Both viruses are highly contagious between cats.
While less common, fungi like Cryptococcus can infect the eyes, especially in immunocompromised cats. It causes lesions on eye structures.
Dirt, dust, and debris can scratch the eye surface and allow infection to set in. Allergens like pollen may similarly irritate the eyes.
Allergies to food, plants, or other substances can trigger itchy, inflamed eyes in cats. The rubbing leads to further irritation.
Cats with eyelid abnormalities, inward-curling lashes, or tear duct issues may be prone to recurring eye infections.
Symptoms of Eye Infections
How can you tell if your cat has an eye infection? Here are some of the most common symptoms to look out for:
- Redness – Increased redness or bloodshot eyes indicates irritation, inflammation, or infection. It may affect one or both eyes.
- Swelling – Some swelling and puffiness around the eyes points to inflammation and fluid buildup.
- Discharge/Tearing – Yellow, green, or milky eye discharge is a sign of infection. Watery eyes or excessive tearing can also occur.
- Squinting/Keeping Eyes Shut – Your cat may squint or keep their eyes closed to avoid bright light, which worsens discomfort.
- Rubbing Eyes – Pawing at the eyes or rubbing the head/face is a response to itchiness and irritation.
- Cloudiness – A cloudy, hazy appearance to the eye could signal corneal damage or scar tissue.
- Ulcers – These open, painful sores on the eye surface allow infection to set in.
- Change in Eye Color – Some infections may cause the iris to appear darker.
Cats are adept at hiding pain and discomfort. Pay close attention for subtle signs of eye issues. The sooner treatment begins, the better the outcome. Contact your vet at the first signs of an eye problem.
When to See the Vet
While you can take steps to keep your cat’s eyes clean at home, it’s important to have your veterinarian examine your cat’s eyes and determine the underlying cause of any infection present.
Here are some guidelines on when to seek veterinary care:
- Severe Symptoms – If your cat is squinting, pawing at their eyes constantly, or showing signs of extreme pain or sensitivity, they need to be seen by a vet promptly. Severe redness, swelling, or discharge also warrants urgent care.
- Symptoms Last More Than 2-3 Days – Minor eye irritations may resolve on their own, but persistent symptoms for more than a couple days indicate a true infection requiring treatment.
- Recurring Infections – If your cat has frequent bouts of eye problems, there may be an underlying condition that needs diagnosis. Recurrences could stem from inadequate initial treatment.
- Other Signs of Illness – Eye infections may occur alongside other health issues. Lethargy, appetite loss, and fever warrant a complete exam.
- For Proper Diagnosis and Treatment – Only your vet can determine the exact cause of infection through tests and examinations. This allows them to prescribe the appropriate medication to clear it up.
Don’t delay in getting veterinary attention for your cat’s eyes. The longer an infection goes untreated, the greater the risks of lasting damage and complications. Prompt diagnosis leads to the best prognosis.
Cleaning Infected Eyes at Home
While waiting for your vet appointment, you can help soothe your cat’s eyes and prevent the infection from worsening by gently cleaning them at home. Here’s how to properly clean infected cat eyes:
To clean your cat’s eyes at home, you’ll need the following supplies:
- Sterile Saline Solution – This is ideal for irrigating and cleaning infected eyes. Look for single-use vials or bottles of sterile saline sold for eye care.
- Cotton Pads/Balls – Softer cotton pads or balls avoid irritation compared to tissues. Choose lint-free ones.
- Warm Water – Warm water helps loosen eye discharge. Test temperature on your wrist first.
- Soft Cloth – A soft, lint-free cloth can help gently dry your cat’s eyes afterwards.
Avoid using medicated drops or ointments without your vet’s direction, as these may inadvertently cause harm.
Follow these steps to properly clean your cat’s infected eyes at home:
- Wash Hands Thoroughly – Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before touching your cat’s eyes to prevent spreading germs.
- Dampen Cotton Pad with Saline Solution – Wet a cotton pad with the sterile saline solution. Don’t soak it.
- Gently Wipe Eye Discharge – Carefully wipe from the inner corner of the eye outwards to remove discharge.
- Use Separate Cotton Pads for Each Eye – To avoid spreading infection between eyes, use a fresh cotton pad for each eye.
- Avoid Rubbing Eyes – Wipe gently without rubbing to avoid further irritation.
- Pat Area Dry – After cleaning, pat the area dry around the eye with a soft cloth.
- Repeat 2-3 Times Daily – Clean your cat’s eyes 2-3 times per day, or as directed by your vet.
Here are some additional tips for cleaning your cat’s eyes properly:
- Work slowly and gently. Forcing eye cleaning will make your cat resistant.
- Offer treats and affection after to make it a positive experience.
- See your veterinarian promptly if symptoms don’t improve within 1-2 days.
- Follow all of your vet’s at-home care instructions carefully.
Preventing Eye Infections
Once your cat’s eye infection has resolved, you’ll want to try to prevent a recurrence. Here are some tips:
- Keep Eyes Clean – Gently wipe your cat’s eyes daily with a soft, wet cloth to remove any discharge and debris. This helps prevent buildup of irritants.
- Treat Allergies – If allergies are the cause, your vet may recommend anti-allergy medication, eye drops, and/or changes in environment. Reducing exposure to allergens can help.
- Provide Balanced Diet – Foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E promote eye health. Taurine is also important for cats. Avoid table scraps and stick to a vet-approved diet.
- Ensure Vaccines are Up to Date – Keep your cat current on vaccines like feline herpesvirus and calicivirus to help prevent viral eye infections.
- Eliminate Irritants – Avoid exposing your cat to cigarette smoke, dust, carpet powders, air fresheners, and other airborne eye irritants.
- Monitor for Early Signs – Check your cat’s eyes daily for early symptoms like redness, discharge, or excessive blinking/squinting, and call your vet promptly if seen. Early treatment prevents worsening.
When to Return to the Vet
It’s important to follow up with your veterinarian to ensure your cat’s eye infection is fully resolved. Here are some guidelines on when to seek veterinary follow up:
- If Symptoms Persist or Worsen – Even with treatment, some infections may linger or get worse rather than better. Contact your vet if your cat’s eyes don’t seem to be improving.
- For Follow Up Exams After Treatment – Your vet will likely want to recheck your cat’s eyes after a course of medication to ensure the infection has cleared. Don’t skip these crucial follow up visits.
- If New Symptoms Develop – Secondary eye issues sometimes arise, like ulcers or scarring. Update your vet on any new eye symptoms after initial treatment.
- For Regular Eye Health Checks – As part of routine wellness exams, your vet will closely inspect your cat’s eyes for emerging issues. Seek exams annually at minimum.
Cats are masters at masking eye discomfort. Don’t assume a lack of symptoms means their eyes have healed. The vet’s trained eye can spot lingering issues.
It’s essential to follow their recheck and exam recommendations closely after eye infections.
A clean bill of eye health prevents recurrences down the road.
Keep Your Cat’s Eyes Clear and Comfy
Eye infections are common but treatable health issues for cats. With attentive care and veterinary help, most feline eye infections can be cleared up quickly and completely.
Watch closely for any signs of eye redness, discharge, squinting, pawing, or other symptoms of discomfort in your cat. Seek prompt veterinary attention for examination and diagnosis.
While waiting for your vet visit, gently cleanse your cat’s eyes with sterile saline solution to provide relief and prevent worsening.
Avoid rubbing and follow your vet’s at-home recommendations.With the proper prescription treatment, most eye infections resolve without permanent damage. Follow up fully with all recheck exams to confirm the infection has resolved.
Prevent recurrences by identifying and treating any underlying causes, like allergies or herpesvirus. Keep your cat’s eyes clean and monitor their eye health daily. Seek veterinary care at the first hint of recurring infection.
With attentive, loving care and your vet’s expert guidance, you can help your feline friend maintain clear, comfortable eyes for life.
What is the best solution to use for cleaning my cat’s infected eyes?
Sterile saline solution is ideal, as it can safely flush the eye area and remove discharge without irritation. Avoid home remedies like salt water or boric acid solutions which may do more harm.
How often should I clean my cat’s infected eyes?
Aim to gently cleanse your cat’s infected eyes 2-3 times daily, or as often as your vet recommends. More frequent cleaning may be needed for severe infections with heavy discharge.
Should I rinse my cat’s eyes with water after using saline solution?
No, you do not need to rinse the eyes after cleaning with saline solution. Simply pat the area dry afterwards with a soft, clean cloth. The saline solution can be left in the eye.
Can I use medicated eye drops without a prescription?
Do not use any medicated eye drops, ointments, or human eye medications without your veterinarian’s approval. These can worsen infections or cause adverse reactions in cats.
How do I get my cat to hold still for eye cleaning?
Have an assistant gently hold or wrap your cat in a towel to restrict movement. Offer treats and praise during and after cleaning. With time, your cat will become more accustomed to the routine.
When cleaning my cat’s eyes, do I need to pull down the lower eyelid?
Yes, gently pull down the lower eyelid to access the inner surface when cleaning. But be very gentle, as this area is sensitive. Never pull on the upper eyelid.