There’s something so entrancing about cat eyes – the color and depth just draws us in every time. This month, we’ll take a look at different eye issues and how to help keep your kitty’s eyes healthy. Cats can suffer from many of the same eye issues that affect us like bacterial infections or viruses. Simple eye problems can worsen quickly and cause potentially permanent damage to the eye. In this blog, we’ll talk about how to recognize the signs early so you can get your cat treatment and pain relief right away.

How can you tell if your cat has an eye problem?

Just as we’ve discussed for other issues, always do a tail to nose visual inspection of your cat every so often. This allows you to catch small issues before they turn in to BIG problems! For your cat’s eyes, they should appear clear and bright with no puffiness or swelling. There should be no red or irritated areas and your cat’s pupils should be the same size. If one appears bigger than the other, contact your veterinarian for appointment. The eye should be free of discharge and crust, especially at the corners. If you see any discharge, note the color so you can let your vet know.

What are the most common eye issues in cats?

Just like with people, conjunctivitis is a common problem. The eye will appear red or swollen and typically you’ll see discharge. Your cat may paw at the eye or squint. Treatment typically involves eye drops or ointment, but depends on the cause.

Another common problem is injury – varying from a foreign body in the eye to a scratch. Pieces of plants, sticks, excess pollen or debris – all of these things can be irritants to the eye and cause a problem. If an eye injury is suspected, your vet will check to ensure there aren’t scratches or ulcerations on the eye itself. These can lead to further infection without proper treatment. Occasionally eye injuries will be accompanied by a third eyelid protrusion. Cats have a third eyelid to protect their cornea and typically it’s not visible. When an injury or illness to the eye occurs, the third eye lid protrudes and appears swollen. If you see your cat’s third eyelid, contact your vet right away.

Another common problem is watery eyes or excess discharge that’s clear. The root problem can range from environmental or seasonal allergies to a viral infection. It’s best to have your vet take a look if your cat’s eye discharge is excessive enough that you notice it.

The most common senior cat eye disorders are cataracts, glaucoma, and complications of hypertension. Cataracts develop on the lens and can block the light to the retina causing blindness or vision obstruction. Glaucoma is due to an abnormal buildup of pressure in the eye typically caused by uveitis. Uveitis is severe eye inflammation that generates protein and other debris that blocks the eye’s normal drainage ducts causing a backup and excessive pressure within the eye.

Hypertension is also a common cause of eye abnormalities in cats and is sometimes the first symptom noted and found by a veterinarian during an exam. Left untreated over time, high blood pressure can actually cause your cat’s retina to detach and result in blindness.

What can you do to prevent eye issues?

The biggest thing you can do as an owner is visual inspections of your cat! Check your cat’s eyes while you’re petting them to be sure you don’t notice anything abnormal. If your cat goes outside unsupervised do a quick visual check when they come back inside. And if you see something, call your vet for an appointment. The earlier treatment starts, the better the outcome for your cat.
Also keep up with your cat’s regular examinations with your vet – early detection is always key for any health issue!