5 Common Eye Problems In Cats

The eyes of a cat… they’re captivating, mesmerizing and truly soulful.  But those almond-shaped beauties are vulnerable to problems.

Like any other health condition, early detection of an eye disorder is critical to successful treatment.

Some conditions are more common in cats than others and knowing the warning signs can save your cats vision.

If you notice squinting, blinking, eye pawing, swelling, redness, or a thick discharge these may be signs of something serious.

Here are 5 common eye problems found in cats and the symptoms to look out for.


Just like in humans, this is also called pink eye.  It’s an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid.

The inflammation can be caused by a bacterial, fungal or viral infection.  But allergens like dust and mold can also cause inflammation.

Sometime chemical irritants like pesticides can be the culprit.  A trauma to the eye or an upper respiratory virus can cause pink eye too.


Your cat’s eye will look red and swollen.  There may be a cloudy or yellowish/greenish discharge coming from the eye.

This is a painful condition that may cause your cat to keep its eye shut or squint.

Your vet will likely prescribe an ophthalmic antibiotic ointment and an anti-inflammatory.

If you prefer a more natural treatment, there are some helpful herbal therapies.  Check with your vet first to be sure nothing more serious is going on.

Corneal abrasions

The cornea is the transparent layer that forms the surface of the eyeball.  It’s three layers deep.  The outermost layer is the epithelium.  Beneath the epithelium is the stroma, and the deepest layer is Descemet’s membrane.

A break or scratch in the cornea is common in cats.  It’s often caused by a trauma to the eye, like another kitty’s claw scratching it.  Or over zealous rubbing against furniture.

But abrasions can also be caused by an infection like feline herpes or an underlying eye disease.

If dust or some other foreign object gets in your cat’s eye, this can cause an abrasion on the cornea too.

The severity of the condition depends on how deep the abrasion goes.  If it goes through the epithelium, it’s called a corneal erosion or abrasion.  Damage that goes into the stroma is a corneal ulcer.

But if the abrasion goes through the stroma into Descemet’s membrane, this is serious. Descemet’s membrane can rupture.  If that happens the fluid in the eyeball will leak out, causing it to collapse. This damage is usually irreparable.

Corneal Ulcer

If your cat has a corneal abrasion, the eye may look cloudy.  There may also be a discharge or some redness.  And sensitivity to light may force it closed.

It’s a very painful condition.  A cat will rub its eye on the furniture, paw at it, or blink to protect it.

The treatment will depend on how deep the problem is.  Your vet will prescribe a topical antibiotic and a pain reliever to treat an abrasion.  But an ulcer that goes through the stroma or Descemet’s membrane may warrant surgery.


Glaucoma is very serious and can lead to blindness.

It’s caused by an increase in fluid pressure in the eye.  Normal eyes drain fluid continuously.  But if there’s a problem with drainage, the pressure from the fluid builds up.

In cats, glaucoma is usually secondary to an eye disorder like feline uveitis, lens dislocation, tumors or trauma.

Glaucoma in Cats

Your cat’s eye may become enlarged.  The cornea may be cloudy and the pupil dilated. Because glaucoma is a very painful condition, your cat may squint, blink or paw at its eye.

Sometimes the eye recedes back into the head.

To relieve the pressure in their head, your cat may press its head against a stationary object.

There are treatments available for glaucoma.  But get your cat to the vet quickly.  The sooner the vet can reduce the pressure, the better the outcome.


Older cats are more likely to get cataracts.  An underlying eye problem is usually at fault.  An inflammation from trauma or uveitis are often the cause.

Sometimes it’s genetics.  There are breeds that are predisposed to cataracts.

Cataracts in cats

Cataracts are a cloudiness in one or both eyes that causes the lens to lose its transparency.

Your cat may show signs they are losing their vision.  They may be reluctant to jump on the furniture.  Or seem clumsy.  They may squint and their eyes may be watery.

Cataracts look a lot like nuclear sclerosis.  Nuclear sclerosis is a change in eye color common with age.  It does not affect vision though.  Your vet can differentiate between the two.

Treatment for cataracts depends on the cause.  Surgery is an option but may not be necessary.

This condition is more common in dogs than cats.  But don’t disregard a cloudy eye.  See your vet pronto.

Iris melanosis

This is when pigmented cells replicate and spread over the iris, the colored part of the eye, to create dark spots.

Iris Melanosis

Melanosis will appear like a freckle on the eye.

It’s benign but the cells can become cancerous.  A melanosis can turn into a malignant melanoma.  So your vet will want to monitor your cat closely.

Even if it doesn’t become malignant, spreading melanosis can lead to glaucoma, or a detached retina.

Some veterinary ophthalmologists will recommend laser treatment to prevent progression to melanoma because melanoma can spread to other organs of the body.

Like almost all other medical conditions, early diagnosis of an eye problem is key to effective treatment.

So while you’re staring into your kitty’s dreamy eyes, take note of anything that doesn’t seem right. It could save your cat from vision loss.

Has your cat suffered from an eye problem?  Tell us what it was and how you treated it in the comment section at the top of the page.

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