Cat Eye Health

Your cat relies on its sense of smell to find its way around the word more than it does its eyes. Cats actually have relatively poor vision during daylight hours, although they comfortably outperform us at night. Even though their eyes aren’t their most important sensory organ, they’re still vital to your cat’s health and well-being. That means that just in the same way that you go to an optician regularly to have your vision assessed, we should be taking steps to care the ocular health of our pets, too. Cat eye health problems can become severe if left untreated, and so we owe it to them to seek treatment at the earliest possible point.

Identifying the right treatment isn’t always easy. There are plenty of issues which can lead to cat eye problems, and the sooner a vet gets to take a closer look, the sooner the correct method of treatment can be recommended. Almost all cat eye health issues are one of a group of seven, and we’ve got information about all of them on this page.

Infections That Can Impact Cat Eye Health

cat eye health

See the redness around the eye, and the slight discharge? That’s a strong evidence of an eye infection. Image from Flickr.

Cat eye infections can be down to one or many of a number of potential causes. There are viruses that can cause cat eye infections, bacteria that can cause cat eye infections, fungi that can cause cat eye infections and even parasites that can cause cat eye infections. There’s no way of diagnosing the cause if your issue at home unless you happen to be a qualified vet. That means an appointment with a professional is required.

Not all cat eye problems brought on by infections are visibly obvious. Your cat’s eyes could look fine, but there could be an infection happening behind them. Look out for tell-tale signs. Your cat scratching or rubbing its eyes more than usual is a suggestion that there’s an issue.

As the cat eye problem becomes more pronounced it will eventually become visible, with symptoms like redness, fluid discharge and redness on or around the eyes. Sneezing and nasal discharge can also be symptomatic of an eye issue, as the eyes, ears and nose are linked.

How cat eye infections are dealt with will depend upon the identified cause. The majority of them are treated with a simple prescription of rest, plenty of water, balanced nutrition and a period of being confined to the house. If symptoms are persistent, a medical route may be advised upon. That can include topical eye treatments, or courses of medication.

Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers are caused by a loss of tissue from the surface of the eye. The clear tissue of the cat’s eye can become damaged through infection or injury. In rare cases anatomical eye abnormalities can be the cause. Corneal ulcers are easy to spot, as the affected part of the cornea will become cloudy. Other visible symptoms include squinting and redness.

Most corneal ulcers will usually heal after treatment has been administered. This may include treating underlying causes with antibiotics and pain relief. More severe ulcers may need surgery to promote healing. If you suspect your cat has corneal ulcers, consult your vet immediately. Without appropriate treatment, your cat may develop an area of dead tissue over the ulcer. Given enough time, that tissue can go on to rupture. When it does, it runs the risk of causing permanent blindness and disfigurement.

The Effect Of Trauma On Cat Eye Health

Cats who venture outdoors or that live in multi-cat households can be more prone to eye trauma than cats who live in doors. Getting into a cat fight can result in scratches or perforations to the surface of the eye. If you’re forever breaking up fights between your house cats, read our advice on how to persuade them to get along.

cat eye health

The unfortunate aftermath of a cat fight. This is a particularly bad case. Image from Flickr.

There are other explanations for cat eye health issues being caused by trauma, though. It is also possible for trauma to occur through:

  • Foreign objects becoming lodged under the eyelid
  • Falls
  • Traffic accidents

With mild cases of trauma, your cat’s eyes will become red and swollen. They may need treatment which may include topical antibiotics and pain relief. For more severe cases, surgery will be required to repair or even remove the damaged eye. Obviously such surgeries are only performed as a last resort, and in cases when a vet is positive that the cat’s eye cannot be saved.

How Allergies Effect Cat Eye Health

Yes, cats have allergies too! Their eyes can become itchy and watery just like ours. Compared to humans though it’s comparatively uncommon for a cat to have an allergic reaction. Irritants which may provoke one include dust, smoke, and strong fragrances. You can relieve your cat’s irritation at home by using a simple eyewash solution – if your cat will cooperate. However, if symptoms do not improve or worsen over time an appointment with your vet will have to be made. The symptoms of allergies can be the same as more serious conditions. Always seek a professional opinion.

Iris Discoloration And Cat Eye Problems

cat eye health

Odd-eyed cats are beautiful, but a cat’s eye should not change color during its adult life. Image from Wikipedia.

Cats with different colored eyes are adorable. This condition should be present from birth though – it is not normal for a cat’s eye to change in adulthood. A kitten’s irises may change color, but for adult cats this may mean they’re suffering from iris melanosis. This can result in brown patches forming on the iris. Typically, the condition isn’t a problem. In severe cases however, the discoloration could lead to increased eye pressure. That often leads on to feline glaucoma – a more severe cat eye health problem we’ll provide further information on below.

Iris melanosis can often be confused with iris melanoma – a serious form of cancer. The symptoms present themselves in a very similar manner, and it requires the knowledge of a professional to discern between the two. Changes to your cat’s iris should always be brought to the attention of your vet. Your vet will perform an eye exam to tell you if there’s anything you need to worry about.

Serious Cat Eye Health Problems

The cat eye health problems we’ve discussed so far are comparatively minor. They can cause damage if they’re left unattended for too long – as any health problem can – but in the majority of cases your cat’s recovery period will be short, and no lasting harm will be done. That’s not the case with the two conditions we’re about to look at, which are much more severe. The remaining two cat eye health issues can cause lasting damage – including blindness – if they’re not identified and treated at the earliest possible point. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms, and take a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to seeking veterinary opinion.

Glaucoma In Cats

Glaucoma is caused by an increase in eye pressure inside a cat’s eye. The most common reason for pressure to build up is the eye’s fluid drainage system becoming blocked. Fluid is constantly being produced and drained from within the eyeball. When that fluid can’t drain, it builds up to the point that excess pressure builds up and squeezes against the eye. That means your cat is left with severe pain, discomfort and impaired vision.

Causes of glaucoma include:

  • Anatomic eye abnormalities
  • Infection
  • Trauma
  • Tumors
  • Inflammatory disorders
  • Abnormal shifts in the eye’s lens.

Symptoms are very similar to the other causes of cat eye health problems. Their eyes may become weepy, red and cloudy. In more extreme cases they can become visibly enlarged. When enlargement occurs, the disease has progressed to a critical point and your cat’s health should be dealt with as an emergency.

If you suspect your cat has glaucoma, seek instant help from your vet. Without timely treatment to lower the eye pressure, your cat can lose their vision. Your vet will be able to treat the underlying cause of glaucoma with short-term treatment in the majority of cases. In some cases where the disease has been left unchecked for a long time period, though, surgery may be required. In the most severe cases, it is not uncommon for your cat’s eye to be removed to ensure comfort and prevent further damage being done by the buildup of pressure inside your cat’s skull.

Cataracts In Cats

cat eye health

Glaucoma in cats appears the same way it does in humans – with a milky white sheen. It’s a sign to go to the vet immediately. Image from Wikimedia

We tend to think of cataracts as a disease that effects elderly humans, but it also occurs in senior cats. Cataracts effect the lens of the eye, causing it to become cloudy and restricting the vision. If left untreated this will lead to your cat’s vision becoming impaired. This is due to the cloudiness of cataracts preventing light from reaching the back of the eye. More severe cases can lead to permanent blindness.

What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts have the same cause and effect in humans than they have in cats – so this is a description you may want to remember for the sake of your own health as well as your pet’s! The lens of your eye is a mixture of protein and water, and very little else. The water and protein exist in a state of balance, which keep the lens transparent and allow for light to pass through it. As we get older, the protein balance can shift, leading to a milky discoloration of the lens. Typically, this discoloration appears as clumps of protein. That’s what a cataract is.

Do All Senior Cats Get Cataracts?

There are a number of health issues that come along with being a senior cat, however cataracts are not to be confused with the typical aging of a cat’s eye. However, both conditions allow the pupils to appear white, grey or milky in color. As soon as you see any changes to the color of your cat’s eye, consult your vet immediately. Your vet will be able to diagnose the issue with a simple eye examination.

Surgery may be needed If your cat’s vision is severely compromised by cataracts. If your cat is suffering from any form of visual impairment, it is imperative not to let them outdoors, where their vision problems will leave them vulnerable.

In Summary…

There are a lot of cat eye problems that occur, and with most of them the long term consequence of not doing anything about them is blindness for your cat. That’s not something any of us want, and so seeking treatment as quickly as possible is the correct (and only) responsible choice. No matter how major or minor you think the problem might be, it’s a job for the vet.

Remember That Speed Is Of The Essence

The more serious cat eye health issues, as we’ve covered are glaucoma and cataracts. Glaucoma, in a handful of cases, has proven to be fatal. The disease itself doesn’t kill, but the buildup of pressure can damage nerve endings inside the skull which then go on to cause brain damage, or other side effects. Cataracts won’t be fatal, but will progress to the point where it becomes impossible for your cat to see if no action is taken. You’ll recognize cataracts straight away from the milky sheen it causes in the eye. The moment you notice it, pick up the phone and call your vet without hesitation.

Thank you for stopping by our site today and reading our cat eye heath information. We hope it’s been useful to you. If it has, and you have cat-loving friends who may also be interested in this article, please consider sharing it to them! In the meantime, if you have further questions about issues relating to cat health, why not check out our comprehensive guide?

Hi! My name is Jamie Fallon. I run Catmart.net, an online cat health and cat behavior resource. If I’m not sat in front of my PC—and I usually am—then I’m either spending time with my cats or my other half… Whoever jumps on me or asks me for food first!