Woman hands treating a little rescued kitten eyes with eyedrops - closeup, shallow depth

Cat Eye Infection: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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What Does a Cat Eye Infection Look Like?

Cat Eye Infection: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

Cat eye infection manifests with red, teary, swollen, and irritated eyes. Eye discharge, pawing at the eye, squinting, and excessive blinking are also possible signs of an eye infection. The discharge can be watery or thick.

Based on the underlying cause of the cat eye infection, light sensitivity is also possible. Also, the cat can show additional signs and symptoms that are unrelated to the eyes (nasal discharge, sneezing, loss of appetite, poor coat quality, etc.).

How Serious is a Cat Eye Infection?

It depends on the underlying cause and the promptness of the treatment. When eye problems are left untreated, they can lead to vision problems and even blindness in the worst case.

Also, some common causes of cat eye infections (such as viruses) harm the cat’s overall health and can be life-threatening if left unmanaged.

Terramycin Antibiotic Ointment for Eye Infection Treatment
  • Veterinary antibiotic ointment for treating eye infections in dogs, cats, cattle, horses, and sheep with active ingredients oxytetracycline hydrochloride and Polymyxin B Sulfate.
  • Treats diseases such as conjunctivitis, keratitis, pink eye, corneal ulcer, blepharitis, and bacterial inflammatory conditions resulting from other infectious diseases. Use only as directed. Consult product instructions for details.
  • Terramycin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment for the eye infections specified on product labeling. 

What Causes Eye Infection in Cats?

There are several common causes of eye infections in cats, and they can affect different structures, such as the conjunctiva (conjunctivitis), cornea (keratitis), uvea (uveitis), eyelids (blepharitis), third eyelid (follicular conjunctivitis), or entire eyeball (panophthalmitis).

  • Allergies. Exposure to allergens can make cats sneeze and develop infected eyes. Allergic reactions in cats can occur due to pollen, dust, smoke, etc. Cat allergies are tricky to diagnose and manage. Eye infection flare-ups are a common result of allergic reactions.
  • Pink Eye. This is one of the most common cat eye conditions. Also known as conjunctivitis, it is an inflammation of the outer surface of the eye. It can be caused by infectious agents, issues with the eyelids, allergies, foreign bodies, or even ocular tumors.
  • Dry Eye. Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KKS), this specific type of eye inflammation manifests with inadequate production of tears necessary to lubricate the cat’s eyes. Usually, it is linked with secondary bacterial infections and blocked tear ducts.
  • Infectious Agents. Eye problems and infections in cats can be triggered by bacterial infections (Chlamydophila felis and Mycoplasma) and viral infections (Feline Herpesvirus or FHV-1, Feline Calicivirus, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV, and Feline Leukemia Virus or FeLV). Some of these pathogens also cause upper respiratory infections.

How do I Know if My Cat’s Eye is Infected?

Some of the common clinical signs and symptoms of a cat eye infection include:

  • Redness in the whites of the eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye discharge
  • Squinting or winking
  • Excessive blinking
  • Rubbing eyes incessantly
  • Pawing at the eyes
  • Drooping or swollen eyelid
  • Light sensitivity.

If you notice some of these issues in your feline friend, it is advisable to seek immediate veterinary help. Some eye infections progress quickly, and urgent veterinary pet care can be life-saving.

How Can I Treat My Cat’s Eye Infection?

Cat Eye Infection: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

The first step toward clearing out a cat eye infection is maintaining a hygienic environment. As for the specific treatment, it depends on the underlying cause.

A simple pink eye can be treated with anti-inflammatory eye drops and antibiotics eye ointments, while eye infection due to Feline Herpes Virus, requires anti-viral medications.

Here is a close look at some common eye drops and ointments that can be used in the treatment of cat eye infections. These simple remedies are easy to use and available over the counter.

Terramycin Antibiotic Ointment for Eye Infection Treatment in Cats & Dogs. This vet-grade antibiotic ointment is perfect for eye infections in many animal species. It is formulated with active ingredients like oxytetracycline hydrochloride and polymyxin B sulfate.

The ointment is great against eye conditions such as conjunctivitis, keratitis, pink eye, corneal ulcer, blepharitis, and bacterial inflammatory conditions resulting from other infectious diseases.

Customers are pleased with the effects of this eye ointment for pets. They say it is very easy to use and highly effective. Pet owners give the product 4.7 out of 5 stars.

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Cliny Eye Cleaner Lotion for Cats & Dogs. Cliny provides gentle care for dogs and cats, prevents eye infection, eliminates clogging, and relieves puffiness and irritation around eyelids. The product is formulated with boric acid, which disinfects the eyes and reduces inflammation of the eyelids.

It also contains taurine, which activates the process of eye restoration. The product is developed by veterinarians in Germany and can be used on dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, rabbits, and ferrets.

This cleaner contains silver ions, which have a bactericidal effect, and panthenol, which helps heal wounds and soften skin. Pet owners give this cat eye cleaner 4.3 out of 5 stars.

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PetSilver Eye Wash Drops for Dogs and Cats. This wash can help support the issue of unsightly tear stains from the fur under the eyes. Thanks to a unique formula, it has a sting-free impact on your cat’s eyes.

PetSilver uses only what is needed to get the job done. There is no alcohol, no artificial scents, and no perfumes or preservatives. This formula includes only water and chelated silver that offers numerous health benefits for your cat’s eyes.

PetSilver products feature an exclusive formulation of chelated silver which can be used for several eye conditions in pets of any species and age. Customers rate the eye drops with 4.4 out of 5 stars.

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While these products are safe, efficient, and available over-the-counter, it is always advisable to talk to a vet before using home remedies and cat eye medications.

Can a Cat Eye Infection Heal On Its Own?

In most cases, your cat’s eye infection will resolve on its own. However, to speed up the process, your vet might prescribe eye drops or topical ointments. If the condition is severe, you also might have to give your cat oral antibiotics to address an underlying cause of the eye infection.

Is a Cat Eye Infection Contagious to Humans?

Usually, cat eye infections like pink eye cannot be transmitted to humans.

However, if you have multiple cats, you can transfer the condition from one feline to the other by acting as the carrier of the condition. This usually happens through feeding, brushing, or petting the cats.

How Long do Cat Eye Infections Last?

In most cases, a cat eye infection should heal quickly. It should not take more than two weeks for their condition to resolve itself. In rare cases, if the infection does not resolve on its own, it is best to take your cat to the vet before things get out of hand.

How Can I Prevent a Cat Eye Infection?

Preventing cat eye infections is much easier than treating them. Luckily, there are several things cat owners can do to prevent or, at least, reduce the risk of a cat eye infection.

Here are some helpful prevention tips:

  • Proper Eye Care. It is important to clean your cat’s eyes regularly. To do this, you will need a cotton ball and some eye cleaners. The modern pet market offers dozens of different cat eye care products.
  • Eye Supplements. You can also use supplements that boost eye health. A commonly used and popular supplement is L-lysine. This amino acid comes with several benefits, including promoting healthy eyes & vision and boosting the cat’s immune system.
  • Regular Vaccination. Some infectious agents responsible for cat eye infections can be easily prevented through regular vaccination. Plus, vaccines are vital for overall cat health. Talk to a DVM to determine the right vaccination protocol for your feline friend.
  • Vet Checkups. Yearly or bi-yearly vet checkups are mandatory to ensure cat health. Vet visits are the perfect opportunity to catch cat eye problems early on. Early diagnosis has a positive impact on the outcome.