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Conjunctivitis in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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What is Cat Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Conjunctivitis in cats is an inflammation of the thin mucous membrane known as the conjunctiva. This membrane lines the surface of a cat’s eyes and coats the outer surface of the eyeball and the third eyelid.

Healthy cats do not have visible conjunctiva as it is pale pink. However, in the case of inflammation of the conjunctiva, it becomes red, swollen, and visible.

What does Cat Conjunctivitis Look Like?

If your cat has conjunctivitis, you will observe certain signs in its eyes. These include excessive tearing or watering, eye discharge, and red conjunctival membrane.

Additionally, your cat might squint or keep its eyes closed due to photophobia or discomfort with a bright light. The conjunctival tissue or the third eyelid might become swollen if the condition is severe.

This might then either partially or fully cover the eye. If your cat shows any of these signs, it should be taken to the vet immediately.

Cliny Pet Eye Wash Drops for Tear Stains & Conjunctivitis
  • Cliny provides gentle care for dogs and cats, prevents eye infection, eliminates clogging, and relieves puffiness and irritation around eyelids.
  • Cliny contains boric acid, which disinfects eyes and reduces inflammation of eyelids. It also contains taurine, which activates the process of eye restoration.
  • This cleaner contains silver ions, which have a bactericidal effect, and panthenol, which helps heal wounds and soften skin.

How Serious is Cat Conjunctivitis?

When diagnosed and managed timely, conjunctivitis in cats is not severe.

However, if left untreated for a long duration, it could lead to more severe eye problems, including blindness.

What Causes Cat Conjunctivitis?

There is a wide range of causes of conjunctivitis in cats. Therefore, it is important to see a vet determine the leading cause of the condition. The reasons can be split into two categories. These include infectious diseases and non-infectious conditions. 

  • Infectious Causes of Conjunctivitis in Cats. These are often the most common causes of conjunctivitis in cats. They include bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, such as:
    • Bacterial Infections: Streptococci and Staphylococci are among the most common strains of bacteria that cause this type of infection in cats. Chlamydophila felis and Mycoplasma are also possible culprits.
    • Viral Infections: When it comes to viral infections, Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1), Calicivirus, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) are common viral infectious agents resulting in feline conjunctivitis.
    • Fungal Infections: Cryptococcus is a yeast-like fungus that’s commonly found in soil and can cause conjunctivitis in cats.  
  • Non-infectious Causes of Conjunctivitis in Cats. The non-infectious causes of conjunctivitis are:
    • Allergies: If your cat is facing an allergic reaction, there can be a wide range of symptoms that include conjunctivitis. If your cat is going through excessive licking, scratching, and ear infections, they could be signs of allergies. Allergens are found in the cat’s food and environment.
    • Entropion: If you have a long-haired cat (such as Persians or Himalayans), they might be born with entropion. This is a portion of the eyelid that folds inwards against the eyeball. As a result, your cats can face irritation and scratches to the cornea, which can be painful for your cat.
    • Ocular Tumors: If your cat has a malignant or benign tumor, there could be a chance that they get conjunctivitis.
    • Foreign Bodies: Additionally, foreign bodies, including dirt or sand, can enter your cat’s eyeballs and cause conjunctivitis. Also, if your cat is exposed to irritants and chemicals, that can cause the problem.

What are the Symptoms of Cat Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Some of the most common clinical signs and symptoms of cat conjunctivitis include:

  • Red or pink eye
  • Closing their eye
  • Swelling
  • Squinting
  • Blinking a lot
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sneezing (if the cat has an upper respiratory infection)
  • Eye discharge (varying in color and consistency)
  • Pawing at the affected eye
  • Swollen and red third eyelid
  • Increased tear production.

How do You Treat Conjunctivitis in Cats?

The treatment for conjunctivitis in cats depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, the cat conjunctivitis treatment can include something as simple as anti-inflammatory eye drops and, in other cases, prolonged use of oral antiviral medications.

Here are some over-the-counter products that can be used in the treatment of conjunctivitis flare-ups in cats.

Cliny Pet Eye Wash Drops for Tear Stains & Conjunctivitis. This product provides gentle care for dogs and cats, prevents eye infections, eliminates clogging, and relieves puffiness and irritation around eyelids. It 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. Additionally, this cleaner includes silver ions, which have a bactericidal effect, and panthenol, which helps heal wounds and soften skin.

This product works on dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, rabbits, and ferrets’ eyes and takes good care of them by keeping them hydrated and clean. Cat owners rate this eye wash with 4.3 out of 5 stars.

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Curicyn Pink Eye Solution: Conjunctivitis Eye Drops for Cats. This painless eye infection treatment for dogs and cats relieves irritation associated with conjunctivitis. The non-toxic, antibiotic-free solution is pH balanced, non-irritating, and fast-acting as it contains 96% purified acolyte.

It offers relief in 1-3 days and has a non-steroidal formula. These cat eye drops are manufactured according to stringent quality control protocols in the USA and provide quick relief.

This non-invasive, gel-based solution was formulated specifically to address pink eye, and it works wonders. Pet owners give this product 4.3 out of 5 stars.

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Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes for Dogs and Cats. This product contains presoaked and textured wipes used to remove dried mucus, secretions, and tear stains. It helps keep your pet’s eyes clean and healthy.

It works by reducing the irritation and burning that your cat might experience during the conjunctivitis treatment. It is also suitable for kittens and puppies older than six weeks of age. It has been designed in such a way that there is no rinsing needed during the treatment process.

Use daily to keep the eye exterior clean and help reduce the risk of eye irritations and itching caused by foreign matter, our unique formulation requires no rinsing. Customers give this cat eye solution 4.1 out of 5 stars.

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Is Cat Conjunctivitis Contagious?

Whether it is caused by an infectious type or a non-infectious type, conjunctivitis in cats is not contagious to people. But, they can still spread to other cats that come in contact with your cat.

Also, a human being can spread the disease to other cats if they have touched an infected cat.

Therefore, if you have several cats at home, it is best to isolate the one with the condition to reduce the risk of it spreading among the brood.

Will Conjunctivitis in Cats Go Away By Itself?

Conjunctivitis in cats can resolve on its own without the need for eye medications. But if your cat is showing symptoms and is uncomfortable for more than a week, it is best to take them to a vet to rule out any serious eye disorder.

If your cat has conjunctivitis, it might not only be uncomfortable but also in pain. As a result, the cause of the condition could be due to certain underlying conditions that require further treatment.

How Long Does Cat Conjunctivitis Last?

If your cat has a bacterial or viral infection leading to conjunctivitis, it can resolve itself in 5-14 days. However, if it is not determined in that time, it is best to take them to a vet to fast-track the treatment.

Since most of the signs of conjunctivitis are caused by secondary bacterial infections, you might need to reduce the pain and swelling in your cat’s eyes. Here, a vet can offer support and make the healing process more convenient for your cat.

How Can I Prevent Cat Conjunctivitis?

Prevention is of utmost importance when it comes to conjunctivitis in cats.

Eye supplements with lysine help promote eye health and prevent inflammation of the conjunctiva. You can also help avoid conjunctivitis by maintaining proper eye hygiene and using eye cleaners regularly.

Regular vaccination and deworming are vital for young kittens as they are more susceptible to infectious agents that result in conjunctivitis.