Common Cat Eye Problems

DVM M.Phil (Pet diseases & welfare)

It is very important for cat lovers to understand their beloved feline friends when they are in pain. With common cat eye problems, it is important to have a timely diagnosis so there are good outcomes. Eye problems (ophthalmic conditions) are common in cats. There is a need for you to evaluate any abnormal condition of the eye when noticed.

Your cat’s eyes are shiny and bright. If your cat is rubbing their eyes against the sofa or anything else, then this is a clear indication that there is something wrong with their eyes.

Here, we will discuss some common ophthalmological conditions in cats, and a few tips for cat owners in detail.

What are general signs and symptoms of cat eye problems?

If you notice the following signs and symptoms in your cats, then you need to go for an ophthalmological examination by a registered veterinary practitioner.

  1. Any abnormal discharge (watery, thick or any kind)
  2. Excessive blinking
  3. Squinting or pawing at the eyes
  4. Observable redness
  5. Any kind of sores on the eyes
sad cat with eye problem

What are common eye conditions in cats?

Let’s throw some light on common eye conditions in cats along with their key signs and symptoms for better diagnosis and cure.

Cat Eye Ulcers (Ulcerative Keratitis)

The cornea is the transparent part of the eye that covers the iris and pupil. Corneal ulcers are most common sores on the eyes due to which the affected area becomes cloudy. These ulcers damage the deeper layers of the cat’s cornea.


There are many causes of corneal ulcers, some reasons have been listed below:

  1. The capital cause of corneal ulcer is trauma or any injury to the eye
  2. Any infection, mostly caused by virus or any systemic disease
  3. Tear deficiency or facial nerve paralysis
  4. Any extraneous material in the eye or chemical burn
  5. Inability to close the eyelids properly

Signs and symptoms

If a cat is complaining of corneal ulcers, she may experience following signs and symptoms.

  1. Discharge from the eye and squinting
  2. Red and inflamed eyes with pain
  3. Sensitivity to light and film over the eye
  4. Pawing at the head or eye
  5. Eyes are kept closed


If you find any of the above signs or symptoms, contact your veterinarian. Thorough blood and ophthalmological examination will be done to reach the root cause. Your veterinarian may use the diagnostic dyes to help identify the corneal ulcers.


A treatment regime can be made on the basis of the severity of condition. If the condition is worse, your veterinarian can suggest a surgical treatment. Another way is by removing the loose layers of cornea by using sterile cotton swabs.

Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs can be given to reduce pain and prevent any other complications. After your cat is diagnosed and treated, limit their activity at home and give them a chance for proper healing. It may take one to two weeks.

Cataracts in Cats

Another condition is cataracts in cats, which turn the lens of the eye into a thick and opaque color resulting  white and grey area in the center of the lens. Cataracts may develop slowly or rapidly depending upon the underlying cause


These are following important causes of cataracts in cats.

  1. Any injury or trauma to the eye
  2. Any infection may be viral, bacterial or protozoan
  3. Inflammation within eyes, along with genetic and hereditary factors
  4. Nutritional deficiencies and metabolic disorders such as diabetes and blood pressure
  5. Any tumor condition or radiation exposure

Signs and Symptoms

Here are some important key signs and symptoms of cataracts.

  1. A bluish, gray or white layer on the eye
  2. Sudden reluctance to climb stairs or jump on furniture
  3. Clumsiness
  4. Vision impairment
  5. Cats may have watery eyes


Contact your veterinarian if you see any changes in your cat’s eye. Your veterinarian may perform a physical examination along with blood testing to know the exact root cause of cataracts.


The treatment of cataracts in cats will depend upon the underlying cause, their stage of development, and their overall health.

Treatment may include treating the underlying cause, if known, such as eye drops that may help to prevent inflammation and other secondary problems. Treatment may include the surgical removal of the cataract if your cat is otherwise healthy and is a candidate for surgery.
NOTE:  Remember a leading cause of cataracts in cats is injury, which includes trauma and fighting with other cats. Thus, preventing your cat from exposure to other cats reduces the risk! If you notice anything abnormal about your cat’s eyes or vision, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Third Eyelid Problems

It is actually known as a nictitating membrane, or fold of tissue at the inside corner of the eye, which is what makes it different to the first (upper) and second (lower) eyelid. The third eyelid is also covered in conjunctiva (the same tissue that’s on the white of the eye), and keeps its shape using a special T-shaped cartilage.

How to spot third eyelid in cats?

When your cat is alert, most of the third eyelid remains hidden in the eye socket, with only a small portion visible at the inner corner of the eye. When he’s relaxed, say, during nap time or while blinking, the retraction of the eyeball by a set of muscles causes the third eyelid to move across the eye surface, like it’s nothing at all, really.

Third Eyelid Prolapse

This is most common in both eyes in cats. There are many reasons for third eyelid prolapse, but gastrointestinal upset, intestinal worms,food intolerance, viral and bacterial gut infections are very common reasons. Feline eye problems are common and staying alert to cat eye problems is important as an owner.


Gently wipe away eye discharge using cotton soaked with warm water. For eyes that are swollen, gently separate the eyelids and pour saline solution (the same solution you use on your own eyes) between the lids.

Treatment includes antibiotics (both given by mouth or injection and topical ointments or creams) to prevent infection. Occasionally other medications are needed as well. Although vision does not usually return in the injured eye, the eyeball can usually be saved.

What are other important considerations?

Other conditions such as conjunctivitis, glaucoma, uveitis and retinal atrophy are also common feline eye problems. It is best to observe any anomaly in a timely manner and seek treatment or advice from a veterinarian.