Cat Eye Care - The Best Ways to Address Eye Issues in Cats

What's the most important thing when it comes to caring for a cat's eyes?

The most important thing, I'd say, is if you think there's a problem, address it right away. Regardless of the species, if you suspect there's a problem with the eyes, don't sit on it; address it immediately.

Dr. Kristin Christy
Animal Hospital of Statesville

How does good eye care impact the health and wellness of my cat?

Earlier, we were talking about a cat that was blind and still did well despite its blindness. We couldn't tell it was blind because it had adjusted so well. However, for both people and animals, vision is important. If they can have their vision, I think they would probably prefer it that way. Especially if the cat is going to be in a changing world, goes outside, or gets startled by something and can't defend itself, vision is essential. So preserving vision is important for health and mental as well as physical wellbeing.

What are some signs and symptoms of eye issues in your cat?

There could be all kinds of signs and symptoms. Some of them include squinting, holding the eyes closed, pawing at them, rubbing them on objects, goop in the eyes, swelling, redness, cloudiness, color change, and not seeing through the cornea to the color part of the eye. It will also be a good indicator if one eye looks different from the other regarding its pupil size, color, or whether or not you can see through it.

How soon should you bring your cat in to see a veterinarian for a problem with vision or other eye problems?

As soon as you think there's an eye problem, address it. There have been so many situations where somebody thought, "I'll just see if this gets better next week," or, "I can't get in until next week." A week is a long time for an eye. If something is going to change, it will do so rapidly. So try to get in and express your concerns, and we'll work you in.

How will a veterinarian diagnose a problem with my cat's eye?

We can take a peek at it, look with different lights and lenses to get a closer look at the back of the eye and we'll look at the cornea and the lens. Sometimes we numb the eye and move the eyelids around. We have stains to pick up on scratches and ulcers and tear tests to see the amount of tear production.

In some cases, we may have to do a referral. We don't have some equipment here, and there are things that we can't do, so we'll send you to a cat ophthalmologist. There are excellent ones around.

What types of eye treatments are commonly recommended for cats?

Typically, treatments for the eye usually involve putting something in the eye. It is unfortunate because that's not always easy to do. For many diseases, you can't give a pill for it. It has to be applied to the eye. With that being said, many conditions can affect the eye. You may have a situation where you come in for an eye problem, and then you leave with a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, where we'll treat your cat for a thyroid problem. Many connections implicate treatments for other diseases.

Why is it important to avoid self-diagnosing eye issues in cats?

Self-diagnosis is dangerous because different conditions can look very similar. If you think you know what eye issue your cat has because you've seen it in another cat, in your child, or yourself, it's not necessarily the same thing. Eye issues can go south rapidly if not addressed appropriately, especially if we're talking about an ulcer or a scratch. You know how cats can interact with each other by pawing at each other while playing. You may have a scratch or an ulcer that could go south very quickly. So it would help if you didn't think you knew how to treat it because you have some meds in the cabinet. You want to have it looked at, and we can make sure that we give the proper treatment.

Why is early detection and diagnosis important?

You can have a very mild problem that, if not addressed, can turn into something serious. If you miss-diagnose it yourself, you can mess up the little eyeballs. If you have questions regarding eye care or eye issues, bring them in, and the doctors will take a look and see what's going on. Give us a call for an appointment, and we'll be able to find time for your eye emergency. That's the right thing to do.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Eye Care - FAQs

Dr. Kristin Christy
Animal Hospital of Statesville

Can I treat a cat eye infection at home?

You have to be careful with that. You don't want to grab things out of your cabinet, even if the issue is similar to an old problem. Don't be like, "Oh, my cat had this before, let me get these meds from before," because it may not be the same issue, or there may be something else going on that we need to address. If your cat will even let you, the only thing that you can do is to use sterile saline eyewash to flush an eye out. But the answer will always be to see a veterinarian. We can make sure that it's not something we need to treat specifically, and we'll treat it correctly.

When would I need to seek the help of a veterinarian for a cat eye issue?

If you suspect there's an eye issue, have it seen. Make sure of what you're dealing with. If it ends up being something minor, then that's great; you're lucky. But if it's not, it's better to address it sooner rather than later before something worsens or something irreparable happens with that eye. Give us a call and explain your situation ASAP. We'll help you decide whether you need to come in for an emergency, if you need to go to an emergency clinic, or if we can set an appointment for the next day, and we can go from there.

Will a cat eye infection eventually resolve on its own?

That's a tricky question because I'd usually say that you shouldn't depend on that, don't wait, hoping that will happen. But cats are trickier than dogs because they can commonly have recurrent issues from a chronic herpes viral infection from when they were snotty-nosed, crusty-eyed little kittens. Herpes is forever, so it's still going to be around. Some cats can have flare-ups related to stress or changes in the household. I have seen situations where a cat may have a flare-up, and in some cases, its body deals with it, and it goes away. But you don't want to be wrong when it could have gotten a scratch on the eye or the herpes flare-up led to something more that led to an ulcer or a scratch on the eye. So, don't wait for that to happen, have it checked out. You can't always see a scratch on their eye. It's not an obvious gash going across it. Sometimes it's a small area on the part of the eye that you can't see, and it takes special stains to show up.

How do I give my cat eye drops?

It depends on your cat and how tolerable it is. Some cats you can put in your lap, ball them up, lift their head, pull an eyelid back, and gently drop an eye drop in there.

There are some cats where having a cat burrito can be helpful. Get a towel you can wrap around your cat to keep all the legs and the rear end in, and keep the cat from going in different directions. Have an extra person or friend that can support the cat and hold the head still so you can concentrate on the eyelid and put the drop in. Gravity is your friend. Don't try to put a cat's eye drop in sideways. You want to have the head tilted back to have the eyedrops dropping down. Never let the tip of the eyedrop touch anything either because it should be kept sterile.

Can I give my cat human eyedrops?

That's a tricky question. The technical answer is yes, because most of the drops that we use are human-derived, although some are made specifically for cats. Should you look in your cabinet and pick something out from CVS? No, definitely not. There are more specific reasons for different things we use for cats in particular, and you can make the wrong choice. If you need to flush an eye, sterile saline would be fine. But get your cat in so we can make sure there's nothing else we need to do.

Is there such a thing as a vision test for cats?

Typically, vision testing in cats involves watching them manipulate and move about, holding their heads still and gently bringing a hand up to their face to see if they blink appropriately. We move a cotton ball, drop a cotton ball, and see if they will track something. Cats can sometimes just stand there and stare, being scared or mad, or they don't know what to do. You can be sure they can see you, but they're not responding to anything, they turn their head, or they don't want to participate in what you're doing. We can shine the lights in their eyes and see if their pupils move correctly, which may have some suggestion of vision, but it's not always an easy test in cats.

What should I do if I notice my cat is losing their sight?

Cats don't always read books; they are good at adjusting to things and hiding things. For you to realize that your cat is blind or losing its vision is impressive because cats don't show you that, so it's not going to be that easy. If a cat slowly loses its vision, or if it is good at adjusting to things, you're not going to realize what's going on. Otherwise, if a cat suddenly loses its vision, it might bump into things, act a little weird, or its pupils might seem large. You should bring them in because a common cause of a cat losing its vision is high blood pressure and a blown-out retina. That could be related to hypertension from hyperthyroidism or kidney disease. We're going to look for diseases other than an eye problem.

What are the causes of cat blindness?

Hypertension, kidney disease, thyroid disease, and diabetes can all be related. Another cause of blindness is when something was inappropriately addressed, like a corneal problem or a chronic herpes disease with some scarring. There can be things along those lines as well.

Can regular cleaning of my cat's eyes prevent issues?

Yes and no. It depends on what eye issue we're looking at. It's not going to prevent high blood pressure, but if you have a cat with long hair or a smushed face, you want to make sure that the hair and the folds aren't rubbing on the cat's eyes or collecting matter that's rubbing on the cat's eyes. Keep it appropriately groomed and wiped away. With many cats, because of the way their facial features are, you don't necessarily have to clean their eyes every day.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.