Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 26, 2023 by Crystal Uys


While cats don’t have as many eye problems as dogs, feline eye issues tend to be chronic and frequently require a lifetime of care. Detecting problems early can make treatment more effective.

Healthy cat eyes should be clear and bright. The pupils should be of equal size, and the area around the eyeball should be white. Any changes in the eye’s appearance or the area around the eye can be an indicator of a health problem.

If you notice any of the following signs, take your cat to your veterinarian.

Blinking or squinting

Frequent blinking or squinting is always a sign of discomfort. Causes may include an infection, a foreign body in the eye, or a scratch or break in the cornea. Corneal ulceration is one of the most common eye problems in cats.

Discharge, watering or crusty gunk in the corner of the eyes

Discharge from the eyes can range from clear and watery to thick and yellow or greenish. Some cats with chronic viral infections may have occasional or permanent discharge. Frequently, eye discharge will accumulate as a crusty substance in the corners of the eyes.

Visible third eyelid

Cats have an extra eyelid at the inner corner of their eyes. Also known as the nictating membrane, it can protrude as a result of pain or infection. It looks like a whitish or translucent film that moves over the surface of the eyeball.

Red or swollen eyes

Redness and/or swelling in one or both eyes can be a sign of conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye,” a contagious inflammation or infection of the eye. Conjunctivitis can be caused by a virus, exposure to chemicals or allergens, or trauma. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

vet putting eye drop in cat eye
Image Credit: OlegKovalevichh, Shutterstock

Cloudiness of change in eye color

If your cat’s eyes appear cloudy, it may be the result of an inner eye or corneal problem. Cloudiness can also be an indicator of cataracts, although they are rare in cats. A dramatic change in eye color in an adult cat can be a sign of a serious medical problem.

Caring for your cat’s eyes

Cats do a pretty good job of grooming themselves and keeping their eyes clean, but sometimes, they may require some assistance. If your cat has frequent eye discharge, use a soft tissue moistened with warm water to wipe the area clean.

Some cats have long hairs around their eyes that may bend toward the eye and scratch the cornea. Even tiny scratches on the cornea can be painful, and lead to serious problems if left untreated. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can trim these hairs back, but be very careful!

Never use eye products designed for humans on your cats.

Featured Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

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9 Comments on 6 Common Feline Eye Problems

  1. I adopted a two year old cat last year with copper colored eyes. I didn’t know at the time that it can be a sign of serious illness & neurological problems. He nearly died soon after from what we believe to be Hepatic Encephalopathy from a Liver Shunt. The copper in his eyes meant an excess of ammonia in his system that his body was unable to break down. It led to severe neurological problems and his body was shutting down. Thankfully we found a treatment plan and he regained his health a couple of months later. He still has days where a little brown collects, but most of the time now his eyes are green. I like to pass this tidbit along, because it is a rare but usually fatal condition in cats. I recommend if people see changes in their cats eyes, to take them to a vet immediately.

  2. Our cat has had eye infections since Day One as she has feline herpes. I kept having to take her to the vet just to get antibiotic eye drops, which gets expensive. Plus, the problem would return almost immediately following a course of drops–every. dang. time. I’ve battled cold sores most of my life so am well-acquainted with the benefits of Lysine supplements in preventing cold sore outbreaks. So, I decided to try mixing Lysine (500 mg) into the cat’s food. She gets half in the morning and half at night, so 250 mg twice a day. After several weeks with no more eye infections, I thought maybe the Lysine was no longer necessary and quit giving it to her for a few days. Eye infections came right back. Having learned my lesson, I went back to mixing Lysine into her food and the cat hasn’t had an eye infection for many months now. Some veterinarians (and doctors) poo poo the usefulness of Lysine in preventing herpes outbreaks, but it absolutely works. A bottle of 100 capsules only costs me about $9.00 and is far cheaper than multiple vet visits and eye drops every month. I just pull open a capsule in the morning, dump the powder into her meat, mix it around, give her half a can, and the cat snarfs it right down. Works great!

  3. My Tortie has a discharge from her right eye for years now, the Vet said it was allergies, She had problems with her ears as well and gave me an 1% hydrocortisone for her ears and thought that would fix both problems…But hasn’t, She has a brown discharge from her right eye all the time and her ears still bother her. I thought it might be the floor cleaners I was using and changed that to plain soap and water, but still the condition continues…

    • My Tortie has the same issue with her left eye, but her brother (grey tabby) has no issues. Try using a low dust cat litter, we think our girl may be irritated by the dust since she digs so much more than our boy does.

  4. One of my cats has had runny eyes since he was a baby. I have to wash his face every day because he gets crusty. I have had vets look at him and none have a solution. I was told his because of his breed, Devon Rex, and how his face is shaped, with the short nose and large eyes. The leaking doesn’t seem to effect him one bit.

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