Cats are notably iconic creatures, so bewitching they were worshiped as gods in ancient Egyptian and Grecian cultures. Known for their coy demeanor, pointy ears, and their uncanny ability to land on their feet, cats are a truly unparalleled species. Moreover, one of the most famous feline features is the cat eye. The cat eye has a distinct shape, with colors so bright they can be seen even in the darkness of night. Even so, the brilliant cat eye is not impervious to infection. So, is your beloved furry friend suffering from a cat eye infection? Worry not, you are about to learn everything you need to know about how to spot, treat, and prevent cat eye infections.
What Are Eye Infections?
The eye is an incredibly unique and complex organ. Complete with multiple layers of nerves and tissue, there are numerous nooks and crannies of the eye that are susceptible to infection. Eye infections can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungi and can affect one part of the eye or multiple. Furthermore, infections have been known to attack one eye instead of both, although a double eye infection is not entirely uncommon.
Cat Eyes: A Deeper Look
There are so many different species of animals in recorded science that there is not an actual count for how many there are. Currently, the best-educated guess falls somewhere between one and two million. That is a lot of animal species! All of these species have unique features and physiologies, but for the most part, they all have one thing in common: eyes. For example, the human and the cat eye are almost identical in terms of anatomy. Let’s dive into the biological break down of the eye, shall we?
The orbit is the bone cavity in the face that serves as the home for the eyeball. Made up of many different bones, the orbit also contains blood vessels, nerves, and muscles. Furthermore, the orbit houses the mechanism that produces and drains tears.
Likely a part of the eye you have heard of, the cornea is a clear dome on the front of the eye that allows light in. Not only does the cornea help focus light on the retina in the back of the eye, but it also plays a vital role as protector of the front of the eye.
Notably, the iris is the round, colored part of the eye. However, the iris does more than give the eye external beauty. The iris is responsible for controlling the amount of light that enters the eye by shrinking or enlarging the pupil. Locating in the center of the front of the eye, the pupil expands its diameter in dark environments to allow more light in. Conversely, if exposed to high levels of light, the pupil contracts in order to reduce light let into the eye.
Sitting just behind the iris, the lens morphs its shape to focus light on the retina. Like a camera lens, the lens in one’s eye focuses images between near and far distances. Research shows, the muscles responsible for this phenomenon are more limited in cats.
The retina lives in the very back of the eye and contains the photoreceptors that sense light. Cones and rods are two of the essential photoreceptors in the retina. Cone cells allow eyes to judge distance and speed, a very handy feature for the natural hunter that is the cat. Furthermore, cone cells allow eyes to see color, though it is unknown whether or not cats can see colors. Rod cells, on the other hand, come in handy when eyes are subjected to dim light. Specifically, cats can see six times better in low light conditions than humans. Furthermore, cats have a “tapetum lucidum”, a reflective layer that gives cats their iconic “glow in the dark” eyes.
The retina contains thousands of photoreceptors, each attached to a nerve fiber. These fibers bundled together, create the optic nerve. The road between the eye and the brain, the optic nerve transmits electrical impulses from the retina to the brain for image processing.
An incredibly important feature of the eye, eyelids act as the main protector of the delicate eyeball. Naturally, eyelids open and close (aka blink) to wash away any debris that comes in contact with the eye. Additionally, blinking helps promote moisture, a vital component to healthy eyes. Cats, like humans, have two eyelids on each eye: an upper, and a lower. However, cats are equipped with an extra eyelid scientifically referred to as the “nictitating membrane”, which is more often called the “third eyelid”. Sitting right under the primary eyelids near the inside corner of the eye, the third eyelid acts as extra protection from scratches.
Cat Eye Infection Symptoms
Considering the prevalence of eye infections amongst cats, it is vital you as a pet owner know what to look for. First of all, you need to know how a healthy feline eye appears. “Normal” cat eyes should look bright and clear, and lack any sign of swelling. Furthermore, pupils should match and iris should not be cloudy or murky in appearance. Now that we know what a healthy cat eye is like, let’s look into the symptoms that could be pointing to an eye infection. Symptoms can include any one or combination of the following:
- Scratching at the eye area
- Swelling or redness on the outer or “third eyelid” cats possess
- Runny eyes
- Crusty eyelids
- Sensitivity to light
- Unusually high volume blinking or squinting
- Visual pain or discomfort
- Cloudy or milky eyes
- Atypical eye discharge
While most of these symptoms are fairly straightforward, in the case of eye discharge, further detail is beneficial. So, without further adieu…
Cat Eye Discharge
Normal eye function promotes moisture, and with that, typically a small amount of eye discharge. However, not all eye discharge is normal. For example, if the discharge excessive and is green or yellowish in color, infection is a likely possibility for your cat. Furthermore, when paired with redness and frequent rubbing/scratching of the eyes, a trip to your trusted family vet is likely in order.
Interestingly enough, certain cat breeds are more prone to eye discharge than others. Cats with large, round eyes and short noses such as Persians and Himalayans are more inclined to develop a higher frequency of eye discharge. For these breeds, this is healthy and normal. Even so, you should keep an eye on all discharge for any signs of changes.
Cat Eye Infection Types
Naturally, with an organ as complex as the eye, there are various ways in which infection can arise. Whether it be the part of the eye infected or the method by which the infection was contracted, here is everything you need to know about the different types of cat eye infections.
Conjunctivitis in Cats
More commonly known as “pink eye”, conjunctivitis occurs in cats in two forms: infectious and non-infectious. To be specific, conjunctivitis is inflammation of the moist tissue around a cats eye. While conjunctivitis can be tricky to diagnose in cats, here are some symptoms you can look out for:
- Overly watery eyes
- Red (or pink) around the eye
- Discharge in the corners of the eye
- Overly persistent squinting or blinking
- Upper respiratory infection
Furthermore, the infectious strain of conjunctivitis is typically caused by contact with a virus or bacteria. Furthermore, conjunctivitis is most frequently contracted from the feline herpes virus. Non-infectious cat pink eye, on the other hand, is usually a result of unagreeable exposure to allergens. As you may know, pink eye is extremely contagious amongst infected humans. Fortunately, cat pink eye cannot be transferred to humans. However, pink eye can, and likely will, be spread by the infected cat to other felines. Therefore, if you have more than one cat, be sure to exercise care, caution, and extreme cleanliness when treated your infected feline.
Viral Eye Infection
Similar to us humans, a weakened immune system leaves cats more susceptible to a myriad of diseases and ailments. Chief amongst them, viruses can wreak havoc on a cat with sub-par immunity. Youn kittens and cats with pre-existing conditions are examples of felines with below average immune systems. There are countless types of viral eye infections, but the most common are Feline Herpesvirus Type 1 and Calicivirus.
Bacterial Eye Infection
As with viral infections, cats with weakened immunity are more likely to contract a bacterial infection. The most common types of bacterial eye infections amongst cats are Chlamydia and Mycoplasma. In particularly nasty cases of viral infections, sometimes, felines can contract secondary bacterial infections on top of the original viral infection. Streptococci and Staphylococci are the two most common bacteria’s leading to secondary infection.
Moisture and lubrication is an absolutely vital part of any cat’s eye health. A properly functioning eye should be able to naturally produce tears. However, cats can develop a condition medically referred to as “Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca”, or more simply put “dry eyes”.
Specifically affecting a cats eyelids, Blepharitis is an infection that attacks the muscles, glands, and connective tissue. Blepharitis can be caused by tumors, allergies, congenital abnormalities, or inflammatory disorders.
Causes of Cat Eye Infections
Clearly, there are a number of ways a cat can be adversely affected by an eye infection. The best way to treat an ailment is to track down what caused it. In the case of feline eye infections, some known causes are:
- Weakened immune system (as is common in kittens or cats with preexisting conditions)
- Unsanitary environment
- Injury or trauma to the eye
- Fungi, Viral, or bacterial contact
- Contact with foreign materials (i.e. dirt, dust, and hair)
- Exterior irritants (smoke, chemicals, soap/shampoo)
A trip to a seasoned veterinarian can help you and your ailing cat not only determine what type of eye infection they have contracted but likely what caused it as well. As a result, you will know how best to treat the infection.
Cat Eye Infections as a Symptom
It has been said that eyes are the gateway to the soul. Well, in the case of eye infections, eyes can sometimes be a sign of a bigger medical issue in your cat’s body. Conditions such as glaucoma, poisoning, tumors, genetic abnormalities, and vitamin deficiencies have been found in cats suffering from a seemingly simple eye infection.
If you suspect your cat has an eye infection, it is imperative that you seek veterinarian advice quickly. Your family vet will administer a few simple tests to determine your cat’s exact diagnosis. More than likely, your cat has a simple infection that can easily be treated and gone in two weeks or less. However, in severe cases, an early diagnosis is the key to the shortest possible road to recovery.
Facts and Fears
As a reminder, the purpose of this article is not to scare you into thinking the worst. Understandably so, it is often times too easy to fall down the internet rabbit hole of scary diseases and inevitable cancer diagnoses. Rest assured, the health of your pet is the most important thing to us, so it is our job to provide you with the most thorough investigation of cat eye infections and everything that goes with them.
Treatment for Cat Eye Infections
As aforementioned, the cat eye is an incredibly complex organ. Therefore, diagnosis and treatment of feline eye infections are best done with the aid of a veterinarian.
In the case of bacterial eye infections, vets may prescribe an antibiotic in the form of eye drops or topical ointments. On the other hand, if a viral infection is causing the infection, your cat may be prescribed an anti-viral cream or eye drop. However, viral infections often times dissipate naturally and prescription medication thus unnecessary.
It is important to note, you should never give your cat any medication intended for human use without approval and supervision from your vet. While certain human medications have been proven effective for ailing felines, the ingredients often change and could thusly be detrimental to your cat’s health.
Treatment Plan for Bigger Issues
As previously stated, sometimes eye infections in cats can be a symptom of a more vicious ailment. Due to this fact, it is imperative you note any and all symptoms so your vet can accurately present a diagnosis. In the unlikely, albeit possible, event your cat is suffering from a disease, your vet will provide you with a treatment plan that will best suit your cat’s unique needs.
At Home Treatment of Cat Eye Infections
As always, a natural and homeopathic approach to pet wellness is paramount here at SimpleWag. Especially with an organ as vital and delicate as the eyes, one has to be careful using harsh medicines for treatment. Fortunately, you can help treat your cat’s eye infection with the following home remedies.
Keep Eyes Clean
Regularly cleaning your cat’s eyes will not only treat a current eye infection but help prevent another one from developing. Simply dampen a clean cloth and gently remove any discharge or gunk around the eyes. Be sure to dispose of soiled clothes, and use a new clean cloth between eyes. Gently pat dry after with a clean, dry cloth.
Keep Eyes Clear of Possible Irritants
Cat eyes are incredibly delicate and susceptible to outside irritants such as hair and products like shampoo. While eyelids and eyelashes are wonderful natural defenders of your cat’s eyes, sometimes extra help is needed. Be sure to keep long hair trimmed neatly around the eyes and exercise extreme caution when washing anywhere around your cats face. Furthermore, be careful with any kitchen or bathroom products you personally use, as they can contaminate the air and therefore your cat’s eyes.
Cleanliness is Key
Infections of any kind are easily spread to your cat’s surrounding environment. Accordingly, it is imperative that you clean any and all toys and surfaces your cat regularly encounters to avoid a relapse of the infection. Personal hygiene is key as well. Be sure to wash your hands to avoid spreading the infection to other animals you may come in contact with.
We have all heard the saying, “you are what you eat”. Funny enough, the same goes for cats! A healthy, balanced diet can work wonders in promoting an overall healthy life for your cat. Providing your feline friend with the right balance of vitamins and nutrients is vital to building and sustaining a strong immune system. If you are an especially patient and devoted pet parent, you may even want to consider an organic, raw foods diet.
Furthermore, cats are famously curious creatures and have been known to scavenge in the garbage and munch on some unsavory leftovers. Discarded food is crawling with bacteria and will likely cause disease in your cat. Therefore, it is essential that you keep any and all trash tightly concealed and out of paws reach.
All Natural Supplements
With the growing popularity of holistic pet wellness, you have more options than ever when it comes to crafting a homeopathic health plan for your cat. A healthy cat starts from the inside out so it is important to work simple, but effective supplements into your cats daily diet. There is a myriad of vitamins and herbs on the market, but positive research is piling up about the so-called “miracle” supplement called CBD oil. Known not only to treat and cure currently ailing pets and humans alike, but CBD oil is also praised for preventing the onset of new diseases by promoting overall homeostasis in the body.
Curing and preventing disease you say? So, where can one acquire this miracle oil?! Well, with the growing demand for CBD oil, suppliers are popping up almost daily. However, not all CBD oil is created equally. First of all, it is imperative that your acquire an oil that is all-natural, non-GMO, lab-tested, and specifically formulated for pets. We recommend Honest Paws because all of their products meet those very qualifications. Furthermore, Honest Paws has published an impressive and thorough breakdown of everything you need to know about CBD for cats.
Cat Eye Boogers
Clearly, there is a lot of information presented to you in this article. Understandably so, it can be a bit overwhelming. However, it is important to note that simply having “eye boogers” does not mean your cat is suffering from an eye infection. Healthy cats naturally produce tears in order to keep their eyeballs lubricated. Occasionally, those tears leak from the eyes, creating a discharge, or “eye boogers”. Furthermore, sometimes those boogers dry and create a hard, crusty residue around the eyes. So long as the discharge is clear and infrequent, this is a completely normal occurrence in felines, and nothing to worry about. However, this may be a sign that you should be cleaning your cat’s eyes more frequently.
Cat Eye Infection: A Final Thought
We all want long, healthy lives for our dear cat companions. Unfortunately, cats are incredibly prone to countless eye problems such as eye infections. While sometimes these infections can be a symptom of more pressing issues, more than likely, it is a simple and treatable infection. Furthermore, by incorporating natural supplements and a healthy diet, you can actively prevent infections and diseases from forming. Now, go give your cat a snuggle and a long, loving look into their beautiful and unique eyes.