Cats are fairly hardy creatures who don’t run into many health problems, especially when they are fed a proper diet and given plenty of exercises.
Many pet owners report never having to take their cats to the vet for anything serious, but how do you tell if something is wrong?
Because of a cat’s stubbornness and hardiness, they often don’t show any signs of sickness until things are in a fairly rough state. Though this is true, there are some parts of the body you want to be regularly checking to ensure that your cat is good and healthy.
One of the first places you’re going to want to check is your cat’s eyes.
Cats’ eyes should be bright and fairly white as some cat’s eyes may have a bit of a yellow tint to them. A cat’s eyes should not be bloodshot, but some veins may be visible, similar to your eyes.
Sometimes you may notice your cat has a bit of discharge coming from their eyes. This discharge may appear as white or yellow and will commonly drip down to a cat’s nose. If ever you notice this please take your cat immediately to the vet.
Discharge is never a good sign and although it can be caused by something as small as a cold, discharge can also signify an infection that may cause your cat to become blind. If infections are left to worsen they may lead to the need to operate on the eyes.
But before I scare you, let’s dive into all of the reasons you may notice your cat experiencing discharge coming from their eyes.
EPIPHORA (CONSISTENTLY TEARING EYES)
Epiphora is the classification for eyes that are excessively tearing. The cause of the tearing is commonly caused by allergies, blocked tear ducts (caused by buildup), viral conjunctivitis, or it is merely an overproduction of tears.
Epiphora affects some breeds more than others as genetics plays a big part in whether or not a cat will tear constantly.
Some of the most common cats to experience epiphora is Persians, Himalayans and Exotic Shorthairs. This is primarily due to their allergies and face shape.
Most commonly caused by trauma to the eye, uveitis is the inflammation of the internal structures in the eye. Uveitis is often considered to be painful for a cat and needs a vet visit to diagnose and treat the underlying cause.
Uveitis can be caused by a number of things including cancer, infections, or immune problems.
FELINE UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS
Many cats have upper respiratory infections, especially when they are kittens. A lot of the time we are unaware of these infections as shelters or foster homes usually deal with them before adopting out a kitten.
The majority of Feline Upper Respiratory Infections are cured with a round of antibiotics, however, it depends on how serious the infection is and whether it is caught early or not.
All upper respiratory infections will need antibiotics and a cat should never be left to “fight it off by themselves.”
Symptoms include a sticky puss-like eye discharge and may also include wheezing or sniffling.
Forms of Feline Upper Respiratory Infections include pneumonitis, rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus), calicivirus, respiratory disease, bacteria or protozoa.
Every so often a cat’s cornea may develop a problem, especially if the cat has had a physical injury. A cat’s cornea should always be dome-shaped but may warp or become inflamed by traumas or ulcers.
Corneal Disorders may cause a cat to blink over excessively or may even cause a cat to begin tearing up or crying,
CONJUNCTIVITIS (ALSO KNOWN AS PINK EYE)
We’ve all probably had Pink Eye at least once in our life. It’s annoying, can be embarrassing and often means you have to take time off of work or school until you heal.
Pink eye is usually diagnosed based on appearance. An eye (or both) may appear to be red and/or swollen and will often be light-sensitive. Although it’s usually easy to spot Pink Eye by these two factors, cats may also be seen blinking rapidly or may have difficulty fully closing their eye(s).
Pink eye will sometimes be joined by a mucous discharge which will have a yellowish tint to it.
Pink eye is not usually fatal, though if it is paired with diarrhea or a fever this may become something called “feline infectious peritonis” which is fatal. That being said, FIP is not very common.
Pink eye is extremely common and most cats will have it at least once in their life. Pink eye can be caused by an allergy, dust, debris, an infection, or Feline Herpes Virus.
Pink eye is contagious, so you will want to make sure that you separate your cats if you have multiple. Make sure that you always wash your hands after handling the affected cat, especially if there is discharge. You will want to make sure that you don’t spread it to other cats.
Pink eye will commonly clear up on its own, however, if your cat seems to be in pain please contact your vet immediately.
KERATOCONJUNCTIVITIS SICCA (DRY EYE)
Dry eye is as it sounds. It is classified as a chronic lack of tear production.
Tears are important to keep the eye moist and dry eye may lead to the inflammation of the cornea. This will cause the eyes to turn red or bloodshot and if left untreated may lead to blindness.
Due to the lack of tears, or the watery liquid in discharge, your cat creates a gooey, yellow discharge.
FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (FIV)
DEBRIS LODGED IN THE EYE
Similar to us, when cats get things stuck in their eyes they start tearing up. Tears are used as a mechanism to clear the eye from any debris or dirt.
It is a good idea to keep your cat from scratching themselves when they have something stuck in their eyes. Scratching can cause the debris to get lodged further or may cause further irritation to the cornea.
Cats can be allergic to a variety of things. The majority of allergies that cause issues with the eyes are airborne. These allergies include:
If you are uncertain as to what the allergen affecting your cat is it would be a good idea to get them checked by the vet. The vet may require you to keep a log of what products you use at home and when your cat’s allergies spark.
TIPS TO KEEP YOUR CATS EYES HEALTHY AND CLEAN
Eye problems can often be avoided by making sure you regularly check your cat’s eyes. Be on the lookout for any debris that is lodged in your cat’s eye(s) and make sure to clean it immediately.
If you notice any discharge coming from your cat’s eyes wipe it away using a fresh cotton ball. Make sure you use a fresh cotton ball for each eye as using the same one can cause the underlying problem to get worse.
If you ever notice any redness, change in eye colour, change in eye shape, discharge, cloudiness in the eyes, excessive blinking (that is not caused by debris) or sensitivity to light make sure to take your cat to the vet immediately. The earlier symptoms are caught the higher the chances no damage will occur to the cat as eye problems can often lead to blindness.
Do not use over the counter eye drops on your cat! This is extremely important as they may be too harsh on your cat and again may make the problem worse. Always go to the vet to receive the medication required to treat the problem.
WHAT DOES YELLOW DISCHARGE MEAN?
Yellow discharge is commonly a sign that your cat has an infection. Infections can be fairly serious, especially if they are caused by an underlying condition. Because of this, it would be a good idea to take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN IF MY CAT HAS MUCUS FROM THEIR EYE(S)?
Mucus can often be spotted on a cat in the form of “eye poop.” Eye poop is fairly common, though excessive amounts can signify something wrong with your cat.
Take note of what colour the mucus is. If the mucus is clear it may mean that your cat has a virus.
Clear mucus doesn’t normally warrant a vet visit, however, it is still a good idea to let your vet know. Often a vet will recommend that you wait a week or two before coming in as they will commonly clear up on their own.
If the cat has yellow or green mucus coming from the eyes it means that your cat has a bacterial infection. It is strongly recommended that you get a round of antibiotics or ointments to treat the infection. At this time the vet may want to do a series of tests to ensure that the mucus isn’t caused by an underlying condition.
CAN EYE PROBLEMS SPREAD BETWEEN CATS?
Every time my partner or I get sick we have a rule where the sick individual has to sleep on the couch. We do this in hopes of avoiding getting the other sick. While this method isn’t completely foolproof, it does seem to reduce the chances of the other getting sick.
The same can be said about cats who are experiencing eye problems. It would be best to separate them while treating the underlying problem.
Due to the fact that cats will frequently groom other cats, they will commonly spread their illnesses to other cats.
SHOULD YOU USE A CONE ON A CAT WITH EYE PROBLEMS?
It is always a good idea to use a hard cone on a cat who is experiencing eye problems to ensure that there is no way for them to scratch their eye(s).
Due to the fact that eye problems tend to be uncomfortable if not painful for cats, they may feel the urge to itch the pain away. This will often cause the problem to worsen or may cause continuous irritation to the affected area.
Cones are also helpful for folks who have multiple cats. Though they are not completely foolproof, they should reduce the chances of contamination and deter cats from grooming each other (especially on the face).
If you do choose to cone your cat make sure that you let them out of their cone a few times a day. This will give them the opportunity to clean themselves.
Note: It is not uncommon for cats to want their cone off to eat, drink or use the litterbox. Ensure that you are around your cat the first day they are using a cone to make sure that they are not hindered from getting their basic necessities. If you notice that the cat cannot get their basic necessities, make sure to reduce the amount of time that they are in the cone or only use the cone when you can’t monitor the cat.
When it comes to eyes it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially since if an eye problem is left untreated it can lead to blindness.
In all cases where a cat seems to be agitated, in pain or is excessively scratching their eyes take your cat to the vet immediately. Trauma to the eye may cause a cat to begin tearing up or a serious scratch.
If you ever notice any discharge coming from your cat’s eyes make sure to take note of the colour and texture. Any discharge that is sticky or yellow merits a vet visit.
Always make sure to clean your cat’s eyes with a fresh cotton ball. Ensure that you use a fresh cotton ball for each eye as using the same cotton ball may cause contamination to spread between the eyes.
If you live in a multicat household it is recommended that you separate the cats for as long as recovery is. If you choose not to separate the cats it is recommended that you still provide them with a hard cone. This will help reduce the chances of contamination between the cats.
Never use over the counter eye drops on your cat as they can prove to be harmful to your cat. Instead, always seek guidance from a vet to ensure that you receive the proper medications or antibiotics that your cat requires to get better.
So, pet parents, I’m curious, have your cats ever had any eye troubles? What caused them? What did you do to help? Let me know in the comments below!