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Common eye conditions in cats

Just like humans, cats are susceptible to various eye problems that can affect their vision and overall well-being. In this document, we will explore some of the most common eye problems in cats, their symptoms and potential causes to help you maintain their ocular health.

1) Conjunctivitis
This is one of the most common eye problems in cats. It occurs when the conjunctiva (the thin membrane that covers the inner surface of the eyelids) becomes inflamed.

Clinical signs:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Excessive tearing


  • Infectious (virus, bacteria, fungus)
  • Allergies
  • Foreign bodies
  • Anatomical abnormalities.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Mild cases may resolve on their own, but severe or persistent cases may require medication

2) Corneal Ulcers

Ulcers are painful sores that develop on the cornea (external layer of the eye). They can be caused by scratches, foreign objects, or infections.

Clinical signs

  • Squinting
  • Excessive blinking
  • Tearing
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Cloudy eye

 Treatment: Corneal ulcers require immediate veterinary attention. Treatment may involve topical medications, antibiotics to prevent infection and pain relief.

  • Corneal sequestrum: this a common sequelae of feline corneal ulcers, where the damaged corneal tissue dies, and turns black or brown. The eye reacts to this by creating an inflammatory reaction in the surrounding area. This lesion might weaken the cornea, which might eventually lead to infection or rupture.
    Some sequestrums can be medically managed, but others might require surgical treatment, especially if the lesion causes pain or discomfort.
  • Feline ocular herpes virus: Herpes virus is a common cause of upper respiratory infection in cats. After an initial infection, the virus can remain dormant, with periodic recurrence of clinical signs, particularly during times of stress or illness. Other than upper respiratory signs, affected cats might experience corneal ulcers. In the long term, recurring ulcers can cause scarring and permanent damage to the corneal and conjunctival tissues and potentially vision loss
    Feline herpesvirus might require life-long management. Treatment usually involves medications to shorten the duration and severity of flare-ups.
  • Glaucoma: this is a serious condition characterised by increased pressure within the eye, which can lead to vision loss or even blindness if left untreated. It is for this reason that glaucoma is considered an emergency situation.
    Symptoms include a dilated pupil, cloudy or red eye, and visible discomfort.
    Treatment may involve medications to reduce intraocular pressure; however, surgical intervention might be required in severe cases.
  • Cataracts: this disease involves a clouding of the eye’s lens, leading to vision loss, or even blindness. While cataracts can be hereditary (Birman, Persian and Himalayan cats), they may also develop due to old age, uveitis or trauma.
    Surgery is the only effective treatment for cataracts in cats. However, not all cases require intervention.
  • Uveitis: this is a painful condition linked to inflammation of the uvea (middle layer of the eyeball). Uveitis can happen due to trauma to the eye, bacterial infection, auto-immune diseases, infectious diseases (FeLV, FIV), parasitic diseases or cancer.
    The symptoms observed are usually pain-related, such as tearing, light sensitivity, squinting or third eyelid elevation.
    Treatment will depend on the underlying cause.
  • Hypertensive retinopathy: high blood pressure can secondary affect other organs. Particularly in the eyes, hypertension can cause retinal detachment, which can lead to sudden blindness.
    With an early treatment to control the blood pressure, the retinas may reattach, and more than 50% of the cats might regain some vision.

If you notice any of the following signs, we recommend you to book an appointment with your vet:

  • Abnormal ocular discharge
  • Excessive tear production
  • Closed, squinting, or swollen eyes
  • Cloudiness or any change in eye colour
  • Visible third eyelid (the membrane in the corner of their eye)
  • Pawing at the eye or signs of eye discomfort
  • Pupils of different sizes or not responding to changes in light (in bright light, normally the pupils constrict (become smaller), and in dim light, they dilate (become larger)).
  • Red eyes

As pet parents, it’s essential to look after our cat’s ocular health. Understanding common eye problems in cats and recognizing the signs can lead to timely intervention. Early detection and treatment of eye problems can help preserve your cat’s vision and overall health. If you are worried about your cat’s eyes, please don’t hesitate to contact us!