Cats are nocturnal predators, so their eyes are important for their survival in the wild. Cats have a much wider field of vision that us humans, and their eyes are larger in relation to their skull than ours are. They also have elliptical pupils and a layer of cells in their retinas that allow them to see in low light. With this heightened sense, cats have become skilled hunters.
While domestic cats don’t rely on hunting for survival, as cat owners, we must protect this important sense. Cats are also susceptible to eye issues, which can be bacterial, viral or fungal in nature. These issues can affect different parts of the eye and they can be an infection in their own right, or a symptom of another illness. Newborn kittens can develop eye infections if their mother has an infection or they are born in a dirty environment, so check a kitten’s yes before choosing one from a litter.
Conjunctivitis is fairly common in cats, and can be caused if the cornea is scratched or if foreign bodies end up in the eye. Chlamydia and mycoplasma are the two bacterial infections that affect the eye. A virus such as feline herpesvirus or calicivirus can also cause eye infections. If you have an older cat who suddenly develops eye problems, it could be a sign of eye trauma, or because the cat’s immune system is weakened by another illness such as cancer or an autoimmune disease.
Eye infections that are left untreated can cause blindness, so it’s really important to get to your vet if you notice your cat has sore eyes.
But what does a normal eye look like? Healthy cat’s eyes should be clear, with equal-sized pupils and no cloudiness or swelling in or around the eye. A little bit of sleep in the corner of the eye is normal. If your cat’s eyes look red or swollen, and there is discharge from the eye, it’s time to head to the vet. Other symptoms of eye infection include squinting, excessive blinking, if the cat seems to be rubbing her eyes a lot or the skin around the eye looks red and saw. Crustiness over the eyelid, an aversion to bright light, and a change in appearance of the eye are also signs that something is wrong.
Your vet will examine your pet’s eyes and look at the symptoms. He might also perform other examinations such as testing the discharge, taking blood or popping a special dye in the eye to show up foreign bodies. If the infection is not a symptom of another disease you might be prescribed medication and the cat might have to wear a collar while you get the infection under control. Always wash your hands straight away after treating your cat’s eye and thrown away anything you use to wipe your cat’s eyes, as some infections are quite contagious.