my cat's eye is swollen and has discharge

Cat Eye Infection: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

As a cat owner, it can be concerning to notice any changes or abnormalities in your beloved feline. One common issue that cats may encounter is an eye infection. If you've noticed that your cat's eye is swollen and has discharge, it is essential to understand the causes, symptoms, and available treatments for this condition.

Understanding Cat Eye Infections

Cats, just like humans, are susceptible to eye infections. These infections can be caused by various factors, including bacteria, viruses, allergens, injuries, or underlying health conditions. The most common type of cat eye infection is conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. Conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the whites of the eyes and lines the inner eyelids, becomes inflamed.

Symptoms of Cat Eye Infections

my cat's eye is swollen and has discharge

When a cat has an eye infection, several symptoms may be present. It's important to closely observe your cat's behavior and look for the following signs:

  • Swollen or red eyes
  • Excessive tearing or discharge
  • Cloudiness or opacity in the eyes
  • Squinting or blinking more frequently than usual
  • Rubbing or pawing at the eyes
  • Visible third eyelid
  • Crusty or sticky discharge around the eyes
  • Light sensitivity

If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, it's important to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Causes of Cat Eye Infections

There are several potential causes of cat eye infections. These include:


Cat eye infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Bacterial infections are the most common and are often the result of secondary infections due to injury or underlying health conditions. Viral infections, such as feline herpesvirus, are another common cause of conjunctivitis in cats. Fungal infections are less common but can still occur.


Just like humans, cats can also have allergies that may lead to eye infections. Allergens such as pollen, dust mites, mold, or certain foods can trigger an allergic reaction in cats, causing their eyes to become inflamed and infected.


Foreign objects, scratches, or trauma to the eye can also lead to infections. Any foreign body that enters the eye can introduce bacteria and cause irritation or infection.

Underlying Health Conditions:

Certain pre-existing health conditions, such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), or autoimmune disorders, can weaken a cat's immune system and make them more prone to eye infections.

Environmental Factors:

Poor living conditions, overcrowding, or unclean environments can increase the risk of eye infections in cats. These factors can contribute to the spread of bacteria and viruses, making cats more susceptible to infections.

Diagnosing Cat Eye Infections

If you suspect that your cat has an eye infection, it's crucial to seek veterinary care for a proper diagnosis. During the examination, your veterinarian will perform various tests and assessments to determine the cause and severity of the infection, including:

  • Physical examination: Your veterinarian will visually inspect your cat's eyes and look for any obvious signs of infection or injury.
  • Fluorescein staining: This test involves applying a special dye to the eyes to detect any corneal ulcers or scratches.
  • Eye swab or culture: A swab may be taken from the affected eye to identify the specific bacteria, virus, or fungus causing the infection.
  • Blood tests: In some cases, blood tests may be necessary to check for underlying health conditions or to assess the overall health of your cat.

Based on the results of these diagnostic tests, your veterinarian will be able to recommend the most appropriate treatment for your cat's eye infection.

Treatment Options for Cat Eye Infections

The specific treatment for a cat's eye infection will depend on the underlying cause and severity of the infection. Common treatment options may include:

Topical Medications:

If the infection is bacterial, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointments to be applied directly to your cat's eyes. It's important to administer the medication as instructed and complete the full course of treatment, even if the symptoms improve.

Antiviral Medications:

If the infection is viral, antiviral medications may be prescribed to manage the symptoms and speed up the recovery process. These medications are typically given orally or through injections.

Anti-inflammatory Medications:

To reduce inflammation and discomfort, your veterinarian may recommend anti-inflammatory medications. These can help alleviate redness, swelling, and pain in your cat's eyes.

Allergy Management:

If allergies are the underlying cause of the eye infection, your veterinarian may suggest identifying and avoiding the allergen triggers. In some cases, antihistamines or other allergy medications may be prescribed.

Cleaning and Warm Compresses:

To keep your cat's eyes clean and promote healing, your veterinarian may recommend gently cleaning the eyes with a saline solution and applying warm compresses. This can help remove any discharge or crust and soothe the inflamed eyes.


In severe cases or when other treatments have been ineffective, surgery may be necessary to address the underlying cause of the eye infection. This can include removing foreign objects or performing corrective procedures.

It's important to follow your veterinarian's instructions carefully and schedule any recommended follow-up appointments to monitor your cat's progress.

Preventing Cat Eye Infections

While it may not always be possible to prevent cat eye infections, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk:

  • Maintain good hygiene: Keep your cat's living area clean and free from excessive dust or debris.
  • Regular veterinary check-ups: Schedule routine check-ups with your veterinarian to monitor your cat's overall health and catch any potential issues early.
  • Vaccinations: Ensure that your cat's vaccinations are up to date to protect against common viral infections.
  • Eye protection: If your cat has a pre-existing eye condition or is at higher risk for infections, consider using protective goggles or eyewear recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Avoid irritants: Keep your cat away from smoke, chemical fumes, or other irritants that may cause eye irritation or allergies.

By taking these preventive measures, you can help minimize the chances of your cat developing an eye infection.

Caring for Your Cat's Eye Infection

When your cat has an eye infection, it's important to provide the care and attention necessary to promote healing. Here are a few additional tips:

  • Administer medications as prescribed: Follow your veterinarian's instructions carefully when administering any medications to your cat's eyes.
  • Monitor progress: Keep an eye on your cat's symptoms and overall behavior. If you notice any worsening or no improvement, contact your veterinarian.
  • Avoid spreading the infection: Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your cat's eyes or applying medication to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Comfort and support: Create a calm and comfortable environment for your cat to rest and recover. Offer extra attention, reassuring words, and gentle strokes.

Remember, every cat is unique, and the severity of eye infections can vary. It's always best to consult with your veterinarian for personalized advice and guidance.


Eye infections in cats, characterized by swollen eyes and discharge, can be caused by various factors. Prompt veterinary attention is crucial to diagnose the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment. By understanding the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures, you can help keep your cat's eyes healthy and ensure their overall well-being. Remember, as a devoted cat owner, your care and attention play a significant role in your cat's recovery and comfort.