Red eyes in cats: causes, related symptoms and remedies

Does your cat have red eyes? Here is what this annoying problem hides and what are the most suitable treatments to solve it.

If your beloved 4-legged friend has red eyes, there may be various reasons: external factors, trauma or accidents, problems with the eyelids and tear system and infections. Felines, just like humans, can suffer from conjunctivitis and keratitis (the latter affect the cornea). If combined the two aforementioned pathologies can trigger a kerato-conjunctivitis. It is good to pay attention to other symptoms that can give the expert a clearer picture of the situation in order to make a diagnosis and proceed with a possible treatment.

The main diseases of the cat’s eyes

When the cat’s eyes water excessively (epiphora), are red (hyperemia), swollen and have difficulty staying in the light and still the eyelids close in jerks it is almost certainly conjunctivitis. The second, on the other hand, manifests itself with redness, with a bluish-gray edema of the cornea and in the worst cases an ulceration. Often the feline can have more or less thick secretions from the eyes.

The combination of the two, keratoconjunctivitis, can be triggered by irritating external factors, trauma such as scratching (often caused by the same feline tearing with its own nails) but also systemic infectious diseases and allergic forms.

Red eyes in cats: conjunctivitis

It is an inflammation of the ocular conjunctiva and causes red and cispe eyes, or dry secretions that accumulate around the feline’s eyes. If a viral infection has triggered this eye problem it is often linked to the presence of herpes or bacteria. It doesn’t necessarily affect both eyes: maybe it can start with one and then infect the other as well.

The eyes will be swollen, purulent and with sticky secretions that dry up around the eye, the same often found in newborn kittens: when they open they can show the presence of internal pus. This disease requires a lot of care with constant cleaning accompanied by antibiotic therapy, always under medical prescription. If neglected, conjunctivitis can cause corneal ulcers and blindness.

Dry keratoconjunctivitis

When the tear system is not functioning well, the eye appears dry, inflamed and can degenerate. Chronic lack of tears leads to red eyes and blindness in the worst cases. If the secretions that come out are yellowish and sticky, it can trigger feline infectious peritonitis, allergies or problems in the third eyelid.


Like the inflammation of the dog’s uvea, it is also caused by serious systemic diseases in cats, including those caused by trauma. In addition to red eyes, it can lead to pain, edema, lower intraocular pressure and pupil contraction, tearing etc. if diagnosed in time it can be easily treated: if neglected it can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment and blindness. Toxoplasmosis, feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency, infectious peritonitis, bartonellosis and herpes can also cause uveitis.

A mention of the corneal ulcer

It is a wound in the cornea, often the result of poorly treated conjunctivitis. Depending on the depth of the ulcer, the level of severity will be equal: these answers can only be given by the expert. The ulcer is accompanied by red eyes, pain, excessive tearing and purulent discharge which will force the cat to have their eyes closed or half closed. There is a test to understand if you suffer from an ulcer: the fluorescein drops if, when injected into the eye, turn green then the diagnosis is the right one.

Trauma can also trigger an ulcer: scratches, but also burns and irritations from chemical or thermal agents. Usually the treatments recommended by experts recommend antibiotics or, in severe cases, surgery.

Red eyes in cats: possible causes

Allergic conjunctivitis can have red eyes among the main symptoms, along with skin conditions such as alopecia, rashes, dermatitis, itching, coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing and wheezing and noisy breathing . Often the allergy affects cats less than three years old: when identifying the allergen it is good to keep the cat away.

Another cause may be the presence of foreign bodies in the eye of the feline. The cat will scratch constantly and become even more irritated. A foreign body also means a blade of grass, dust, leaves etc. If the object is visible then we try to remove it, or we calm the eye with cold water compresses and sterile gauze.

Finally, further causes are upper respiratory tract infections (such as feline calicivirus, pneumonia or rhinotracheitis) and damage to the cornea.

Red eyes in cats: remedies

The cat will likely be subjected to blood, urine, and electrolyte tests. All the information from the days before the appearance of red eyes is useful to the veterinarian.

-rays will rule out the presence of a tumor, including on the chest and abdomen. The expert may choose to carry out tests with ultrasound images of the eye and the measurement of the pressure inside the eyes with a tonometer.

To avoid further injury it is good for the cat to wear an Elizabethan collar, which should always be present in the emergency kits. Other remedies, always prescribed by a doctor, may include: eye medications, antibiotics, decongestants and liquids. Usually for conjunctivitis the vet recommends steroids or antibiotic ointments; for corneal problems, antibiotic drops or, in severe cases, surgery. Saline solutions and soothing drops are useful to moisturize dry eyes.

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