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Health & Wellness

Common cat eye infections

Here’s how to help your cat feel comfortable

There are so many reasons to look into your cat’s eyes from showing love and appreciation to checking on their health. We’ve already covered what a cat’s pupil size and eye color can tell you.  But, there are more ways cat’s eyes speak to their well-being. That’s why veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough is breaking down the most common cat eye infection and their treatments.

Feline herpesvirus 

Herpesvirus (one of the most common cat eye infections) is spread through contact with infected pets, stays with cats for life. 

What are the symptoms of feline herpesvirus?

  • Eye discharge
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Sneezing
  • Squinting 
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite

What are the treatments for feline herpesvirus? 

  • Antiviral eye medications may be prescribed by your vet.
  • Antibiotics may be recommended for bacterial infections that also commonly occur with herpesvirus.
  • L-Lysine supplements (often available as chews or paste), which are made of amino acids, can shorten the length of symptoms. Ask your vet if they are a good option for your cat . 
  • Your cat’s senses could be bothered because of the discharge. If their appetite decreases, gently warm up their food in the microwave (check to make sure it’s not too hot) to make it more appetizing.


Conjunctivitis can be caused by irritants (dust and smoke), bacteria, viruses, trauma, ulcers, uveitis or glaucoma. It happens when the conjunctiva, the tissue that lines the eye and eyelid, becomes inflamed. Depending on the cause, symptoms could last 1 to 2 weeks or be a chronic, lifelong issue. 

What are the treatments for conjunctivitis? 

When your cat (or dog) is suffering from conjunctivitis, always talk to your vet to determine the best treatment. Depending on the initial cause, topical medications like antibiotics or steroids may be necessary. 


Blepharitis is the swelling and redness of one or both eyelids. Some causes of blepharitis are: 

  • Bacteria, virus, parasite or fungus
  • Allergy
  • Trauma
  • Cancer
  • Solar dermatitis (skin damage due to prolonged exposure to UVB rays)
  • Eosinophilic granuloma complex (EGC), is an allergy-related condition in cats that causes skin lesions all over the body, including the face or eyelids
  • Immune-mediated disease where the immune system starts to attack the body

What are the treatments for blepharitis? 

Similar to conjunctivitis, or any eye-related infection or symptom, it’s important to go to the vet to identify the cause and determine the best way to treat the issue. 

Dust and other irritants

Dust and other irritants can cause symptoms similar to those of an eye infection. 

What are the treatments for reactions to irritants? 

  • Gently wiping a moist cloth around your cat’s eyes can help remove any uncomfortable discharge. 
  • Consult your veterinarian for the appropriate therapy including eye ointment or drops. Never use old medication. 
  • Your vet may need to flush their eyes to remove the irritant and check for a scratch or abrasion that could be caused by the foreign material.
  • Stop your cat from rubbing or scratching their eye area by using an e-collar.

Preventing cat eye infections

Making sure your cat eats a well-balanced diet is a great way to boost overall health. In addition to making sure they eat right, monitor your cat’s eyes to track any changes. 

Cat eye infections can be a real drag. With these tips, your cat should be feeling better and back to using their super vision to chase any mouse or catch any ribbon toy.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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