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Health & Wellness

How to tell if your cat has conjunctivitis

Why your cat’s eyes may be red, swollen or goopy.

Some illnesses affect humans, as well as our pets. Pink eye, a common eye infection, happens to be one of those conditions. However, it’s called conjunctivitis in cats and occurs when the membrane that lines cats’ eyes becomes inflamed, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. 

Unfortunately, this condition is easily spreadable among pets. That’s why we’re sharing the most common causes and treatment options to help your best friend feel better. 

What causes conjunctivitis in cats?

There are several causes of this eye infection in cats, Dr. McCullough says. Here are the most common reasons cats are diagnosed with conjunctivitis: 


"Cats usually catch viral conjunctivitis from viruses, like feline herpesvirus, by interacting with other infected cats,” Dr. McCullough shares. 


Bacteria, like Chlamydia psittaci and Mycoplasma, cause bacterial conjunctivitis by entering the eye. Like conjunctivitis caused by viruses, this type spreads through contact with infected cats through respiratory droplets (when an infected cat coughs) or if a cat touches an infected item.

What are the symptoms of cat conjunctivitis? 

Symptoms of conjunctivitis may appear gradually, or your cat’s eyes will suddenly be red and swollen, and they could leak discharge, Dr. Aliya McCullough says. Unfortunately, this condition is also itchy, so your cat may be scratching around their eyes. 

If your cat shows symptoms of conjunctivitis, Dr. McCullough recommends reaching out to your veterinarian as soon as possible to get treatment. If you live in a home with multiple pets, you should keep your infected cat in an area on their own, as this condition is contagious to other pets. 

RELATED: What does it mean when my cat’s eyes are dilated?

What are the treatment options for conjunctivitis in cats? 

Veterinarians usually diagnose conjunctivitis in cats by performing a thorough eye exam, and they may even take samples from your cat’s eye to look at under a microscope. If your veterinarian thinks it’s necessary, a bacterial culture may be sent for testing. 

Once they’ve established that your cat has conjunctivitis, they’ll likely recommend topical antibiotic eye drops or an antiviral eye drop to cure their condition. 

How to treat conjunctivitis in cats at home

Always follow your veterinarian’s recommended recovery instructions, but there are ways to make your cat feel more comfortable in addition to medication. 

“Pet parents should also try to remove eye discharge from the skin and fur around the eyes to prevent a skin infection,” Dr. McCullough says. “Veterinarians may recommend warm compresses to the affected eye or eyes if there is severe swelling or topical treatments for the skin around the eyes.”

What happens if conjunctivitis is left untreated? 

If you think your cat has conjunctivitis, you should definitely reach out to your veterinarian for help. “If conjunctivitis is untreated, it can lead to continued and worsening swelling and pain, corneal ulceration secondary to self-trauma, which is scratching or rubbing of the eyes and vision loss,” Dr. McCullough says.

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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