Your cat’s eyes, usually clear and bright, are looking a little gooey. She
might be pawing at them, or rubbing her face against the sofa or on the rug.
Clearly, something’s wrong.
A dozen things could be behind your cat’s eye discharge, from a simple cold
to serious illness. It’s best to be prepared. Learn a few of the more common
causes of eye discharge, when to see a vet, and what you can do at home to help
your feline friend.
A healthy cat’s eyes should be bright, white, and clear.
Eye problems can bring out another cat entirely, one who paws at his eyes,
squints, or blinks excessively. Because eye problems can lead to devastating
consequences -- including surgery or blindness -- always talk to your vet when
you notice your cat has irritated eyes. A few common reasons for cat eye
Feline upper respiratory infections. A frequent cause of eye
discharge in cats, these can include viruses such as feline calcivirus, a
contagious respiratory disease, pneumonitis or rhinotracheitis,bacteria, and
protozoa. Symptoms can be mild or progress to something very serious and may
include a sticky, pus-like eye discharge.
Conjunctivitis (pink eye). An inflammation of the light pink lining
around your cat’s eye, conjunctivitis can cause one or both of your cat’s eyes
to look red and swollen, be light-sensitive, and have clear, teary or thick,
mucuous eye discharge.
Corneal disorders. A cat’s cornea can become inflamed, injured, or
ulcerated. The result may be cloudiness, excessive blinking, inflammation, and
increased tear production.
Watery, tearing eyes (epiphora). Blocked tear ducts, an
overproduction of tears, allergies, viral conjunctivitis, and more can be
behind your cat’s abnormal tearing.
Uveitis. An inflammation of the internal structures of the eye,
trauma, cancer, immune problems or infections can cause the serious, often
painful inflammation of uveitis.
Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca). A chronic lack of tear
production, dry eye can lead to an inflamed cornea, red eyes, and if left
untreated, blindness. Because the watery portion of tears is missing, a yellow,
gooey eye discharge can result.
Other eye discharge causes include feline infectious peritonitis,
allergies, something lodged in the eye, or third eyelid problems.
Eye Discharge Treatments
Because so many conditions can lead to eye discharge in cats, you really
need to talk to your veterinarian before trying any eye discharge treatments on
Depending on what your veterinarian finds, treatment for cat eye discharge
Feline upper respiratory infections. Specific treatments depend on
the cause of the infection as well as how serious it is and may include eye
medications, antibiotics, decongestants, and fluids.
Conjunctivitis. Pollen, dust, weeds, or other irritants can cause
conjunctivitis and may be treated with antibiotic ointments, many of which have
a local anesthetic to reduce pain. Conjunctivitis with fever, diarrhea, and
respiratory distress can point to potentially fatal feline infectious
peritonitis, though this isn’t very common.
Corneal disorders. Treatment depends on what’s troubling your cat’s
cornea but may include keeping kitty’s eyes clean, antibiotic eye ointment or
drops, removing loose corneal tissue, cauterization, or surgery.
Watery, tearing eyes. Under general anesthetic your vet may use
plain water or saline to flush your cat’s blocked tear duct. If there’s an
infection, antibiotic eye ointment or drops may be needed.
Uveitis. The right treatment depends on what’s causing your cat’s
uveitis, though that’s often hard to diagnose. Care may include eye ointment or
drops to control inflammation and pain.
Feline calicivirus. Secondary bacterial infections, which can cause
pneumonia and other serious issues, are common with calicivirus, so always call
your vet if you suspect your cat has this disease. Treatment may include
symptom control, antibiotics for secondary infections, and good nursing.
Dry eye. Many things can cause dry eye, from upper respiratory
infection to distemper. Treatment can include eye drops or ointments,
immune-suppressing drugs, antibiotics, or artificial tears.