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Eyelid Problems and Squinting in Cats

Foreign Bodies in the Eye

Foreign material such as dust, grass seed, dirt, or specks of vegetable matter can become trapped behind the eyelids and nictitating membranes. Although this is more common in cats who go outdoors, indoor cats may get hairs or dust in their eyes and on their corneas, as well. The first indication is tearing and watering, along with signs of irritation such as blinking and squinting. The third membrane may protrude to protect the irritated eye.

Treatment: You might be able to see a foreign body on the surface of the eye or behind the upper or lower eyelid. If not, the foreign body may be caught behind the third eyelid, and the cat will need a topical eye anesthetic before you can lift up the eyelid and remove the foreign matter. This is something your veterinarian should do, especially if your cat is not cooperative with being restrained.

For dirt and loose debris in the eye, hold the eyelid open and flush the eye with artificial tears, a sterile saline eye solution, or cool water for 10 to 15 minutes. Soak a wad of cotton and squeeze it into the eye, or drop it into the eye from the bottle of solution. If a foreign body can be seen but cannot be removed by irrigation, you may be able to remove it by gently swabbing the eye with a moistened cotton-tipped applicator. The foreign body may adhere to it.


This condition, in which the eyelid rolls in, occurs sporadically as a hereditary defect in Persians and related breeds, but it can occur in any cat because of scarring of the lower lid following a bout of purulent conjunctivitis or a lacerated eyelid. The rolled-in lid produces eye irritation with tearing and severe squinting.

Treatment: Entropion can be corrected surgically.


In cats with this condition, the lower eyelid rolls out from the face, exposing the surface of the eye to irritants. It may be caused by a birth defect, but in most cases it is due to an improperly healed laceration of the lid. This condition is less common than entropion.

Treatment: Surgery may be necessary to tighten the lid and protect the eye.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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