How To Spot Cat Eye Infections
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How To Spot Cat Eye Infections

Est. read time: 9 min.

Cat eye infections can be caused by a variety of reasons, some of which are more serious than others. If you notice that your cat’s eyes look infected, seeking treatment as soon as possible is critical in order to avoid more serious health issues. 

If you're wondering, What do cat eye infections look like? you should know that symptoms will often include tearing, redness, or discharge. Here's more about what you need to know regarding cat eye infections.

Cat eye infections and other eye issues 

If your cat's eyes are looking cloudy, red, or swollen, your cat might have an eye infection. Also, if you notice cat eye discharge and your cat pawing at his or her face a lot, these could also be signs that your cat has an eye infection. Here are a few types of cat eye infections and eye problems you should be on the lookout for. 

orange tabby cat with eye redness - how to spot cat eye infections


Types of cat eye infections include viral, bacterial, fungal, protozoal, or rarely parasitic. These infections can lead to medical issues including conjunctivitis, uveitis, and even cataracts. Cats commonly show symptoms as a result of an upper respiratory infection.

Some symptoms to watch for include discharge from the eye, tearing, squinting, eye pain, redness, ocular cloudiness, and changes in pupil size.

Bacterial or ulcerative keratitis

A cat’s cornea is the dome-shaped surface that covers the front of their eyes. If that surface encounters trauma, most commonly from scratches, it can cause feline bacterial keratitis.  


Cats can experience ulcers in their eyes from trauma other than blunt force. In some cases, cats have been known to experience burns on the eyes due to rubbing their eye against a rough surface. Another common cause of burns to the eyes is chemical burns of the cornea. This can happen when irritants get in the eyes, such as shampoos, chemicals, dust, drywall, or other liquids. 

Other eye problems

Cats have unique eyes, but just like humans, they can encounter other simpler issues with their eyes. Epiphora, or watery eyes, can occur as the result of blocked tear ducts. Likewise, a condition called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye, is a chronic lack of tear production, which can lead to red eyes, inflamed corneas, and blindness, if left untreated. Allergies, third eyelid problems, and objects becoming lodged in the eyes can also affect your feline’s optic health. 


Cats that have undergone any type of surgery on their eyes are at higher risk of infection if their eyes are not properly cared for after the procedure. A build-up of discharge or constant pawing at the irritated area can lead to bacterial infection or eye trauma. 

The best thing you can do for cat eye infection treatment is to bring your cat to your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you can’t get to a vet right away, observe your cat closely for other symptoms of illness. Check out this article for symptoms to look out for and what you can expect when you are able to take your cat to the vet. 

Protect your cat’s eyes 

There are ways to help keep your feline friend’s eyes healthy and sharp! Here are 6 ways to care for your cat's optic health. 

  1. Check your cat's eyes regularly. If you notice any masses, discoloration, redness, swelling, cloudiness, excessive tearing, or discharge, it could be a sign of infection. Also, pay attention to whether your cat is scratching or rubbing his or her face a lot. If you notice this, take your cat to the vet. 
  2. Set up routine vet visits to head off any eye problems before they get serious. Routine physical exams and blood work can give you insight into the type of care that your cat needs. Often, eye problems indicate a bigger underlying medical problem. 
  3. Monitor your cat's interactions with other pets in the home. A common cause of eye problems is due to injury to the eye inflicted by another pet. It can be caused by friendly playing or even a minor fight. But in either case, supervision between animals can help keep your cat's eyes from becoming infected. 
  4. Keep your cat indoors to help them avoid running into eye problems. Whether those are problems caused by traumatic events, irritants in the environment, interactions with toxic chemicals, or contact with harmful bacteria, the outdoors can easily lead to harm for your cat’s eyes. 
  5. Trim your cat's nails regularly to help reduce the chances of your cat accidentally scratching his or her eyes, or the eyes of another pet in the house. This is important because it will minimize a rip in the skin where bacteria can form and subsequently irritate the eye in general.
  6. Finally, keep your cat's litter box, beds, and other commonly used areas clean to avoid bacterial overgrowth. Litter-Robot cleaner spray and Litter-Robot cleaner wipes use all-natural ingredients that are designed to eliminate organic material, stains, and odor. The bio-enzymatic technology, combined with plan-based cleaners, is safe for your pet. Plus, it will keep their litter box and space cleaner than ever! 

What is a cat stye?

Also referred to as a hordeolum, a stye is a red, painful lump either near the edge of the eyelid or on the inner part of the eyelid. It often looks like a boil or a pimple, and may be filled with pus.

Styes result from an acute infection of the oil glands of the eyelid, and they occur after glands have become clogged. The eye may feel irritated and itchy as a result. Other symptoms can include swelling, discomfort when blinking, light sensitivity, and watering of the eye. 

How to spot a cat stye

If you notice your cat’s eye is swollen, discharging puss, or causing your cat to scratch their eyes, take a closer look at the eyelid. If a stye is present, you'll notice a small bump that looks like a pimple or boil on the edge or inner part of the eyelid. 

How a cat gets a stye

Cats can get styes in various ways, whether that be heat, allergic reactions, or even diabetes. Let's take a closer look at some of the ways your cat can get a stye.

Heat and moisture

Heat and moisture in the air can produce a breeding ground for fungi, which can cause fungal infections for your cat. If fungi are present in the environment, they can enter your cat's system via a cut in their skin, which can ultimately cause a stye to form. 

Fungi are found in soil, feces, and the general environment. If your cat has a break in their skin near or around the eyelid, simply touching the face can introduce bacteria into the eye, which can lead to a stye. 

Allergic reactions

Cats can have allergic reactions to pollen, dust, smoke, shampoo, fleas, chemicals, and other parasites. Whether your cat's eyes are irritated due to something in the air or because they’re dealing with a pest problem, this can lead  to excessively scratching their eyes. The skin around their eyes can break and bacteria can form, causing a stye. 


Trauma can also cause your cat's eye to become irritated and a stye to form. This can include your cat getting hit in the eye, getting in a fight with another cat, or anything that causes the skin around the eyelid to break. When the skin breaks, bacteria can form inside of the tear, causing a stye.


Since diabetes weakens the immune system, acute infections of any kind are a common side effect of diabetes. The eyelids of humans and cats alike are both very susceptible to infections, which can cause a stye to form. 

What happens if a stye remains untreated?

Many pet parents wonder, Will my cat's eye infection go away on its own? The answer to this question is that styes are a type of infection that often goes away on its own. However, it's likely your cat will continue to irritate the affected area by scratching their eye. An untreated stye can get worse and cause the whole eye to become infected. Once the infection reaches the eye, if left untreated, it can cause your cat to lose some vision or even become completely blind in the infected eye. 

How do you treat a stye?

If you notice your cat has a stye, be sure to keep their eyes clean. The process of how to clean cat eye discharge is pretty simple! All you have to do is use a moistened cotton ball to gently wipe away the discharge. 

A warm compress can also help soothe your cat’s eye. Run a washcloth under warm water and then gently press it against your cat's eyelids—but make sure the water isn't hot. Never use over-the-counter eye drops on your cat either unless specifically instructed by your vet.

Help keep your cat healthy

From the way cats see the world to the beautiful vibrant colors of their eyes, keeping their optic health in check is a must for any pet parent! Take preventative measures and address eye problems as soon as they occur. Remember that eye issues could mean that there is an underlying medical problem in your cat. When in doubt, take your cat to the vet!

Why does my cat keep getting eye infections?

Kittens are more susceptible to eye infections due to the fact that they have weaker immune systems. If your cat has feline herpes virus, it can also lead to acute conjunctivitis. Other reasons your cat might be getting eye infections include autoimmune disease, cancer, eye trauma, or feline leukemia.

Can cat eye infections spread to humans?

The viruses and bacteria that cause eye infections in cats cannot be transmitted to humans.

Can you treat cat eye infections at home?

While there are remedies that you can implement to ease the pain caused by cat eye infections, it’s best to consult your vet so that you can seek the proper diagnosis and treatment for your pet.

Cover photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash

white cat with different-colored eyes - how to spot cat eye infections